There's something familiar about 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

LL COOL J stars as as Special Agent

LL COOL J stars as as Special Agent Sam Hanna, in NCIS: LOS ANGELES, a drama about the high stakes world of undercover surveillance at the Office of Special Projects (OSP), a division of NCIS, to premiere this Fall, Tuesdays (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. This photo is provided for use in conjunction with the CBS Summer 2009 Press Tour. (Credit: CBS/CLIFF LIPSON)

THE SHOW "NCIS: Los Angeles"

WHEN | WHERE Tuesday night at 9 on CBS/2

REASON TO WATCH The spinoff of the 2009-10 season.

CATCHING UP Launched as a two-parter on the season finale of "NCIS" in May, the investigators were following a terror cell, with special agent "G" Callen (Chris O'Donnell) undercover. At episode's end, he fell under a hail of bullets - assailants unknown - as his pal and partner, Sam Hanna (LL Cool J), helplessly looked on.

WHAT TONIGHT'S ABOUT A wild police chase on an L.A. freeway leads to a ferocious gunfight, and cops discover a dead man dressed in U.S. Navy whites in the bad guys' SUV. Cut to "G's" back, where the splatter of bullets first struck and only scar wounds remain. Then cut to the NCIS L.A. office, whose overlord is eccentric mother hen Henrietta "Hetty" Lange (Linda Hunt). She pecks lovingly over her brood while dispensing wisdom about high-tech surveillance gear and the appropriate tie / jacket combinations.

The staff includes Eric (Barrett Foa), the tech guru, and Nate Getz (Pete Cambor) - comic relief, like Tim McGee (Sean Murray) of "NCIS." Special Agent Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) and new agent Dominic Vaile (Adam Jamal Craig) fill out the team.

Meanwhile, "G" and Hanna are pulled into the mystery. Did the Navy man know about an impending assault on Mexican drug cartels?

BOTTOM LINE "NCIS: Los Angeles" is as old as the hills - the Hollywood Hills, to be exact. It's a Pre-Cambrian specimen that crept out of the primordial ooze of TV past, with a rhythm so profoundly familiar that if you happened to fall asleep during the first few minutes and woke up for the last, you'd be able to mentally reconstruct the entire program from scratch.

O'Donnell, a good actor, barely breaks a sweat here, nor does Cool J - preening and perfect, he seems in need of a mirror close at hand to remind himself of his gorgeousness every now and then. Yet, this vapid spinoff will - of course - be a huge hit.

GRADE C+

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