Special Agent Sam Hannah (LL Cool J) shows McGee and Gibbs his special "touch."
Just as JAG begot NCIS, CBS' NCIS is poised to produce its own progeny. In a two-part arc airing April 28 and May 5 and titled "Legend," Gibbs and the gang will interact with the Official of Special Projects, a Los Angeles-based agency populated by Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J, Louise Lombard and other familiar faces. If all goes well, CBS will order this "backdoor pilot" to series for the 2009-10 TV season.
Here in Part 1 of our Q&A with Shane Brennan, the NCIS executive producer shared a look at what fans of the original series can expect from its offshoot, and in what way it will be like nothing ever seen before on TV.
TVGuide.com: Before we get started here, I wanted to tell you that Rocky Carroll is one helluva celebrity blogger for TVGuide.com.
Shane Brennan: Yeah, he's a great guy. One of the great things that happened to the show this season was bringing Rocky on [as a series regular], and I think he has delivered in spades. He's a great actor.
TVGuide.com: He's secretly hoping that Vance occasionally pops up in the NCIS spin-off.
Brennan: Well, you never know. Let me say something — no one will leave the current show. Everyone is staying. So everyone can relax on the NCIS front! You never know, someone like the director of NCIS might end up having to work with the other agency at some point. That could very well happen.
TVGuide.com: So let's talk about the spin-off's backdoor pilot. How good are you feeling about it?
Brennan: We put together a two-parter that really does everything that I hoped it would do, and then some. It was very important to me that these were episodes of NCIS first, and I made that clear to everyone. I didn't want fans of the show feeling alienated by having to sit down and watch these new characters they knew nothing about. That's why I made it a two-hour episode, so that we could integrate the new characters into the story and still give people their dose of NCIS. I am very, very happy with it. The cast and crew did an amazing job, working extremely hard under a tight deadline. When you make a pilot episode you [typically] don't have an airdate, there's no ticking clock. Well, we've had a very loud ticking clock, but it's come together beautifully.
TVGuide.com: Will the spin-off be tonally the same as NCIS?
Brennan: The audience, when they hold these two shows up, will see that nothing has changed from the original. The new show reflects some of the tone of the original show in that, you've got a group of people working closely together in sometimes quite extreme conditions, in terms of jeopardy and the intensity of the operations.
TVGuide.com: But this is not a simple case of, "If you like Gibbs, you'll love Chris O'Donnell's Agent Callen!"
Brennan: I'm a little careful about holding up comparisons. We could have mixed up any bunch of characters and made them as different as we can, but they're still going to be held up to the original team, and that's fine. I understand that. What people will find is that this ensemble is different because the cases they handle are different, and the way they approach their stories are different. And yet at the same time they are a group of people working together having fun together and being in danger together. It is still very much a family; it's just another part of the family. It's the neighbors down the street, and the audience will fall in love with them.
TVGuide.com: Do we have a title yet? Will it invariably be NCIS-colon-something?
Brennan: We haven't officially come out with a title. We will do that if the show is picked up.
TVGuide.com: I hear that you show off some nifty technology at the OSP.
Brennan: In "Legend" Part 1 and Part 2, we get insight into some technology that to the best of our knowledge hasn't been seen on television before. Back during the election, there was a touch screen where they dragged images around using their hands; we actually have that technology, and this is the first time it's been used in a scripted drama. But we also have some technology that's never been seen where we actually shoot through the screen, so you can see the image on the screen and the person standing looking at that image.
TVGuide.com: Kind of like, say, Minority Report.
Brennan: But it's real technology. Ninety percent what people are going to see on this show is realistic, and it's the actors doing it. It's not a special effect. It's hand-on and it's all happening in front your eyes. Everyone who has stepped onto that set has been blown away by it. In fact, when McGee learns that he is going to the OSP, Ziva says, "OSP — what's that?" And McGee's face just beams: "Cool toys." He's a kid in a candy store and has a lot of fun in both episodes. But the audience also is going to be pretty blown away by what they see.
Next week, in Part 2 of our Q&A: Shane Brennan finally broaches the topic of "Tiva" and hints at why he'll probably take some heat — as he did a year ago — for NCIS' season finale.
Crave scoop on your favorite TV shows? E-mail senior editors Matt, Mickey and Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.