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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Mighty NCIS


I wasn’t wild about NCIS: Los Angeles when it arrived in fall 2009-it felt like NCIS, only with more letters-but in season 2 it pairs well with the veteran hit that spawned it (and which is enjoying its best ratings ever in season 8). To watch these popular CBS action dramas back-to-back on Tuesdays is like going for a walk with a large, mature dog and a bouncy, somewhat dopey puppy. Los Angeles, with an ensemble headed by Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J, has a brighter palette and feels more open-aired (and younger) than the East Coast NCIS, except for those moments when Linda Hunt appears as Hetty Lange, who runs the place. Hunt delivers her lines with deep, theatrical gusto, as if she were teaching at Hogwarts. In an age in which TV storytelling has become dense with detail and, in the case of procedurals, thick with sinister perversions, both shows have an old-fashioned but relaxing simplicity, with an upbeat emphasis on the value of being a team. It’s family entertainment. Both shows:

Breakout Kings

A&E, Sundays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Two U.S. marshals recruit a crack team from prison and set them loose-with a lot of strings attached, but the promise of eventual freedom-to chase down escaped fugitives. Not a bad concept, but the casting is out of whack. Laz Alonso (Avatar) and Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire), as the marshals, both have a sullen solidity that overshadows the crew: The tug between fulfilling their duty to the law or up and flying the coop themselves should give these convicts a tense instability. Instead, they can seem merely ditsy.