Category Archives: In The Bullpen with Phillydi

Will you watch NCIS Red? In the Bullpen with Phillydi!

Welcome back to In the Bullpen with Phillydi!  These are exciting times for the NCIS franchise with a two episode preview in March of the latest spinoff series NCIS Red.  I recall only four short years ago when NCIS (a JAG spinoff) gave birth to a new series, with new characters and a new location.  Of course, that show would be christened NCIS Los Angeles and go on to become the second highest scripted show on television.  So with the announcement of a new NCIS spinoff, I had to wonder what Shane Brennan’s creative objective was behind the new series. The first two shows are cash cows for the production company and CBS, so we can’t deny that money would be a good reason.  But there is also a lot of pride that goes into creating these two stellar shows every week that I would like to think there is something more than just wanting to squeeze an extra buck out the franchise.

I believe the NCIS(LA) team of producers, writers, actors and crew work hard every week to bring to television a first class product and the viewing public has responded accordingly by crowning these two shows the top scripted dramas on the air today.  Brennan’s company has the day to day production of these shows down to a fine science. Why not take this successful recipe to the next level and find another NCIS series that the audience might find just as exciting and entertaining?  It’s been a winning combination so far and it can help renew and revitalize the franchise.

Yet here is always the danger of over saturation.  Will we get tired of watching this kind of procedural crime solving genre?  Some fans may find a favorite show out of the three and stick with it but like the CSI family before it, there is always an audience for top of the line television drama.  And even though there is a shelf life to every show, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the NCIS family of shows will be around for a long time to come.

What’s unique about NCIS Red?

Apparently, this is a team without a home.  This new group gets to roam the country as nomadic agents taking on assignments as they come.  Without a place to hang their hat, will standard operating procedures change in the way they perform their job and work together as a team?  I was surprised to read their missions would only be on American soil.  I expected a mobile unit would be able to fly anywhere in the world at a moment notice which would be a really handy group to have around.  But it’s still early and things could change.

The group now has faces and names and a cast of fine actors to go with it.  There is Analyst Roy Quaid (John Corbett) who is the experienced veteran of the group. Kai Ash (Edwin Hodge) is the tech specialist in the unit who can do a little bit of everything.  Dave (Scott Grimes) is the forensic specialist.  I can’t wait to see his mobile lab!  Special Agent Claire (Gilian Alexy) will give Kensi and Ziva a run for their money… and for the first time there is a female lead, Paris (Kim Raver) will head the team.  Paris, who is a formidable team leader, is also a loner. Seems to come with the territory.   Also, don’t forget Assistant Director Granger (Miguel Ferrer) will also bring his dry, acerbic humor to the new team.  Let’s see how often he rains on their parade!

There is already news on the backdoor pilot in which Sam and Callen will team up with the NCIS Red in search of a suspected terrorist in Idaho.  Although Callen will be checking Pairs out as a possible love interest (only mild flirtation for now we’re told), it seems there are still some embers smoldering from a previous relationship between Quad and Paris.  I don’t know if I can take another angst filled relationship….but bring it on!

So what will make YOU watch another NCIS procedural drama?

Check all buttons that apply:

  • Exciting and well written scripts ripped from current and real life events
  • Writers, producers, actors and a first class technical crew who are the best in the business
  • Stunts and live action scenes that go BOOM!
  • A strong male lead (Gibbs) that makes us believe in his convictions no matter what
  • Endearing characters such as Abby, Eric and Ducky who charm us, make us laugh/cry and want to hug them back
  • Tough female agents (Kensi and Ziva) that take everything that life throws at them and come out stronger despite the adversity
  • Complex and angsty characters like G. Callen yearning to uncover the secrets from his past
  • A will they or won’t they love affair between the terribly complicated Densi
  • A tiny but formidable team manager (Hetty) that makes you believe that anything in life is possible and always achievable!

If you are like me, you have checked off every one of those buttons.  Just like the characters of NCIS and NCISLA, I want to believe in the new NCIS Red team and I want to care about them as human beings.  I want to know what makes them tick and I want to become invested in the little moments that make their predecessors so remarkable.  Give me characters that I love AND love to hate… and you will have me at hello!

