Jury’s Still Out on NCIS: New Orleans

NCIS: New Orleans Title Card
NCIS: NOLA (Photo: CBS/Twitter)

But it did give me a reason to rewatch some CSI: Miami. I just love acronyms followed by city names.

It’s rare for a procedural to emerge fully-formed on our screens. The first seasons of Law & Order: Mothership and CSI: Original Recipe are, in many ways, worlds apart from the rhythm and feel we associate with either; yet you can still see the series they were and would become through the low-def shots and the pathfinding writing. Maybe, I thought, gliding through a perfectly serviceable but fairly unmemorable first episode of the latest acronym-tastic CBS crime show NCIS: New Orleans, such is the case here. If only I could test this theory, that the accents and neon washes were on their way towards being the show I’d first hoped it would be.

Thus I went and took a look at the first two episodes1 of my beloved CSI: Miami. You know – for Science! I used to forget this was a CBS show, giddily watching the 11pm reruns on A&E when I was visiting relatives who had cable. There’s an entire dissertation to be written comparing and contrasting the NCIS and CSI universes and the ebb and flow of their respective trilogies’ aesthetics and moods – NCIS overall has more guns and gumshoing, CSI lends itself to more visual storytelling – but comparing Horatio Cane and Dwayne Pride and their teams of crime solvers seemed an apt way of testing whether NCIS: New Orleans is behind schedule or right on time.

I found a show still feeling its way, of course, but replete with tone and trope that made it distinct from its Las Vegas progenitor, as well as from the rest of the procedural lineup.2 The biggest contributor is how they use the ostensible setting to make the whole thing feel, well, Miami. Even if everyone remains perfectly coiffed you can sense the humidity. Even if the crimes could happen anywhere you got some set dressing – possibly including ‘gators – to make it not be set in Vegas.

NCIS: New Orleans meanwhile left a potentially distinct style of visuals and verbiage behind midway through their two-part backdoor pilot.3 For an episode whose entire b plot involved one of the main characters looking for an apartment in the city there was a) little sense of the city and b) no actual looking. NCIS: New Orleans has a meager budget and it’s showing. The show still lacks a stamp.

That would be fine if they would style themselves well and get back to the dialogue and character moments that caught my eye in the first half of the backdoor pilot. Instead, everyone sounds like they’re still rehearsing the lines.4 They also reshuffled the cast a little, ditching a black jazz musician of a mortuary assistant for a geeky white technical consultant, which, yes, there are issues there but the new guy is one of very few on the show who currently seems to understand how to speak his lines.

While NCIS: New Orleans sorts itself out (or not) I’m caught without clear direction on how to cover these Bakulicious episodes of Big Easy fun. So for now, I bring you a little thing I’ll call

If This Week’s Episode of NCIS:NOLA Was a Children’s Book Instead, It Would Be Called:

Count Bakula and the Hunt for the Missing Tooth

See you next week, everybody.

  1. Not the backdoor pilot that series also used, but the plane crash and bomber-kills-H’s-mentor episodes.  
  2. No removing of sunglasses quite yet, but much of the rest is there.  
  3. Look how I didn’t succumb to saying they jumped ship on the concept!  
  4. Plus the dialogue feels rushed and sometimes clunky. At one point a character refers to ‘a United States Navy sailor’ and I cannot for the life of me tell if that’s correct or idiotic.  

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About Aaron Mucciolo 206 Articles

He does things. That’s all we can say at this time. E-mail: mooch@whatelseison.tv