'NAVY NCIS' SAILING INTO CRIME-PROCEDURAL WATERS.
GEORGE W. BUSH appears (via file footage and an accomplished stand-in) in tonight's premiere of ``Navy NCIS'' as a barbecue-loving president of the United States imperiled in the cross hairs of an assassin aboard Air Force One.
And if that doesn't strike you as more than a smidgen overheated - even ABC's terrorist drama ``Threat Matrix'' didn't put the president in harm's way in its first episode - then ``Navy NCIS,'' from ``JAG'' creator Don Bellisario, is likely up your alley. (Even the title work is too hard: Literally, and redundantly, it means ``Navy Naval Criminal Investigative Service.'')
It's another crime-procedural drama dressed up in military finery, though a running joke through tonight's episode concerns how NCIS is the Rodney Dangerfield of federal crime-fighting (one guy, pointedly, confuses it with ``CSI'' - as if, since ``CSI'' throws rock tunes in the background of everything, even people dully typing on laptops, while ``NCIS'' depicts clinical work as the mind-numbing activity it truly is). ``NCIS'' doesn't boast the fetishistic attention to forensics or digging for clues of some of its forbears, however. Tonight's episode spends much of its time bickering over who gets jurisdiction over the crime.
Mark Harmon stars as the quite spectacularly unfortunately named Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who investigates crimes involving the Navy with Dr. Donald Mallard - baby boomers will be pleased to welcome David McCallum, best-known as Ilya Kuryakin in ``The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,'' back to television, though he, too, has a regrettable nickname, ``Ducky.''
Harmon seems to enjoy playing a man with an oblique side - he advocates churchgoing and zips around in convertibles alongside a floozy with the same thin, droll smile. McCallum looks like he'll enjoy munching on some scenery, if only the script would give him some choicer swatches of dialogue.
The rest of the cast is dodgier. Sasha Alexander plays Agent Katie Todd, whom Gibbs hires at the end of tonight's episode after she resigns from the Secret Service in a mist of ignominy. Bad call: Alexander played a similarly strident character in last year's quickly dispatched ``Presidio Med.'' And Abby (Pauley Perrett) the goth-wannabe forensics specialist seems another ill-advised attempt at a colorful flourish: It seems unlikely someone like her would be working for the military, or that the military would have her.
Once you've saved the president of the United States, there's really nowhere to go but down, but if ``Navy NCIS'' manages to keep future episodes on a more modest level, it might distinguish itself amid the ever-expanding glut of crime procedurals.
David Kronke, (818) 713-3638
NAVY NCIS - Two and one half stars
What: Military version of police procedural shows starring Mark Harmon and David McCallum.
Where: CBS (Channel 2).
When: 8 tonight.
In a nutshell: Tonight's episode overreaches to an unseemly degree, but Harmon and McCallum are an agreeable team.
Pauley Perrett, left, David McCallum, Mark Harmon, Sasha Alexander and Michael Weatherly investigate crime from a military angle in ``Navy NCIS.''
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|Title Annotation:||Review; U|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 23, 2003|
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