There may be some growing pains in the first season as there was for both NCIS and NCISLA.  As much as I liked Kate on NCIS I think the addition of Ziva has made the show much more interesting and exotic.  On NCISLA it was obvious that Dom was a weak link in the first year but was brilliantly replaced by irrepressible Deeks who helped Kensi shine and become the kick ass Blye we have all come to know and love.

NCIS Red has a lot going for it coming from a royal lineage of great shows.   But it has two hard acts to follow.  It’s not going to be easy to live up to the high standards of the characters and storylines of the shows that came before it. But if anyone has a chance of striking pay dirt three times in a row, its Brennan and company.  As long as he creates the best in quality television for the viewing public, then we have everything to look forward to and much to gain.  Good luck NCIS Red!  Your audience awaits!

So tell us what you think of NCIS Red?  Will you watch the new show?  What are you looking forward to (or not!) with this new group of characters?  Leave your comments below….we want to know!

Follow our continuing coverage of NCIS Red at

NCISLA Magazine Visits Set of NCIS Los Angeles – Part Two –

sindee & Diane at Paramount Lot Stage 8&9 Entrance ©sindee

sindee & Diane at Paramount Lot Stage 8&9 Entrance ©sindee

In Part One on Tuesday, I described what it was like to visit the Paramount Studio sets of NCIS Los Angeles.  After getting a tour of the lot, we were escorted into Studios 8 & 9 to visit the home of NCISLA.  The first floor of the Mission was amazing and we had a chance to visit all the iconic places that we watched every week on our TV screen.  It was time to explore the top floor of Ops and as we walked up the tile floor, sindee and I tried to act very nonchalant but things were getting exciting.  As we stood in front of the entrance to Ops my eyes were as big as platters.  Standing around the Ops table was the rest of the cast waiting for the scene to begin.  We were encouraged to get up as close as possible to watch the scene being filmed.  Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice!  I stood in the doorway but quickly realized that if I didn’t pay attention, I was going to bump right into Linda Hunt who was standing a foot  in front of me waiting for her entrance.  She really is very small and petite and obviously very cold as she was bundled in a long winter coat to keep warm.

The scene began as Chris O’Donnell walked into Ops to assume his place around the table.  The director, Steven DePaul called for action and we watched as the cast recited their lines from a unique camera angle.  Cut! We watched again as the same scene was filmed from a new angle.  It was fascinating to see the controlled chaos revolving around us.  Makeup and hair artists scurried around the cast, technicians adjusted the lightening and prop masters put final touches on the set in between every take.

After a couple of takes, the members of the cast took a break and walked out of Ops.  Suddenly I was surprised to see Eric Christian Olsen standing directly in front of me holding his hand out to say hello!  Daniela Ruah and LL were close behind and we were delighted when Daniela welcomed us both with a huge hug!  Chris joined them and we talked about how far we had traveled and Chris and Daniela thanked us for the special mugs we had created for each of the cast from the magazine covers.

sindee & Diane with Eric Christian Olsen ©sindee

sindee & Diane with Eric Christian Olsen ©sindee

Before we knew it they were all called back into Ops to start filming again and Erin ushered us into a small area to continue watching the filming from a room that was built for the director and the other tech crew.  The room was filled with multiple monitors that would capture the cast from all different angles.  While there we had a chance to talk to Stephen DePaul (director), Diana Valentine (script supervisor), Brook Stenstrom (hair) and Chris Burgoyne (makeup) and a number of other technical staff who were constantly walking in and out of the room.  It was a joy to talk to them all about their job and it was so amazing how warm and welcoming they all were towards us.

sindee & Diane with Barrett Foa & Chris O'Donnell ©sindee

sindee & Diane with Barrett Foa & Chris O’Donnell ©sindee

We still had some more fun waiting for us when we heard Eric Christian Olsen calling for us from down the hall.  We asked if  he would take some pictures with us and  Eric entertained us with stories about his really bad German accent in Beerfest (“Towards the end of the film, I sounded more Jamaican than German!”).  Barrett Foa stopped by to say hi and luckily we had a chance to take a great picture with him and Chris before we had to leave.  Unfortunately, we never did get to say hello to Renee Felice Smith (who was very busy in Ops) which was very disappointing but she sent us a very sweet tweet later to say hello.

