Following in the steps of "CSI" and "CSI: Miami," CBS has once again spun off a crime show and inserted a charismatic lead character in the hopes that it will overcome the essential weakness of the follow-up's material. "Navy NCIS" is the sibling to "JAG," the long-running show about crime and punishment in the armed forces.
Following in the steps of “CSI” and “CSI: Miami,” CBS has once again spun off a crime show and inserted a charismatic lead character in the hopes that it will overcome the essential weakness of the follow-up’s material. “Navy NCIS” is the sibling to “JAG,” the long-running show about crime and punishment in the armed forces. “Navy” focuses more on forensics than its predecessor, but it isn’t different enough to shake the suspicion that it’s comprised of cast-off storylines from the original.Mark Harmon stars as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which has jurisdiction over investigating crimes connected to members of the Navy and Marine Corps. (“JAG,” on the other hand, explores the courtroom maneuvers of those accused.) Harmon proved he can suavely handle the man-in-uniform routine when he played a secret service agent during the third season of “The West Wing.” Like that role, he understands the serious implications of his character’s job, but that doesn’t prevent Harmon from taking the investigative tasks themselves too seriously. He seems genuinely giddy to helpfully offer an evidence bag to a nauseous colleague. “Navy” perks up whenever he’s onscreen. Gibbs’ underlings are the typical motley crew of brash up-and-comers and scientific eccentrics. Agent Anthony Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly) is always prepared to protect NCIS’ turf from the encroachment of the FBI or Secret Service. Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (vet thesp David McCallum) and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) provide scientific insight and personality quirks aplenty. Secret Service Agent Katie Todd (Sasha Alexander) is set up as Gibbs’ potential gal pal and investigative partner. All hit the marks in their roles, given some of the clunkers they’re forced to work with (“Liars can’t go white on cue”). Pilot cops much from 1997’s “Air Force One,” with the characters making repeated references to the Harrison Ford starrer. The resolution of the pilot is exactly that of the movie, as Gibbs helpfully exclaims during the climax. There’s not a lot of originality being shown here, which is distressing to see in an initial effort that’s so glacially paced. The audience literally knows what’s coming and is forced to wait for the conclusion for the scenario to come to fruition. The title, which went through several iterations before settling on its current mediocre (and redundant) form, is addressed in the opening moments of the pilot. An airport security agent, after examining an identification badge, asks if the NCIS is anything like “CSI.” “Only if you’re dyslexic,” snarks back Weatherly’s character. Way to offend 90% of the audience that was doubtless asking the exact same question. And, actually, the forensic work they’re doing is quite a bit like “CSI.” Tech contributions are adequate, with shots of an airborne Air Force One less cringe-inducingly fake looking than those usually seen on TV.