The second spin-off from NCIS (and technically the third from JAG – which is where the original NCIS series was spun out of), NCIS New Orleans is a very different beast to its predecessors. Whereas the first show was a stoic, patriotic series; and the second was more action and comedy orientated; this third entry in the franchise takes things a more quirky and offbeat direction.
Set in New Orleans the show uses its new location to create a different feel straight away. The fact that Scott Bakula is heading the team as Dwayne Pride adds a certain edge to it. Fans of cult television shows will always know him for Quantum Leap, and he manages to bring attention to the show just from that. To be fair though there is much more to NCIS New Orleans to keep people invested, including another interesting cast choice: Lucas Black, known to fans of the stranger side of television… Anybody who remembers American Gothic will know Black for his role as Caleb Temple, but now he has grown upin this show he takes on the “Anthony DiNozzo” role as Christopher LaSelle, which is a running theme in the show, characters who follow a recognisable role. This is especially true of Zoe McLellan’s Meredith Brody as the new agent on the block, and CCH Pounder as Dr. Loretta Wade who takes the Ducky role.
This is where NCIS New Orleans excels; it feels new and refreshed but with characters we are comfortable with. They may not be as iconic as Gibbs or Abby from the main show, but they have potential to be memorable and part of the NCIS “universe” that has grown not only to New Orleans but Los Angeles too.
When it comes to the story-lines there is surprisingly a lot to digest in the first season, and it starts off at a running pace. The best story arc has to be the Baitfish one, which pulls Pride’s past into the mix. From the history of NCIS we know that these past skeletons in the closet work well to set the tone for the show, and Pride’s obsession with a crime family is a solid focus that drags the audience into the world of the New Orleans NCIS. In not rushing the story too, and letting it breathe there is also that element that keeps us hooked so that we see if Baitfish will return.
Shows like NCIS New Orleans work because they create likeable characters who feel like a family. They even reference the fact that the little group of agents are a “family” and how people are welcomed into it. That is what keeps people invested in the show; the fact that they feel a part of the family and end up caring about the recurring characters. Add to this the fact we see people like Gibbs sometimes appear to offer a helping hand, then we have enough of a connection to NCIS to keep the fans happy.
NCIS New Orleans is a show that has room to grow, but has already started off with a confident bang. With Scott Bakula we have a fan favourite actor before he even has to speak a word, and with good cast choices it really feels like the show will be a success. Hopefully in the cut throat world of American television, the ratings will win out on this one and it won’t be cancelled too soon.
NCIS New Orleans: The Complete First Season is out now on DVD.