Our final stop as we left the sound stage was outside in front of the front doors of the Mission.  We noticed the condemned sign was missing, but we stopped to imagine Sam or Callen’s cars parked outside of these two giant doors.  The space seemed smaller than it looks on screen but there have been some fun scenes filmed at this location especially the episode where Callen replaces Sam’s lost Charlene with a new Challenger.  Great memories!  It was a fitting ending to our visit.

sindee & Diane "outside" NCISLA Mission ©sincee

sindee & Diane “outside” NCISLA Mission ©sindee

The day was almost complete…but not yet!  There was still one more special person we were looking forward to meet but he was missing in action!  Dave Kalstein was on a set location visit and wouldn’t be returning to Paramount until 4 pm.  Erin assured us if we could hang around a bit more he would like to meet us.  How could we say no?!  We had some lunch at the commissary, walked around the gift store and sat outside in the warm LA breeze to wait for Dave to join us.  Before long we saw Dave walking up to greet us with a surprise guest in tow….Rafael Kayanan!  What a treat to meet both Dave and Rafael and be able to sit down and talk to them about our visit and this wonderful show that we all have come to love so much.  We talked about the new spin-off and about what made the franchise so successful and why it was so well- loved by all the fans.  After signing a copy of his book for us to auction off for the ASPCA and a script for me to cherish, there were hugs all around and it was time to go.

sindee & Diane with Dave Kalstein & Rafael Kayanan

sindee & Diane with Dave Kalstein & Rafael Kayanan ©sindee

Mark Harmon's Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame ©sindee

Mark Harmon’s Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame ©sindee

Two days later we completed our NCIS pilgrimage by walking to Hollywood and Vine in  search of Mark Harmon’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Harmon received the 2,482nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 1, 2012.  After taking the obligatory picture of Mark’s special star, we wondered if  one day we would see an NCISLA star sharing that same honor.  Fingers crossed!

What can I say?  It was a fairy-tale week from start to finish.  It took days for me to finally grasp all that happen on that visit.  It was really very surreal and hard to comprehend that we got to visit with all these special people.  A big thank you goes out to all the cast and crew for making our time in Los Angeles so memorable and enchanting.  You guys are the best!

NCISLA Magazine Visits Set of NCIS Los Angeles – Part One –

It was the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to fly out to Los Angeles and meet the cast and crew of NCIS Los Angeles!  My partner in crime, sindee and I had just launched a new online site which was an off shoot of her very popular NCISLA Fan Blog.  With an idea to make the new site look and feel different with original material and information coming out 24/7 we worked long and hard to create what was to become NCISLA Magazine.  The new site was unveiled at the beginning of September and we were very proud of the results… but what would the NCISLA team think?

Our site visit was set for the beginning of November.  Although I had lived in the San Francisco Bay area years ago, this was my first trip to Los Angeles.  sindee and her husband, Mark were old pros, having visited the City of Angels many times in the past, so they graciously acted as my tour guide on this trip.  On the first day we visited many tourist hot spots that also happen to be some of the great location sites used on many episodes for the show.  It was fun exploring the famous Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Marina del Rey and Hollywood Boulevard which were all iconic tourist sites but I was seeing them all through NCISLA eyes.  “Look, that’s where Callen ran up the escalators… Deeks and Kensi were walking on this side of the pier… That’s where Sam parked his Challenger!” Not exactly highlights in the LA Michelin guide book, but definitely a thrill for me to see for the first time.


NCISLA “Touch of Death” (3×21) Location ©sindee

The day before the site visit we received an invitation to visit Eric Linden (Chris O’Donnell’s stunt double) at his studio Action Factory Stunts. Eric and his fellow stuntmen were busy that day working out the choreography for a new video they were scheduled to shoot with Sam & Niko, the creators of several famous short films as Corridor Digital.  It was fascinating and revealing time spent learning about the craft and how much work goes into one small part of a video.  Eric and Joe Fidler took us through some of the fight choreography that they had been working on and Eric explained all the preparation and safety precautions that are used for each scene.  It was such an enjoyable and informative day and we really want to thank Eric for inviting us to visit!   (More on Action Factory Stunts in a future edition of NCISLA Magazine when we sit down with Eric Linden for an interview regarding his work on the show and his life as a stunt artist.)

