* NCIS: NEW ORLEANS. 9 tonight, CBS3.

"WE'RE ALL one big family. The sooner you accept that, the easier it's gonna get."

That's Special Agent Christopher LaSalle (Lucas Black) talking with his new colleague, Special Agent Meredith "Merri" Brody (Zoe McLellan, "Dirty Sexy Money"), in the premiere of CBS' latest spin-off, "NCIS: New Orleans." But it might as well be any longtime "NCIS" fan talking with a newbie.

With the addition of "New Orleans," the "NCIS" family's bigger than ever (look for the relocated "Los Angeles" edition at 10 p.m. Mondays starting next week), but the formula remains solid: A colorful, supportive work family solves mysteries with technological savvy and a dash of humor.

Scott Bakula leads the team as Special Agent Dwayne "King" Pride and CCH Pounder ("Sons of Anarchy") dissects the evidence as Dr. Loretta Wade, who has a video chat with mother ship counterpart Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) in the premiere.

Tonight, the discovery of a severed, booted leg kicks things off (sorry).

The "boot is current Navy issue, so we're operating on the assumption the leg is as well," says LaSalle, neatly answering any questions about jurisdiction. (Black, who 19 years ago made a memorable TV debut in CBS' short-lived "American Gothic," has grown into his voice.)

Even as a spin-off of TV's most-watched drama, "NCIS: New Orleans" doesn't assume everyone knows the acronym stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, making generous use of the explanatory logo in tomorrow's episode. If only shows with smaller audiences ("Community," anyone?) were half as welcoming.

Bakula brings his trademark charm to "New Orleans" as a native who also has advice for newcomer Brody - about the city's real-estate market.

"All I'm saying, where you lay your head in this city defines you," he says.

All I'm saying? CBS can probably rest easy.

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