NCIS: Los Angeles: The First Season (2009) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Crime / Drama
Paramount || NR - 1029 minutes - $72.99 || August 31, 2010
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2010-09-01


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: NA
Writer(s): Shane Brennan (creator)
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J, Daniela Ruah, Barrett Foa, Peter Cambor, Linda Hunt


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Episode Commentary
  • "NCIS" Spin-Off Episodes
  • 6 Featurettes
  • Music Video
  • Promos
  • BD-Live


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 5
  • Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Stereo Surround)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Please note, this review does contain spoilers.

Plot (from BD back cover): The Office of Special Projects is an elite unit that uses high-tech surveillance and high-stakes action to apprehend criminals who threaten national security. With the ability to assume any identity to infiltrate criminal organizations, Special Agent “G” Callen (CHRIS O’DONNELL) is the unit’s top investigator—a reputation that nearly cost him his life in a mysterious shooting. Together with partner Sam Hanna (LL COOL J), a rugged ex-Navy SEAL, and a team of skilled specialists including forensics expert Kensi Blye (DANIELA RUAH) and OPS manager Hetty Lange (LINDA HUNT), they take on cases from murder to espionage to stolen weapons—and the man who ordered the hit on Callen’s life.

Eight years ago when CBS announced the spin-off to its – at least at the time – series, I had my doubts and after going in and out of the show, “CSI: Miami” became a joke of a show and I have since loathed everything about it. Spin-offs aren’t a new concept and a few have found longevity and success (“Frasier”, “Angel” and, well, “NCIS” since it was spun off from “JAG”) so when it was announced there would be a spin-off for “NCIS”, I was skeptical. The reason for the series was that despite the ratings success especially going up against “American Idol”, “NCIS” certainly skewed older so it was determined that the spin-off would go younger.

Technically premiering via a backdoor pilot in the two-parter ‘Legend’ in season six. After watching those episodes, I wasn’t too impressed as it seemed too forced for my liking. I could see what they were doing putting a younger team together. In fact, the unit leader was recast originally having Louise Lombard (who was on “CSI” for a short time) and replaced her with one of the more odder casting choices in Oscar winner Linda Hunt (The Year of Living Dangerously), which seemed unusual but having an older actress in the role proved to work well against the younger cast as a mentor and motherly character.

The cast for “NCIS: Los Angeles” seemed to have gelled together nicely enough and even though they don’t have the chemistry of the flagship series – for which they’ve had now nine seasons to perfect – the casting job done was well done. First, Chris O’Donnell after floundering around the big screen from the Batman & Robin and Max Payne takes the less history, more mystery to a new level for his character for which his first name is only known as “G”. Playing his partner is LL Cool J who is continuing his acting career following some ho-hum efforts in Deep Blue Sea (admittedly underrated creature feature), Rollerball (yuck) and S.W.A.T. Together LL and O’Donnell provide fun banter admist the dramatic storylines which, for the most part, are self contained save for one big subplot concerning a member of their team.

The supporting cast also gets their chance to shine and expand on their characters from Barrett Foa as the team’s tech geek to Daniela Rush as Agent Blye and Adam Jamal Craig in one of more unusual storylines that I can remember. I don’t know what exactly happened by Craig playing the character Dom, gets kidnapped in the season’s 13th episode and later resolved in episode 21 and in between they make mention of him but basically go on their merry way solving cases and passing Dom’s disappearance off as merely being without evidence to follow-up on. Really? This is the same show where they can find evidence, video tape, etc quite easily and when we find out where Dom is it makes even lesser sense as to why they could not find him.

In any case, putting the subplot issue aside, I enjoyed the freshman season for “NCIS: Los Angeles” but I also kind of tolerated “CSI: Miami” so I hope the writers don’t drop the ball and go into even more ridiculous and unbelievable storylines as this is a series that I can easily see falling off if left unattended. I know there are “NCIS” fans who don’t care for the show but for myself, I like the fact that it’s not a carbon copy of the flagship series just set in a different location and actually offers something new (unlike the upcoming “Criminal Minds” spin-off which seems to be unneeded).



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The 5-disc Blu-ray comes in a standard HD Keep Case (thicker than the HD Slim). No slip cover but that’s typical of a Paramount TV on Blu-ray release. One thing’s for certain, unlike some TV shows on DVD or BD, Paramount puts some effort into putting features together.

“NCIS” Legend Spin-Off Episodes (1080p HD) – The 2-part backdoor pilot episodes have been included here for those who were not watchers of the original “NCIS” series. The episode to me seemed a tad forced but far better than the backdoor pilot for “Criminal Minds” The episodes come with a DTS-HD Master Audio track.

Episode Commentary – Creator and Executive Producer Shane Brennan records a commentary for the pilot episode, “Identity”. The track isn’t the best and fairly but Brennan offers up some insights into the making of the episode as well as the characters. I think the track would’ve been better off if they included members of the cast along with Brennan.

Inspired Television: NCIS: LA (16:18; SD) – The featurette covers the origins for the spin-off show and how it’s distinguished from the original on storytelling, the unit itself which works more undercover, casting and shooting on location in Los Angeles.

The L.A. Team: Meet the Cast and Crew (20:55; SD) – Obviously from the title, we get to hear from various members of the cast (including Chris O’Donnell, LL Cool J, Linda Hunt, etc) and crew (creator/exec producer Shane Brennan and others) who discuss the characters and what drew them to the show. Interestingly, they basically skim over Adam Jamal Craig as Dom basically saying killing his character was planned yet while all the other actors provide sound bites, he is missing.

Inside the Inner Sanctum: The Set Tour (12:18; SD) – This featurette has the production designer giving the viewer a tour of the “NCIS: LA” set pointing out the little details.

Do You Have a Visual? Inside the OPS Center (10:19; SD) – This one goes over the technological aspects of the show and use of the various cameras like traffic and ATM cameras, satellite footage, etc. and putting them all together to integrate it all into the plot.

Lights, Camera... ACTION!: The Stunts of NCIS: LA (10:15; SD) – The final featurette covers the stunt work done on the show from car crashes to the fight sequences by the cast.

BD-Live – There’s a simple show synopsis as well as some biographies but the portal also includes an Interview with Chris O’Donnell (1:34) and one with LL Cool J (1:55). Not saying anything here is special, but it is nice for once to having something to do with the actual title in hand. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

The set also includes a Music Video (3:57; SD) from LL Cool J along with an accompanying Making Of (3:05; SD) for the music video and some CBS Promos (SD).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

“NCIS: Los Angeles” is presented in 1080p high-definition and in its original 1.78 aspect ratio. Often times TV on Blu-ray releases can be a mixed bag but this one actually looks pretty darn good but that’s in part thanks to the show’s L.A. locale with brighter scenes. Skin tones also look good with natural creases and they don’t have a waxy look. I can’t say this is an amazing looking TV on BD release, but still on par with Paramount’s previous releases, “CSI” seasons 1 and 9.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds more than good enough to my ears though especially the LFE channel goes into overdrive during the transition scenes (similar to “Numb3rs”) as the walls, windows and floor will shake during those moments. Aside from that, dialogue levels sound crisp and clear while the numerous action sequences that crop up in each and every episode provide some depth that, while not as good as some feature films, stands on its own well enough.



.::OVERALL::.

“NCIS: Los Angeles” may not be the well oiled machine compared with many other shows on television today, but I can see the same kind of potential I saw in flagship series, “NCIS” when it aired in 2003. The Blu-ray release some has some good features and solid audio and video quality that makes this is a worthwhile purchase for fans.