Pop Rocks: Present At The Creation (Of Crap)

The last twelve months have been a great year of "firsts" for yours truly: I saw my first midget wrestling match, broke my (left) leg for the first time, and -- finally -- saw the first episode of a TV show so bad I knew it wouldn't survive its first season.

I've heard of the phenomenon before, of course. Anyone who's read JumptheShark.com (or did before TV Guide destroyed it) knows about the category of "Day One," created-for-TV shows that were doomed to fail from the airing of the pilot episode.

Some programs just never had a chance, thanks to a ludicrous premise (Cop Rock), characters from a popular show that nobody really cared about (Joanie Loves Chachi), or half men/half animals (Manimal). Until last week, however, I'd always come across these train wrecks after the fact. I'd never had the privilege of being "present at the destruction," as it were.

The show in question? NCIS: Los Angeles.

The original NCIS is bad enough. A spin-off of JAG (which at least had Catherine Bell's amazing thetan-free rack going for it), it's yet another multi-cultural police procedural in the style of C.S.I. or Criminal Minds. Being a product of "family friendly" CBS, things never get so grim they can't be lightened up by another joke about Gibbs' coffee habit or one of Abby's well-delivered bon mots. Because if there's something every military installation can't do without, it's the resident goth chick.

But nominally entertaining as NCIS is, NCIS: Los Angeles is what you'd get if you took its parent show and lopped the top of its skull off with a band saw. CBS (the reigning king of acronym-based programming) has now gotten the formula for this type of show down so pat they've become fearless. Or arrogant.

Have we got an Agent With a Past? Check. Only this one is played by Chris O'Donnell, whose attempts to make Callen mysterious bear as much dramatic fruit as his shitty Irish accent in Circle of Friends. Forget the proverbial paper bag, O'Donnell couldn't emote his way out of a mime box.

Is there an Ex-Military Dude? Check, and I know I'm not the only one breathlessly anticipating the first time we get to see Special Agent Hanna sans t-shirt. LL would be swell if, as in every other role he's had, he didn't look like he was about to bust out laughing at any given moment.

There's also the Sort Of Exotic Forensic Specialist (Daniela Ruah) and Houston's own Peter Cambor as the Disheveled Yet Dedicated Psychologist. And really, if that was it you'd have another unremarkable, cop show where the bad guys are always caught and all government employees drive cars way too nice for their pay grade.

And then there's Henrietta Lange, played by none other than Linda Hunt.

Please don't get the wrong idea: I don't have a problem with short people (at 4'9", Hunt doesn't qualify as a "little person"), and I imagine they're going to use the same "civilian contractor" excuse that forgives Abby's spiderweb tattoos to explain how Edna 'E' Mode from The Incredibles got to head up a military criminal investigative service. And while there's no denying the Navy has relaxed their standards in recent years, to the point where Demi Moore almost became a SEAL, giving us the Shadout Mapes in a position of authority is just too much.

One season and done, bank on it. If I'm wrong, I'll join the Chris O'Donnell fan club.

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