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Featured TV on DVD / Blu-ray Review: NCIS: Los Angeles: Season One

August 28th, 2010

NCIS: Los Angeles: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

NCIS: Los Angeles is the third series in the JAG franchise. JAG was a courtroom drama, while NCIS abandoned the courtroom side of the show and focused more on the police procedural side, with plenty of action. What will NCIS: Los Angeles do with the franchise to set it apart from the previous two installments?

The Show

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is... Not a lot. The formula is exactly the same, right down to the [SCHOOMP!] right before commercials. Okay, it's a [SCHOOMP!] followed by multiple camera clicks, but it just emphasizes how similar these shows are, only this one is set in Los Angeles instead of Washington, D.C.

The cast of characters are led by Chris O'Donnell and L.L.Cool J as G. Callen and Sam Hanna. They are the ones in the field the most and they have a relationship similar to that between DiNozzo and McGee. Daniela Ruah plays Kensi Blye, the junior field officer and the third in line when it comes to field time, while her partner is Dominic Vail (played by Adam Jamal Craig). He's the new guy, and early on is constantly trying to prove he's ready for field work. Behind-the-scenes scenes, Eric Beal (Barrett Foa) runs the tech and Nate "Doc" Getz (Peter Cambor) is the operational psychologist. Doc helps profile the bad guys, as well as making sure the field operators are not under too much stress. Finally there's Henrietta Lange, the woman in charge. Really in charge. She seems to have more knowledge than she should.

Both Leon Vance and Abby make more than a few appearances throughout the first season.

These are the players. As for the stories, again, they are very, very similar to the ones seen on NCIS. We see cases that are national security related, cases that involve organized crime and cases that involve serial killers. Some are directly related to the duties of the Navy and / or Marines, others only involve NCIS because the victim was in the Navy and / or Marines. The show does focus more on the action and the undercover work than its predecessor, which has its strengths and weaknesses. (In my opinion, I'm a fan of the geeky crime-solving part of NCIS so the shootouts are not as big of a selling point as they might be for some.)

On a side note, one of the cases involves a serial killer that no one believes exists, no one but Abby Sciuto. The Phantom, as she calls him, has been choosing victims at random and never killing the same type of victim twice. The latest victim is an engineer for the U.S. Navy. So she comes to L.A. to help solve the crime. However, they learn that the victim was chosen exactly for that reason, to get Abby to come to L.A. She is kidnapped by the Phantom and he explains that he saved the "white woman in her late 20s" slot for Abby. Here's the thing, Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby, is 40 years old. She certainly doesn't look it.

The Extras

Extras on disc one start with an audio commentary track on the pilot with Shane Brennan, the writer. Next up is 8 minutes of promos, most of which are 30 seconds long. There is also a music video by L.L.Cool J and a making of featurette for said music video.

The rest of the extras are found on the sixth disc, starting with Inspired Television: NCIS: LA, which is a 16-minute featurette on creating the show and how they tried to make it different. The L.A. Team: Meet the Cast and Crew runs 21 minutes and it is exactly what you would expect, I.E., interviews with the cast and crew. Inside the Inner Sanctum: The Set Tour is also self-explanatory, running 12 minutes and hosted by the production designer, Thomas Fichter. Do You Have a Visual: Inside the OPS Center takes a 10-minute look at the ubiquitous use of video camera footage, how it's shot, how it is manipulated, and how it is used in the show. Lights, Camera...Action! The Stunts of NCIS: LA is the final featurette and it also runs 10 minutes and looks at the numerous stunts.

It also has the two-part NCIS episode, Legend, that introduced the series.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare, but it is BD-Live capable, and it costs just 15% more, which is quite a bargain for this type of release.

The Verdict

NCIS: Los Angeles was arguably the most successful TV show to debut last year. (Undercover Boss was the only new show that placed higher in the ratings, but it benefited from the post-Super Bowl timeslot.) Quality wise, I would argue there were a few more ahead of it. It is a good show, but one that seems to be still trying to find its footing. The cast have not yet quite gelled in their roles, or with each other, but that should come with time. DVD and Blu-ray release for Season One are both worth picking up, while the High Definition release is worth the tiny premium in price.

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