September 25, 2009

TV: NCIS Los Angeles (CBS, Tue 9)

If nothing else, this show gives us the year's best unlikely pair of co-stars in LL Cool J and Linda Hunt, a pairing that will certainly shorten a lot of "six degrees" lists.

LL Cool J plays Sam Hanna; he and Chris O' Donnell star as agents with the Navy's Office of Special Projects, charged with capturing criminals who threaten national security. O'Donnell's character, G Callen, is an orphan who says "no one ever told me" what the "G" stood for, so that's all the first name he has. (That's not much of a back story, but it's more than anyone else on the show gets.)

Callen is supposed to be something of a chameleon, able to take on whatever undercover persona is needed at the moment. If I had needed to cast a "man of a thousand faces" type, I don't think O'Donnell would have been anywhere near the top of my list; "man of two or three faces," maybe.

There's a support staff of half-a-dozen or so, but the only one who makes much of an impression is Linda Hunt as Hetty, who is (in James Bond terms) equal parts Q and M; she's responsible for overseeing the support staff and for giving Hanna and Callen whatever gizmos and costumes they need for the current case. When she's handing out the clothes, you can't help but also be reminded of The Incredibles' Edna Mode. Hunt gives the show the tiny amount of humor it has, and it desperately needs a bit more; Cool J tries, but his attempts at banter inevitably fall flat because O'Donnell can't keep up with him as a comedian.

The story line in the first episode wasn't bad, centered onthe hunt for the kidnapped niece of a murdered naval officer who may have been working with Mexican drug cartels, but the final action/shootout sequence was very poorly filmed, with much rapid cutting and blurry camera work that made the action impossible to follow.

People who are already fans of the original NCIS will no doubt eat this up; for me, O'Donnell's flatness as a leading man would be enough to kill the show, even if I were a bigger fan of crime procedurals.

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