Rivers & Spanish Fly: CBS Studio Day Set Visits: Three Rivers & NCIS: Los Angeles – TCA Summer Press Tour 09 – Feature

The allure of the Paramount Lot has taken on the guise of the CBS lexicon. For the CBS Set Visit Studio Day of the TCA Summer 09 Press Tour, the possibilities were in force with two distinctly different new series in different stages of extension. One uses the power of CSI and brings it into the medical profession. The other takes a tried and true franchise and seemingly gives a heap more coolness, fun and sex appeal.


Three Rivers Entering into the red and orange slick set of this new medical drama, the aspect is of realism. But upon hearing from show runner Carol Barbee, the essence comes from the paradox of true life. The design mirrors in many ways the layout of the Cleveland Clinic which Robin Williams only mentioned yesterday in terms of where he had his heart surgery. This new drama is set in Pittsburgh as the center of transplants central. Nowadays the medical technology can do a lot more than since the time of “St. Elsewhere” which cast member Alfre Woodard was on with Denzel Washington. The first thing that expands when lookng at the set is the amount of plasmas permeating throughout that have a little bit of the CSI tinge to it. Turns out all the monitors are being controlled from a secret compartment between the sets run by 3D Mike. 3D, who was given his name by director Steven Soderbergh on “Oceans 11” is responsible for all the killer graphics. This all comes under the auspice of Rob Bailey, one of the key minds currently behind CSI: NY who the CBS Brass brought over to work on the show. Carol works the character and story but Bailey seems to be the one to work the style.  The shooting on the series post pilot had only started a couple days ago. They were reworking it since the first one was shot in Pittsburgh itself in a shut down hospital. New characters were added specifically Alfre’s character who hired everyone at the hospital. The lead is Alex O’Loughlin who killed last year in the underrated cult CBS  series “Moonlight” (originally known as “Twilight”) which 3D worked on.

O’Loughlin said during the press conference that he got really into the science of it. He was able to witness a couple surgeries and was proud of himself that he didn’t pass out. The key of the show is that Three Rivers is the hub of the action but it also the juncture metaphorically for what happens. The story on some given episodes runs from the victim to the recipient to the doctor. The key of course for a series like this is the balance to keep it from becoming too downtrodden.

Listening to the perspective of someone who had seen the performances in the form of Mike 3D, there seems to be a nice balance between Alex and the two girls in Justina [Machado] & Kate [Moennig], not unlike, in a certain way, the relationship between him and two other girls in a certain “Moonlight” series worked. Kathryn is the dark, serious girl who shows her vulnerabilty and strength that is undeniably alluring but also a little less attainable. Justina by comparison always tries to get Alex’s character to go out and enjoy a real life. You balance this with high octane scenes and there is possibilty. My question was how to make it cinematic without getting too gruesome.

The key was found in earnest and seems to be a Rob Bailey induced element that if done right could be great. It involves when the patient has that moment of either rejection or acceptance, you see their entire life flash behind them. This would be done with a green screen behind the operating table. The actual operating theater which was shown to me is much different than the rest of the hospital although most of the readouts that Mike 3D helped create look like something cool out of “Star Trek”.

At the moment they are reshooting Episode 1 with Scene 21 being done later that night where a young woman Christy either survives or not. Then it is off to Pittsburgh for some shooting on the street to give that edge. Not everything can be green screen. From what is seen here, there is a lot of versatile hand held motion of camera with some dolly iterations. That said, in order for “Three Rivers” to succeed. it will have to find its middle ground.

[Three Rivers premieres Sunday, October 4th at 9pm]


NCIS: Los Angeles After trekking across the Paramount Lot to Stage 9, the inside doors opens into a beautiful Spanish design house which is the team headquarters for this new gestation. Unlike the previous series, the simple basis of this iteration seems sleek, young and cool if the tone is set just right.

Walking in the upstairs glides around you like a combination of Marin County home and New Orleans chill. The study off to the right has the right degree of Indiana Jones antique cool. The Google Earth playing on the Monitor goes from space down into the Paramount Lot and then a wireframe of the set.

Linda Hunt plays the Matriarch of the House who delegates its doings. She says that the space reflects her a great deal in that it is eclectic. It reflects her business and art but her little study (the Indy spot) looks like a museum. Her  curiousity is a reflection of her but she is on her 7th life, as she puts it, with only two to go.

LL Cool J sees his character Sam as the backbone of the team. He is a former Navy Seal that speaks a couple different languages. His boy Callum, played by Chris O’Donnell (who is his partner in this operation), has a troubled past. Callum, as O’Donnell sees him, is purely a loner, LL’s Sam tries to help him with that but he is still rebuilding himself, as LL puts it, as a human being at the same time. Wrapping up the curve is Daniella Ruah who plays Detective Kinsi working with a bit of  international flavor. Ruah actually quickly started to speak in Portuguese. Even far away her itonation had infinite possibility.

As the panel discussion broke, the wandering to the second floor began. The view from above shows infinite possibilities in terms of shooting. The lighting of the entire downstairs “bullpen” as they call it is built through diffusion to look like skylights and gives a great warmth. The inkling coming around the back crest is the impression of the flamenco scene from “Mission Impossible 2”. This set has a great vibe about it if it is used properly.

Entering into the “war room” which it looks like command central, the high tech comes into pay but there is something inherently boy-like and fun. Think “True Lies”. Again that is the impression with the cool lighting but it depends how it is played. Sitting at one of two consoles with major information firepower at your fingertips, the actual working videophones are integrated across the room. On the wall, a touch activated wall-like screen shows that everything here is real world practical. The set has that edge.

As I start to leave the room to head downstairs, Ruah, possibly still in character garb in form fitting jeans and a white T-shirt with silken flowing locks and a casual but killer smile, turns to watch me go. I tell her that she “is going have fun”. She smiles wide and knowing. She looks and acts like a real woman who can kick people’s asses. This might be a good ride.

[NCIS: Los Angeles premieres Tuesday, September 22nd at 9pm]