CBS airing upside-down ‘NCIS: Sydney promos’

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Some promos airing on CBS may have you thinking your screen was on the fritz — but not to worry, everything is fine.

The promos are for the “NCIS” spin-off “NCIS: Sydney,” which is set in Sydney, Australia, and are actually designed to be run upside down.

Running the spots upside down is a nod to the “down under” setting of Australia, which is sometimes referred to as the “upside down continent.”

Online memes and other imagery often feature images, sometimes taken from other memes, that reference Australia or Australians with the image rotated 180 degrees as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the nickname.

Another common image that aligns with Australia being “upside down” is a world map that depicts the geographic north pole running along the bottom of the image as opposed to its traditional location along top. 

The main clue that the “NCIS: Sydney” promos are, in fact, airing in the correct orientation is the typography running along the bottom of the screen with the network logo, show name and air day and time, an element that is used on most CBS promos.

The promos do, in fact, spend a brief moment being “right side up” at the very beginning before using the CBS eye as the axis for a rotating animation. 

The remainder of the spot, including on-screen text, is upside down, with the exception of the tag along the bottom of the screen. 

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Despite being rotated, the text is still largely legible, thanks in part to the ultra-clean TT Norms typeface and the all-caps, extra-wide Bank Gothic that is typically used for the “NCIS” logos.

Many of the scenes selected for the promo appear to have been picked for being able to read well in the upside-down orientation — as well as grab the eye with seemingly gravity-defying scenes.

For example, one brief scene features a character tossing what appears to be a key fob in the air while sitting in a vehicle, but, of course, the movement seems unnatural in this case. Some action scenes are also especially eye-catching when viewed this way.

Running promos upside down isn’t new (the technique also sometimes appears in advertising), but it’s not commonly used and appears to be well thought out in the case of “NCIS: Sydney.” That, combined with the fact the text remains fairly easy to read, means that the spots are both eye-catching for the simple reason of being different from other promos and ads, while also still serving to build viewer awareness of the show.

“NCIS: Sydney” started production in May 2023 and was largely able to avoid the effects of U.S. TV production labor issues because it’s filmed overseas using non-U.S. actors. 

The show was put on the CBS schedule as a way to offer original programming in late fall as the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes appeared to be continuing indefinitely (the WGA strike has ended and SAG-AFTRA has a tentative agreement on the table).

CBS plans to air the series at 8 p.m. Tuesdays followed by a repeat of the parent show “NCIS.” The “Sydney” slot is normally occupied by “FBI.” That show has not aired new episodes in the 2023-2024 season due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes and it’s not clear how CBS plans to handle its eventual return, though the effects of the strikes are likely to affect U.S. broadcast TV lineups for the foreseeable future.

“NCIS: Sydney” is also airing on Paramount+ Australia and Network 10, where it debuted Nov. 10, 2023. The U.S. CBS debut is Nov. 14, 2023. The series was reportedly originally planned to air only on Paramount+ in the U.S.

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