With the launch of a new TV season Monday (Sept. 20), and “NCIS” mothership switching to the lineup from its long-time Tuesday perch, the newbie “NCIS: Hawai‘i” appears to benefit in the ratings, thanks to its slot following the original show’s 19th season lift-off.
A new franchise — this one filmed in Hawai’i — can always use a helpful boost.
Here’s how the evening played out in the ratings:
— No. 1 – CBS’ “NCIS,” the Mark Harmon foundation of the franchise, attracting an audience of 8.5 million viewers and 0.7 rating in the coveted 18 to 49 age demo, a skosh lower than last season’s debut on a Tuesday night.
— No. 2 — NBC’s “The Voice,” with 7.2 million viewers, topping the demos with a 1.1 rating. Its audience of younger fans reflected the uptick in the demo.
— No. 3 – CBS’“NCIS: Hawai‘i,” with 6.6 million viewers and a 0.5 demo rating. Not bad for the newbie.
In fine fashion, there was Harmon, as lead agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, recovering from his boat explosion from last season’s finale, and finally connecting with his team including special agent Timothy McGee (played by Sean Murray). Sure, Gibbs is an often threatening bossman, who often smacks the back of the heads of his agents, but he has their back, and vice versa. That rapport is a two-way street; respect for the honcho, and support for the chief. That camaraderie has been the spine that has kept NCIS on the straight-up as the No. 1 procedural for nearly two decades.
Vanessa Lachey, appearing as Jane Tennant, the first woman leading an NCIS team, must not have gotten the memo, or its script writers didn’t, in the first episode of the “Hawai‘i” installation. Her I’m-the-boss tone quickly created friction with a Navy Capt. Joe Milius, portrayed by Enver Gjokaj, with her colleagues awkwardly jostling for relevance. Leaders need to have mutual respect and sensible work ethics to co-exist and succeed.
Tennant is a single mother, so is tasked to shape a comfortable home front while juggling her chores as a head agent. She is called from a soccer match to proceed to a plane deliberately pounding into a mountain, so the mission’s finally launched. At best, Lachey has potential to get that chip off her shoulder and lead the team effort. Might take two or three more episodes for this niggler to settle. Alex Tennant ([portrayed by Kian Talan) is the elder son of the lead character and Julie Tennant (played by Mahina Napolean) is the young sister and both logically can anticipate to be more visible in future episodes when the mother meter ticks.
The Hawaii’i investigative team is a quirky lot. Lucy Tara (played by Yasmine Al-Bustami), eager to please and curiously swift to proclaim her standing, has an unexpected lesbian embrace, suggesting future LBGTQ themes down the line.
Kai Holman (played by Alex Tarrant) is a junior squad member returning to Hawaii to serve, still trying to forget or escape his Waimanalo roots; he looms as a key figure, but seems unsettled about where to set anchor. He looks local/Hawaiian (he’s Maori, Samoan and Niuean) and orders kalua pig, manapua and loco moco from a food wagon, but clearly can’t feign the real-local ways. Yet. One of his issues is in doubting his dad, realistically portrayed by Moses Goods, a keiki o ka ‘aina. You can quickly recognize the legit in the first few utterances and moments. Yep.
Jesse Boone (portrayed by Noah Mills), is a homicide detective settling into a new job in the islands, and has the look and physique that could develop into a popular and major sidekick.
Kate Whistler (played by Tori Anderson) also is an outsider from the Defense intelligence Agency hoping to find her niche in the Pearl Harbor realm and seems to have a path for her own rise on the ladder of investigation—and possible revisit her eyebrow-raising smooch with Agent Tara.
And Ernie Malik (played byJason Antoon) is the sometimes goofy techie /intelligence guy – all procedurals have one – who has to dig up investigative files in quick moves.
When a franchise has four shows total (“Los Angeles” and the original still exist, ‘New Orleans” went to TV heaven), it’s tough to differentiate one from the other, except by setting. The military or cop jargon remain the same, but landscape matters. Problem is, “NCIS: Hawai’i” still has competish from locally-filmed “Magnum P.I.” (aerials, surf, hotels, green mountains when it rains), and frankly, reflecting back to the original “Hawaii Five-0,” “Magnum” and other Hawaii series as “Jake and the Fatman” and “Five-0” reboot, the novelty of sea-shore-sun is long gone. The major difference will be in the art of storytelling, and perhaps some day, bona fide Hawaiians, Asians and Pacific Islanders as principal cast, not secondary backgrounders. (Current fave: “Doogie Kamealoha,” the Disney+ creation, with lots of local faces and manners).
At least in the premiere, the newbie had the smarts to embrace local music in the soundtrack, notably “Island Style.” Words and sounds — meaning our cultural tunes — will boost and establish atmosphere, and further enhance and propel the images.
If nothing else, Lachey’s Tennant character has gusto and guts, speaking her mind, and totally immersing herself in island waters (well, clearly, her stunt double did that finale scene). The best bet going for her, and the island-based show, is the fact that it airs here at 9 p.m., following the mothership at 8 p.m. Mondays. Now it has to earn its own stripes. …
And that’s Show Biz. ….