NCIS: Hawaii – ‘Pilot’ review: I mean…at least it’s set in Hawaii…

NCIS: Hawaii
Mondays at 10PM on CBS

Ah, September, you’re here at last to grace us with some new television. And what better way to start than to give us a brand-new TV show set in Hawaii…because what’s not to like about Hawaii? CBS has had nothing but success with shows set in Hawaii like the original “Hawaii Five-O” (a 12-year run) and “Magnum, P.I.” (an 8-year run) and their reboots which have a running total of nearly 15 years between the two of them. Of course, with the Hawaii Five-0 reboot gone and Magnum already on the air, where does one go from here? How about “NCIS: Hawaii”, another spin-off of CBS’s insanely popular “NCIS” franchise?

The show stars Vanessa Lachey (Fox’s “Dads” and a slew of TV movies)  as “Jane Tennant”, the head honcho (and first female agent) leading the NCIS: Hawaii office in Honolulu. The show takes great strides to establish how independent and powerful she is right off the bat, when she literally gets a helicopter ride from her kids’ soccer field (yep, she’s a soccer mom to boot) to a jet crash site where she verbally undresses Joe Millus, a Navy captain (Enver Gjokaj of ABC’s “Agent Carter”) in front of his colleagues in the NTSB. Can I take a moment to ask why the NTSB is overseeing the crash of an experimental top secret military jet and NOT the Navy Safety branch? I guess I shouldn’t expect much thinking from these shows anymore.

NCIS: Hawaii

Anyhow, the show trails off into usual NCIS territory with the scrappy team with all its flaws and foibles. There’s the second-in-command, Jesse (played by Noah Mills, fresh off of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”); Lucy (Yasmine Al-Bustami of CW’s “I Ship It”), the go-getter who always seems to be in trouble with her superiors; the young “kid”, Kai (Alex Tarrant of Australia’s “Shortland Street”) who is in Hawaii because of his ailing dad who he practically dislikes, and the requisite “nerdy TV computer guy”, Ernie (Jason Antoon of TNT’s “Claws”), who does nerdy TV computer guy stuff like staring at random lines of code and global maps while bringing up digital copies of photo ID’s, bank statements, and images from Google when needed.

Most of the time is spent on the silly plotline involving the aforementioned crashed top secret plane and some sort of weird drug/sex ring involving a group of men who make cocktail waitresses seduce and drug pilots for some reason. It’s beyond forgettable, void of any emotion, and boring as hell. It also doesn’t help that half the episode takes place at night, in a bar, which is frustrating when you think of how colorful the state of Hawaii is. One particular scene is shot using a green screen background of Hawaii, which is puzzling as all get-out since, you know, the show is actually shot in Hawaii.

NCIS: Hawaii

But I think my biggest issue with NCIS: Hawaii is its eagerness to hit the ground running instead of taking time to get to know everyone.

This is the first NCIS entry without a backdoor pilot (NCIS’s “pilot” was part of “JAG” and the NCIS: NOLA and NCIS: LA pilots were part of the original NCIS) and it’s asking a lot of its audience to simply get behind characters we don’t know or haven’t been properly introduced to. Worse yet, everything seems so cold and by-the-numbers. Comparing it with another NCIS show is pointless because they’re more established, so I will go with two other CBS staples instead: with Hawaii Five-0’s first episode, we immedialty dealt with the fallout of the murder of Steve’s father — but the show took a few minutes to introduce each member of Steve’s Five-0 team before continuing — and there was chemistry between Steve and Danny. In Magnum P.I., we got short introductions to Rick, T.C. and Higgins — and you can always count on their various relationships to carry an episode. Here, there’s none of that. The show simply wants to skip the foreplay and go right to the act.

The cold set-up makes the viewer feel like NCIS: Hawaii doesn’t have a story to tell beyond its meager plot. Additionally, Vanessa Lachey doesn’t seem to have much of a presence, nor can she really act. Watching her and her husband, Nick, in an episode of “Hawaii Five-0” was painful and having to endure her robotic, hardass delivery of every single line in this show is painful. There doesn’t seem to be any reason her character should even be this serious (she even goes off on her kids at one point), yet here she is, stiff and giving orders. I’d hope the writers show us why she’s like this because the other leads all knew how to have fun with the leadership role. Also, things happen because they happen and when they do, the moments are so fleeting and forced (Lucy and Kate, the CIA agent who clashes with NCIS, hate each other — but they also have a lesbian relationship unbeknownst to anyone on the team; Kai and his dad mumble and grumble at one another for a few minutes — and that’s about it) that buying that everyone on the team is “family” during the show’s climatic “house party” scene is incredibly hard to swallow.

So, yeah, NCIS is a baby taking its first steps and there are bound to be growing pains — but nothing I saw in the opener was really compelling. I do believe that these shows deserve a chance, so I’ll keep watching but I hope the producers step up their game because I am not sure if this series has the legs to make it a full season.


  1. The lesbian thing needs to go away
    No reason it should be on this show

      1. Author

        We don’t. You seem to be ok with straight romances. You realize that gay men and women have romances, too, right?

        We don’t need it to go away.

          1. Author

            Are you REALLY comparing illegal, non-consensual acts with animals to legal, consensual sex between two people?


  2. Th show is a flop. Please put it to bed NCIS has been better than this bomb.

    1. Author

      I am taking a “wait and see” attitude. NCIS has been better but it also had the luxury of being propped up by “JAG” when it first began. The two NCIS spin-offs also had backdoor pilots with NCIS. This is a cold start show so I am waiting for it to grow a little before I finally decide that I’m out.

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