'NCIS' Goes Mobile with 'Red' Spinoff

'NCIS' Goes Mobile with 'Red' Spinoff

Last Tuesday’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles was the first of a two-part event introducing viewers to a potential spin-off series called NCIS: Red.

The new show, starring Kim Raver (24, Third Watch) and John Corbett (best known for Northern Exposure), follows a mobile team of NCIS agents that live and work together as they travel the country solving cases.

In Hollywood a spin-off is tried and true way to capitalize on the success of a hit series. A classic example of this is The Mary Tyler Moore Show which begot Rhoda, Phyllis and, many years later, Lou Grant. All In The Family gave us the successful: Maude, Good Times (from Maude) and The Jeffersons as well as the less memorable Gloria and Archie Bunker’s Place.

NCIS, starring Mark Harmon, is itself a spin-off of the long running series JAG – and arguably more successful – and its spin-off NCIS: LA, starring Chris O’Donnell and L.L. Cool J, has been thriving in the ratings as it follows its predecessor in CBS’s Tuesday night lineup.

That brings us to NCIS: Red. Red is not an acronym; it’s just a team color. Apparently there are several of these roving teams, each identified by a color, traveling around in high tech mobile command centers housed in two tractor-trailers (only we’ve never heard of them before).

The idea that these mobile teams are necessary is betrayed by the fact than in both previous series the teams regularly travel around the country – and the world – as the circumstances of cases require. In addition in both NCIS and NCIS: LA the security of their offices has been an issue, with the NCIS HQ in Quantico being bombed and the NCIS Los Angeles boathouse being infiltrated by Jihadi terrorists, so the idea of highly vulnerable mobile teams – with no apparent security or defenses — seems highly dubious.

In part one of the NCIS: LA episode “Red” we’re introduced to the cast of the new show as cases the LA and Red teams are working on individually cross paths.

Raver plays the leader of the Red team Agent Paris Summerskill and Corbett co-stars as the team’s new analyst Roy Haines. The two were partners sometime earlier in the NCIS New York Field Office and apparently worked for current NCIS: LA Director Henrietta “Hetty” Lange (Linda Hunt). After a shootout where Haines was severely wounded and Summerskill dropped the ball and wasn’t there to back him up, Haines retired as an agent.

In “Red” Part One Haines is brought back by Hetty to fill in for the team’s analyst who is injured when the team’s SUV is runoff the road by a snowplow on their way back from a crime scene (are we already seeing the vulnerability of the mobile team?).

Corbett’s character is obviously intended to add tension to the team, which has to live in close quarters. While this is a predictable dramatic tool for a TV series, it strains believability. Would two agents that have this kind of history really be brought together in real life for the sake of “redemption,” as Hetty puts it?

The other element to NCIS: Red is the mobile command center, composed of two tractor-trailers that are flow in and connected to form working and living areas for the team. The technology the command center packs is what viewers will have come to expect from the two previous series. What is supposed to give this traveling HQ character is the fact that its roof leaks. Undoubtedly this will lead to predictable circumstances of the high tech equipment failing when the team needs it most and again seems very formulaic and banal.

While reserving final judgment until after seeing part two, I have my doubts about this particular spin-off.

Apparently CBS is also reserving judgment, as they won’t be making a decision about picking up NCIS: Red until May. But if it is picked up executive producer Shane Brennan says we can expect an “all-NCIS” Tuesday night on the 2013 fall schedule.

If you missed Part 1 of “Red” you can see it here.

NCIS: LA “Red” Part 2 airs at 9 p.m. EST tonight (March 2) on your local CBS station.