If you don't watch this show, Judge Cynthia Boris will send the master-at-arms over to give you a flogging.
Our reviews of NCIS: The Complete Sixth Season (published September 14th, 2009), NCIS: The Complete Seventh Season (published October 21st, 2010), NCIS: The Complete Eighth Season (published August 23rd, 2011), NCIS: The Complete Ninth Season (published August 24th, 2012), NCIS: The Complete Third Season (published May 2nd, 2007), and NCIS: The Complete Fourth Season (published January 9th, 2008) are also available.
Airport Screener: " NCIS? Is that anything like CSI?"
Magnum, P.I.,Airwolf,Quantum Leap, JAG; I'd say Donald Bellisario has a few hits to his credit. As a matter of fact, Tequila & Bonetti is about his only TV flop. As a writer, Bellisario is gifted with the ability to write great action mixed with humor and quirky characters that we grow to love. Despite the complex title, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service is no exception. Heed the bosun's whistle and get on board: this ship is about to sail into adventure.
Facts of the Case
Every civilian knows about military MPs. Many civilians know about the Judge Advocate General's Office (a.k.a. JAG), the US Navy's legal branch. But until the year 2006, nobody knew that the Navy had its own department of special investigators for crimes involving those in the service. That branch of the Navy is called NCIS—and they're finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon, The West Wing) is a former Marine gunnery sergeant with a real knack for unraveling complex crimes and catching the bad guys. Gibbs is the head of NCIS and he has a dandy team working for him. First up, Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly, Dark Angel), an ex-homicide detective with an eye for the ladies and a quick (dim) wit. Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) is the computer expert, a bit of a geek and still trying to find his place on the team. Special Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander, Dawson's Creek), is a former Secret Service Agent who joins the team after assisting them in the first episode. Handling forensics is quirky medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and lab tech Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), the Goth girl with the heart of gold.
Together the team takes on a variety of murderers, thieves, and cutthroats while rarely ever venturing out to sea. And while they do depend on a certain amount of forensic magic (ala their close competition C.S.I.), mostly they get their man Dragnet style, with blood, sweat, and good old-fashioned legwork.
On the surface, NCIS appears to be yet another forensically oriented cop show with a subtle military twist, but look again. This ship has a souped-up engine under the hood and it's not afraid to go full throttle. Action, suspense, and even a few laughs will keep you hooked from the first body drop. You see, the NCIS writers are masters of misdirection; it's one of the key elements of the series. What you think is never what it's about—that's the number one reason to watch the show. The second reason: the style. With freeze frames, jump cuts and unusual camera angles, NCIS is interesting to the eye. Most of the time you'll feel the difference but you won't even know why. The third reason to watch the show: the humor. Yes, it's a very serious cop show. Yes, people die, and it's often filled with blood and gore. But to balance all of that is Bellasario's trademark sense of humor, humor that comes from the characters and not the situations. Like brothers and sisters, Gibbs and his team have a real love/hate thing going with each other. They squabble like siblings, they fight for parental (Gibbs) attention, and they take every opportunity to rag on each other. And then there is Gibbs' patented slap upside the head whenever DiNozzo makes a horndog comment. I love it and it keeps the show from getting bogged down in the depths of forensic technobabble.
Mark Harmon, whose career up until recently was primarily "pretty boy" parts, is perfect in his role as Gibbs. He's just cold enough, just obsessive enough, and though he's still amazingly good looking, he's totally bankable in the role. Michael Weatherly (one of TV Guide's Hottest Guys on TV) manages to make his male chauvinist frat boy appealing. Sean Murray is such the underdog, you have no choice but to root for him and feel bad for him when he doesn't make the grade. In the first few episodes, Sasha Alexander comes off as a bit of the stereotypical "woman with balls" character, but she soon falls into a more complimentary "feminine but competent" spot. Returning to TV where he belongs is David McCallum, one of my childhood idols. Though he no longer has that Illya Kuryakin boyish appeal, he's still a scene-stealer and I could listen to him talk all day long.
Here's a real rarity: This show has an exceptionally strong first season. There's not a loser in the bunch. Tension really mounts in the last few episodes with the introduction of a reoccurring villain that will one day shatter the team. On this DVD set you get:
Paramount did an excellent job in the packaging of this series. The box and disc art are very dark noir and classy. The animated navigation screens are nicely done and the widescreen presentation is appropriate for the series. Included in this set are three featurettes; "N.C.I.S. Creating Season 1," "N.C.I.S. Building the Team," "N.C.I.S. Defining the Look." All of them are interesting, but contain nothing too revealing or exciting. The sole commentary is Bellisario on "Yankee White."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's not much to complain about here except the lack of meaty extras. As a modern, on-going series, Paramount really doesn't have an excuse. Where are the actor commentaries? How about a Day on the Set With…and where's the blooper reel? For a show that prides itself on its sense of humor and the close friendship of the actors, a blooper reel is a no brainer. Think about it for Season Two.
NCIS is very much under the radar. It's a strong weekly performer, but it doesn't get a lot of press or buzz. I think the reason many people never tuned in was because of the show's military theme. If that's the case, watch. Except for the fact that the crimes include Navy personnel, many episodes have little or no military presence. The NCIS team of investigators are not in the military, there are no uniforms, no saluting…it's all quite loose. The other reason people aren't watching is because of the time slot. 8:00 PM is pretty early on the schedule for a show that has tension, blood and suspense. I believe that the early timeslot works against the show, marking it as lighter and fluffier than it is. Forget the time. Check out the DVDs and you'll see what I mean.
Due to the backgrounds of the participants, this court has no choice but to turn the case over to a Naval Tribunal, but we have no doubt that they will be found not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary on "Yankee White"
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