I am woefully unfamiliar with the CBS procedurals outside of Criminal Minds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a CSI, a Seal Team, a JAG, an FBI, or a Blue Bloods. I’ve seen one episode of NCIS: Los Angeles because I was curious to see what Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J were up to. I don’t understand the NCIS franchise: How many deaths related to the Navy can there possibly be? Are there really enough Navy murders in a year to justify two spinoffs?
Make that three. There now exists an Australian spinoff, NCIS: Sydney, and while it was initially meant to exist only overseas, it’s now airing on CBS because of the WGA/SAG strikes. I watched it. I don’t know why I watched it. I am not that hard up for new programming. I was curious to see what an American procedural set in Australia might look like.
It looks like an American procedural, only half the cast has Australian accents. Americans are in this series by necessity: The Navy is part of the American military, so Americans must be involved. That means jurisdictional pissing matches! Based on the pilot episode, those will probably play central to most storylines.
Here’s the setup in the opening episode: A guy in the Navy collapses, falls into the bay, and dies. Even though it’s docked in Sydney, the ship is under American jurisdiction. The water where the body was found is under Australian jurisdiction; ergo our two leads — Michelle Mackey, NCIS Special Agent (Olivia Swann) and JD Dempsey, Australian Federal Police (Todd Lasance) — end up in a lengthy dispute about who the case belongs to. Ultimately, the American, Mackey, is put in charge, but the Australian, Dempsey, must do all the police work because he’s a local. They hate each other until they find common ground in their hostility toward their respective governments, which appear to be covering up an onboard radiation leak that led to the death.
Other characters look like they were pulled out of the police procedural catalog. Only the forensic pathologist, an Australian character who goes by Rosie, stands out because William McInnes, the actor who plays him, seems to be having a modicum of fun.
Otherwise, unfortunately, it is exceedingly generic, the kind of series that’d be easy to write with AI. Aside from the setting and the accents, there is nothing new here. It’s not even interesting as a contrast to the American procedurals. It’s bland, uninteresting, and mid. It was also the highest-rated scripted program on broadcast television Monday night, so the NCIS formula is resilient with the CBS demo.