A person might think, that with Mark Harmon at the helm as a tv show's executive producer, a spin-off show might stand a good chance for good ratings. But to be honest, in 2014, "NCIS: New Orleans" had a rougher start than most people know. The ratings were shaky during the first season, and if they didn't pick up by the end of the season, it would more than likely be cancelled, whether "NCIS" star Harmon produced it or not. It barely made the tv top 40 new shows list that came out that year(at half-way down the list as it turns out), but by the end of the season, something made the producers want to order another thirteen episodes for the following season. So a new team of writers came in and worked out a new season of episodes, and everyone got to work for the upcoming season. And to his credit as well as CBS's, Mark Harmon wasn't about to let the show go without another chance for it to shape up on its own merit, and with another chance to hammer out better crime stories.
"NCIS: New Orleans" or "NCIS: NOLA" as it's become known, is a spin-off from the original series that got its own start as a spin-off from the tv show "JAG", which shows good showmanship for its creators and producers. The show follows the same premise of NCIS, but with a more down-home appeal, with it being set in a more rural area even though it's in a major city. Dwayne "King" Pride heads this particular group, which primarily investigates military-related crimes, which is not unlike the original NCIS, but there's some room for more "lenient" crimes to happen, which provoke investigating. I know that sounds wrong, probably, but it's a good way to phrase it, if nothing else. It is as procedural as the show in Washington, DC (or Burbank, if someone wants to get nit-picky. lol) but the writing doesn't fail to live up to NCIS standards, and neither do the characters. It's a bit of a club-house atmosphere which works to certain ends, and that might well make the real difference between "NOLA" and the original NCIS. True there is no Abby, and there is most certainly no Ziva here, but that's ok, there could only be one of each, and they both had their places. (Ziva! Ziva! Ziva! Oops! Sorry! anyway....)
One of the good things about "NCIS: New Orleans" was its casting choices, beginning with tv favorites like Scott Bakula and CCH Pounder, both of whom were television favorites as well as long-time veterans. They had made as many rounds on tv as anybody possibly could have, and for more than 40 years between them. For those of us old fogies who remember the tv show "Quantum Leap" a long, LONG time ago, that's where we best know Scott Bakula from, as well as his role in "Star Trek: Enterprise" later on. I myself didn't see "Enterprise", I admit, but I did hear that it was a good show. In "Quantum Leap", Bakula was nominated four times for Emmy awards and Golden Globes, so he brings an air of authority to the show.
As Dwayne Pride, Bakula brings a certain world-weary, crime-fighting weariness to his playing the boss on this show. Pride would like nothing more than a day where nothing has to be investigated, and it could be nice and quiet, and he could enjoy working on remodeling his bar to open it at some point in the this century. But like Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Pride is quick to do his job when there's a case to be investigated, and he trusts his people without question. He's a respected, standing community figure as the character's bio goes, from the bayou to the state's capital. And people know that if Pride's after you, then you have problems.
His trusty "side-kick" in this job is Chris LaSalle, played by another well-known actor, who's had some success with his career but hasn't really gone the typical way of tv shows and movies. Lucas Black made his big break as the kid who befriended a killer in the movie "Sling Blade", in which Billy Bob Thornton gave a polarizing performance as the slow-witted but lethal serial killer who immediately likes the kid (Ok, so I can't remember his name in that one. What're you gonna do?) and does whatever he can to protect the boy and his mom from her abusive idiotic redneck boyfriend, played by Dwight Yoakam. "Sling Blade" gave Black an acting career, which had certain ups and downs, most notably the short-lived "American Gothic", in which he was plagued by the town sheriff, who was supposed to be the devil himself. (Sounds like some people I know!) His better known movies are "Cold Mountain", "Jarhead", about Marines overseas and co-starring the always difficult Jake Gyllenhaal, "42"-the Jackie Robinson movie, and three of the "Fast and the Furious" movies. I am not even interested in those. Black brings a kind of young-but-experienced agent on-board who has his doubts, but works his way through the same way anybody else does; by facing them on his own terms. He is loyal to Pride without question, but sometimes Pride needs to give him a talking-to when it occurs; theirs is a kind of surrogate father-son relationship, almost as much as it is co-workers. We've seen this before, with Gibbs' and Abby's relationship in NCIS, which can also be applied to Gibbs' relationship with Ziva David, and it works here as well. Pride makes a suitable parental figure for anyone that needs that in his environment, and it's a certain charm that he makes his own.
CCH Pounder, whose name is actually Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder, rounds out the main stars of the show as the kind-of-mother-figure, as Dr. Loretta Wade, who serves as the medical examiner in the show. Pounder brings another parental figure to the show, and with all her years in tv and movies, also brings a certain authority that equals to Bakula's in experience. Her earliest tv performances date back to "Hill Street Blues" and all along the 80's and 90's, including but not only on shows such as "Cagney and Lacey", "LA Law", "Miami Vice", "Quantum Leap", "The X-Files", "ER", and "Warehouse 13". Her experience in movies date further back than that, but I don't have time to name the entire list. They run all along from the late '70's to 2009, beginning with the notorious "All That Jazz" that's been known forever. She and Bakula share the distinction of being the oldest actor/characters on the show, and it's easy to see why so much revolves around them. Black himself is actually the youngest kid on it, with the exception of Loretta's adopted sons, or son. Is there only one of them, or were there two? I get it mixed up.
After the ranks of the show's three main characters we have Meredith Brody, who was previously FBI but joined Pride's team after things at Club Fed went decidedly wrong. Played by Zoe McLellan, she seems to have a somewhat limited acting career, which until only after "Star Trek: Voyager" actually gave her a regular career to define herself in. She made the rounds on tv in what seems like a thousand tv bit roles, but nothing ever seemed to work for her, except the sci-fi series "Sliders" and the medical series "Diagnosis: Murder", which starred the legendary Dick Van Dyke. "NCIS: NOLA" is her first starring role of this kind.
Rounding out the crew(forgive me for saying that!) are "Triple P", played by Darryl "Chill" Mitchell, who is the group's computer wiz and he knows it. And by the way, for those who don't know it, the wheelchair thing is not acting for the character, it's the real deal. Mitchell lost his legs some years ago after the movie "The Country Bears" in a motorcycle accident and suffered a spinal injury. Not an act by any means. As for his character, Triple P likes to dress loud and talk louder, but his work for the team is good, and he leads them to definite conclusions when it seems like they won't find anything by any other conventional means. Unfortunately, as far as the actors playing Sonja Percy and Sebastian Lund, there is literally nothing about them. All I know about Shalita Grant, aka Sonja Percy, is that this is her first starring role in anything; and likewise goes to Rob Kerkovich, aka Sebastian, the ultimately annoying tech geek who makes me grind my teeth whenever he uses a movie reference that he has no right to considering his infantile, and need I say ungrateful generation! But that's just me. (GRRRRR!) Breathe, Cody, breathe....spaghetti night was good.
I DO plan to follow this up if and when I find anything further on the least-known characters of "NCIS: NOLA", but I'll do that when there is something to find. A positive note is that "NOLA" did survive the tides of naysayers of the passed two years to find themselves a permanent home on the CBS roster for the foreseeable future. Even though the ratings still seem to shake things up from time to time, they are getting better, whereas fans of the original show are waiting for the cataclysm of DiNozzo's departure of the series on April 18th. Exactly what kind of shape that'll leave the show in is impossible to tell for now, but we can expect already expect a period of changes that won't be forgotten anytime soon. Very much like when Ziva left so suddenly. But for now, all we can do is watch and wait.
You gotta come on...