On TV: NCIS: Los Angeles
When we meet Agent G. (Chris O'Donnell) in the NCIS spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles, he doesn't know what his initial stands for, and within the first hour his quaint boss Hetty (Linda Hunt) even calls him an orphan. It's an ironic motif, because for all of NCIS: Los Angeles's determination to establish its identity through a shootout on Mulholland Drive or close-ups of the Santa Monica pier, this drama feels nameless.
NCIS: Los Angeles follows southern California's Naval Criminal Investigation Service through episodes of scientific detective work and bad guy track-down, and while leads O'Donnell and LL Cool J have presence, neither is particularly comfortable as a working class action hero. Perhaps things would be better if LL Cool J were promoted out of his second banana role; it's hard to buy O'Donnell's speedy intuition as he re-watches footage from a shootout with drug cartel footmen, but it's even harder to watch LL Cool J's visible strain as he employs a hard strut and overly focused stare in an effort to own his character's boring role.
Not helping matters is a supporting cast of serviceable actors who've got nary a line or characterization that stands out in Tuesday night primetime. There's the serious agent (Daniela Rush) who's sent out to a kidnapping victim's mother's house because she's the squad's lone female, the bookish agent (Adam Jamal Craig) who sits in front of giant computer screens and prattles off minutiae about San Diego from his incredible memory, and the cutup (Barrett Foa) who pulls up information on the sprawling monitors and says, "I'll have it up in five."
In an age where every crime drama has multiple versions of itself on the air, these characters are nothing more than a faded Xerox -- and so is NCIS: Los Angeles.