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You Spin Me Right Round

Confession of the Day:

I have a little obsession with NCIS. GIbbs, Tony, McGee, Ziva, Abby, Ducky and Mr Palmer are old friends. I love them like a big dysfunctional family.

And what better way to feed such an addiction than with a spin-off? Right now I’m watching the second episode of NCIS: Los Angeles after last week’s series premiere and an introduction to the LA team at the end of Season 6 of regular NCIS. I figure spin-offs are the tv version of a film sequel – and hey, there’s good logic behind the “If it worked the first time…” line of reasoning. There have been a lot of them even in recent years: CSI pulled out Miami and New York, Law and Order got SVU and Criminal Intent, Buffy led to Angel… the list goes on, and the practice has been around since before I was born. But does it really work? I know there’s been lots of discussion on this over the years, but since I was watching the birth of this new spin-off I figured why not weigh in.

As I said, there’s good logic in trying to milk a program or a film for all it’s got – if the formula worked once and made you lots of money, why wouldn’t you give it a second go? Or third, or fourth, or fifth… Yes, Bruce Willis, I’m talking about you. Die Hard 4.0? Seriously? And I suppose it works, in a way; the success of an original will pull people back for the sequels and spin-offs to get more of what they loved the first time round, and that alone will generate money. But in the end, the trouble is in the formula. Like every sane girl, I swooned over Jason Statham’s perfectly sculpted abs in the Transporter movies, but unfortunately the novelty of his character Frank Martin beating the pants off multiple assailants at once wore off by about 30 minutes into the second film, so you can imagine how I was feeling by the end of the third… So clearly problems arise when you follow too closely the formula that worked so well in the original.

Unfortunately, problems can also arise when trying to be different. Like I’m finding in NCIS: LA. Aside from the name of the agency and the Navy-related casework, there’s not much of the original structure to be seen. With Director Vance based in DC with the original team there’s none of the politics we’re used to. In the segment that I just saw, two agents visited the wife of a deceased SEAL and didn’t announce their status as agents of a federal agency before questioning her. Oversight on the part of the scriptwriter? Perhaps, but little things like that can add up. I have to admit to being one of those people who forms judgements fairly quickly. Happily, I’m not too stubborn in changing my mind… well, when it comes to tv and films, anyway : ) So I ask you  not to hold me to my verdict on NCIS: LA if I change my mind over the coming weeks.

Something about these people just doesn’t click for me. Not for lack of trying, I assure you – I have a big history with Chris O’Donnell, starting with his keen-bean rendition of D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers in 1993, through his caring brother character Peter Garrett in Vertical Limit to Meredith’s McVet in Grey’s Anatomy. So for his sake, I want to like this show. Maybe I don’t know them well enough yet, but I’m willing to hedge that they won’t match up to the love I have for the original crew.

Like a good relationship with your family, friends, coworkers and lovers, a good love affair with a tv program or film requires the right chemistry, and if there’s no spark nothing will save it for you. So here’s to sparks, and I hope there are more in your lives than there are in my life right now.


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