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The Failed NCIS Spin-Off Everyone Forgets About

Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Goldman, the man responsible for timeless classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride, had this to say (via Variety) about the entertainment industry: "Nobody knows anything." Specifically, he meant that there's not a single person with a firm grasp on what will and will not work. Movies that should be huge wind up being John Carter of Mars. TV shows that should crash and burn thanks to the staggeringly weird creative vision of their showrunners wind up being Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then keeping their actors on television for 30-plus years. It's all a gamble — or is it?

Around the turn of the century, some lucky dog stumbled across what seemed like a sure thing. Television viewers, it was determined, couldn't get enough of crime procedurals with initialisms and acronyms in their names. The phenomenon probably started with NYPD Blue before moving on to Law & Order: SVU, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, FBI ... and of course, JAG, its spin-off NCIS, and its subsidiaries NCIS: New Orleans and Los Angeles. With a cast of symmetrically-faced crime fighters, and then three or four letters smooshed together, it seemed, for a time, that there was no way that a network could lose.

The years pressed on, and coming up with new ideas for shows about handsome police became difficult, as did maintaining an audience. There were casualties along the way. For CSI, the biggest black eye was CSI: Cyber, which ran a scant 31 episodes before disappearing. NCIS, however managed to make that number shine when a show called NCIS: Red existed so briefly that you probably don't remember it.

NCIS: Red was DOA on CBS

So JAG begat NCIS, and NCIS begat NCIS: Los Angeles. And for a passing moment, it looked like NCIS: Los Angeles was going to beget its own spin off: NCIS: Red, a series hinted at in a two-part backdoor pilot during the show's fourth season.

On paper, Red had all the earmarks of a successful crime procedural series. The lead character's name was Paris Summerskill, which should've spelled twelve seasons right from the get go. What's more, the show took the tendency of centering spin off shows in a single city and flipped the script, fearlessly asking "what if they went to a bunch of places instead?" That's right, the Red team was mobile, living together in a pair of mobile command centers.

For whatever reason, fans weren't tickled by the idea of a bunch of cops living in two very large vans. Neither was the network, as it turns out — asked why they never moved forward with the show after the Red team's appearances on NCIS: Los Angeles, CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler told Digital Spy "Sometimes [spinoffs] work and sometimes they don't (...) Protecting [the franchise] was really important." To date, only one character from the almost-show has reappeared in the NCIS universe — Dave Flynn, played by The Orville's Scott Grimes, popped up in the NCIS:LA episode "Getaway" four seasons after the fact.

The most disappointing part? The title "NCIS: Red" referred to the fact that different NCIS mobile teams were given different color designations. The existence of a "Red" team implied the possibility of an NCIS: Blue, an NCIS: Yellow, and so on. The potential was there for the various crews to link their mobile labs up into a single cohesive super lab and call it "the JAG-azord." But sometimes life disappoints you.