Is it time to hold a jazz funeral for NCIS: New Orleans?
Perhaps that's a little premature, but on NCIS: New Orleans Season 3, the procedural is definitely going through some growing pains.
Its ratings are down about 20% from last year. Ratings have fallen from 11.12 million for this season's premiere to a low of 9.531 million, before recovering slightly to 9.616 million on Oct. 25.
Much of that is a result of the move to 10 p.m. Tuesday, traditionally a time for lower viewership, especially with the bedtimes for CBS's typical viewers.
But not all the decline is the result of the time-slot change. NCIS: New Orleans is struggling creatively in a time of transition.
One reason for that was the untimely September death of Gary Glasberg, who created the show with Mark Harmon and had been serving as executive producer and show-runner as well. TV veteran Brad Kern has taken over as showrunner, but it will take time for him to put his own mark on a season already in motion.
But the biggest problem has been the departure of Zoe McLellan, who played Meredith Brody, perhaps the second-most beloved character on the series.
The producers chalked up her departure to a creative decision, after Brody inadvertently fell for a traitor late on NCIS: New Orleans Season 2.
Another version has McLellan choosing to leave because (select your favorite internet rumor): 1. she was involved in a nasty divorce and custody battle; 2. she's a single mother and wanted to spend more time with her young child; or 3. she wanted to get back in the dating pool. The truth is probably some combination of those reasons.
Another rumor had her willing to return, but desirous of a higher salary than producers were willing to pay. That's believable, because no one other than Mark Harmon is irreplaceable in the NCIS universe.
For the many hoping for a miraculous Brody return, it's unlikely to happen, even to appease the ever-dwindling fans.
So can Vanessa Ferlito's Tammy Gregorio become someone fans can tolerate, if not embrace? Well, maybe. Now that her back story is trickling out, she's somewhat more sympathetic.
In interviews, Ferlito has hinted there's a dark side to Gregorio that hasn't surfaced yet, so maybe that will be an interesting change of pace as a disruption in Pride's tight little unit.
Let's move onto to LaSalle and Percy. The will-they-or-won't-they relationship is an overdone TV staple, that's rarely done well.
The NCIS franchise has done well in that area, whether it's Deeks and Kensi out in the open or Tony and Ziva denying their feelings largely until it was too late. Either get them together or have them just be partners. The start-and-stop approach is already getting old, after only a season and change.
Also, find a way to get the support characters out in the field more. NCIS: New Orleans Season 3 Episode 4 was a fine example of well it can be done, when Sebastian was featured. It's worked on the other two NCIS series, so let's try more of that here. Any change in the norm is good.
Finally, it's been a crime that, in this election year, skeevy Mayor Hamilton has barely been used. He's set to be at the center of NCIS: New Orleans Season 3 Episode 6. With all the other characters understated, let's have Steven Weber chew some scenery.
Season 3's biggest narrative albatross has been the Cuidad Natal cartel storyline. To progress the storyline, it's important to do more than mention the cartel in passing every episode.
After all, it's why Gregorio and the FBI are in New Orleans. So either make it a narrative presence or solve it already. It was old last season; now there are characters present specifically because of it, and it’s no better.
Showcasing the location would be a plus as well. If you're filming in New Orleans, let viewers hear the music and the many accents of the vibrant city, let them see the sights and taste the culinary delights.
You see Hawaii on Hawaii Five-0, so let's see all of the culture of the one-of-a-kind NOLA. See Treme as an example of doing it right.
Is NCIS: New Orleans in any danger of cancelation? Nah. It's a CBS production, and having a fourth season means syndication and all the green that brings. So that's inevitable.
However, it would be nice if the producers seemed more concerned with taking long-time viewers into that season with thrilling stories and by utilizing everything the seasoned actors and the city in which they film has to offer.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.