The evening before our visit to the NCISLA set reminded me of the night before Christmas when I was 6 years old and waiting for Santa Clause to come down the chimney!  I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep.  I was finally going to meet a group of people who I have admired for their ability to entertain and bring so much enjoyment to their fans. I knew it was going to be a day I would never forget!

sindee and I set off mid-morning for Paramount Studios.  Our contact was Erin, Shane Brennan’s assistant and she was meeting us once we got through the gates of the studio. Erin took us for a walking tour of the famed Paramount studio complex and despite the extreme heat that day, I was mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the myriad of employers going about their business on this magical piece of land.  We passed city facades, makeup trailers and Forrest Gump’s bench (yes, the real one used in the movie!) until we finally stood in front of Studios 8 & 9. The door that led us to the magical world of NCIS Los Angeles was very unassuming.  But once we entered, we were greeted by a huge wall filled with a promotional portrait of Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J. This has got to be the place!

Paramount Lot Stage 8&9 Entrance ©sindee

Paramount Lot Stage 8&9 Entrance ©sindee

Erin led us into a very cold but refreshing sound stage with food carts, extras buried in their e-readers and carpenters building new sets.  I didn’t know what to look at first.  Our first set we walked into was the gym and weapons range.  Directly next to that was the arsenal.  I expected things to appear different but I was surprised how everything was exactly the way it looked on the TV screen.  Most of the set was in dim lighting but we had a chance to walk around and explore the nooks and corners of the rooms.  Next was the interior of the boathouse and it was fun to find all the places you don’t get to see as you watch the show.  We knew what was down the hall and couldn’t wait to enter the interrogation room.  How cool was this??!! sindee and I took turns pretending to be our favorite NCIS agents grilling the bad guy on the other side of the table.  We definitely felt like two kids let loose in a candy shop.  What a thrill!

It was time to go to Stage 9 where the cast and crew would be filming a scene from episode 11 (Drive) in the Ops center.  Before we walked on the set, we met some of the sound crew including Adam Key (@artwercadam) who gave us our headsets.  As we entered the hallowed halls of the Mission, I couldn’t stop smiling.  As much as I was looking forward to meeting the cast and crew, I was humbled to be standing right smack dab in the middle of the Mission!  It was an amazing experience.  As I got to walk around Hetty’s office examining her wonderful knick-knacks, I was in NCISLA heaven!  The details of her office are seared into my mind.  So many dramatic scenes and amusing conversations at her desk raced through my mind at the same time.  Some of the best scenes from the show took place in this eclectic office of memories.

Hetty's Office ©sindee

Hetty’s Office ©sindee

We walked out of Hetty’s office and into the bullpen and my first stop had to be Deeks’ desk.  Compared to his fellow agent’s desks, his area looked very neat and organized.  Hmmm… looks like Deeks’ was holding out on us!  Kensi’s desk on the other hand, was filled with clutter and silly knick-knacks, Sam had a collection of his origami creations lined up neatly in a row and I still smile every time I remember the bottle of aspirins on Callen’s desk.  The desk tops were all so typical of the characters who sat behind them.

After a tour of the Mission’s wardrobe room and the tech center we began our trip up the stairs to Ops.  Everything had been very quiet to this point.  We got to meet a number of crew members taking care of business on the first floor of the Mission but it wasn’t until we climbed the stairs that we could feel the energy starting to swirl.  As we reached the top of the stairs, support crew lined the wall waiting to be called to do their jobs but our attention was turned to the bright lights emanating from Ops.  And who should we see sitting outside of Ops and studying his script but Chris O’Donnell!  If we had been amazed by what we saw on the first floor of the mission… we hadn’t seen anything yet!

Find out more on Wednesday when I reveal what happen next on our set visit to the set of NCIS Los Angeles! [EDIT: Find Part Two here…]