NCIS (2003- )


Gibbs - "When you look at me like that McGee, it makes me want to head-slap you" 

At the time of writing this I have only watched up to season 5 consecutively.  I also apologize in advance for all the acronyms, the government is addicted to them.  

For me, procedural cop shows are love or hate. Loving them means I watch it in spurts or when there is a marathon.   I will not usually go out of my way to track them down.  I can name the ones I watch regularly on one hand: Law&Order, Law&Order S.V.U., 21 Jump Street, N.Y.P.D. Blue, NCIS. So when one comes along that makes me track it down so I can watch in order, it gets reviewed.  

NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is another show from Donald P. Bellisario and is an odd spin off from the show J.A.G. (Judge Advocate General).  J.A.G. is a procedural show about the Navy's lawyer division.  I say odd, because the NCIS team appeared in only two episodes in season eight, "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown".  They were the "backdoor' pilots and the episodes were all about the NCIS team with very little involvement from the J.A.G. team.  It must be odd to quest star on your own show. NCIS then it went on to it's own full season.  

NCIS centers around a MCRT (Major Case Response Team) that investigates all crimes related to the naval armed forces.  Hence any cases involving the Navy or the Marines.  The team is lead by an ex-Marine sniper and ex some kind of secret/undercover agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).  He is your cookie cutter old solider   He usually knows whats going on well before everyone else, he has a penchant for slapping his team on the back of the head,  his normal walk is ninja because he is always sneaking up on people  (both that and slaps on the head are running gags), he doesn't like apologies because they are a sign of weakness, and he doesn't say anymore than is absolutely necessary, often resorting to staring at people.   His favorite past time is building boats by hand and probably from scratch.

The rest of the team includes Senior Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) who is the second in command, Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) the teams tech guy/nerd, and the female agent has switched with Catitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander) for the first two seasons and Mossad officer Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) taking her postion in season 3.  The support staff consists of Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) the Scottish autopsy expert and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) as the incredibly awesome forensics expert.  There are a bunch that I am forgetting, this is just the core family. So far there have been three directors, two or three assistants for Ducky, though Jimmy has been around for a long time, and random agents sprinkled throughout that come and go. I could probably do two or three paragraphs on each of the team members and why they stick out, but I am not going to.  I want to tell you why you should watch this.

The team.  Even though when we first meet the team in episode 1 it only consists of Gibbs, Tony, Abby and Ducky, you could feel the history and bond.  This is tight group.  They have been working together for awhile and trust each other, and this bound only grows as the show moves along.  Many of the characters look to Gibbs, but for slightly different reasons.  Tony looks to him as a father and mentor, Abby also looks to him a father figure and sometimes a moral compass when things get twisted, Tim and Catitlin look to Gibbs as a mentor, while Ziva is somewhat father figure, brother in arms and spoilers.  Gibbs is the teams rock, they believe he and his rules (there are fifty) will get them through anything.  And it often does. And this is not saying the team cannot survive without Gibbs.  Some of Tony's best moments are when he has to take charge.  It was odd watching Tony lose his lightheartedness and become Gibbs.  He gladly stepped down when Gibbs returned, but he did the job well.  Catitlin and Ziva are also extremely good at their jobs and can handle themselves. With Tim, he has self esteem issues and all that, but he just mainly makes the wrong choice, mostly for plot.  We get to see Tim mature into a solid agent, but sometimes you just want to slap him.  The banter is also a lot of fun.  Nicknames, bets, pranks, all the fun antics of people who spend way too much time together.  You can genuinely see that these people are having a good time making this show and it comes through in there performance.  

The back story.   This is what made me go back and watch this show in order,  There is a complicated, layered, and sometimes dark back story dropped in randomly but regularly.  I do not know if it is planned or just made up as they go along, but it caught my attention.  Gibb's is the most appealing to me.  The marine sniper is just the tip of a big iceberg.  Along the way many of his ex wives show up, the reason he has so many is explained, we learn more about his spy days, and we get a good look at the important moments that made Gibbs who he is today.  And it's a good story. I'm not ruining it, because half of the fun is how it is delivered. It's not just Gibbs, though his is the biggest, the only character I really feel is short on back story is Abby.  With her we get more random call outs or short "this reminds me of ..." then straight back story.  Tim is also short, but he also started NCIS right after college where as Tony was a Boston Cop, Catitlian started the show as a Secret Service Agent, Ziva is/was Mosad, and Gibbs and Ducky have their old days.  This seems to be where Tim will get his good stories from.  

The formula.  The show makes good use of the tried and true formula.  It starts off with either the crime or antics in the office.  Then Gibbs tells them to "grab your gear" and away we go.  The crime usually takes a twist or three and then it gets solved and an average of 10 bullets have been fired.   Even with following the formula, the story does managed to surprise me every know and then.  Considering that half my issue with procedural shows is that I have figured out the who, what, when and why ten minutes into the show, being surprised is refreshing.  The show also changes up the formula every now and then with two part episodes and a couple of three-parters.  They also have a few episodes that do not have a crime and is all about a random adventure with the team.  The scenery also changes greatly.  Being a Naval division, the team has been on carriers, submarines, random destroyers and frigates.  They have also been to Israel, France, the Sahara desert (Lebanon I think), South America, Mexico and all over the U.S.  The crimes are a wide variety of murder, theft, murder, rape, kid-napping, blackmail, terrorism and so on.  We also get a couple reoccurring villains, the first one lasted quite a bit longer then I expected. 

The parallels. This one isn't really fact so much as my take on the show.   After watching 6 seasons, I got a good understanding of how Gibbs became Gibbs.  His rules are developed and added to from his experiences.  almost everyone of those rules was created because of a mistake he made.  Over the course of the show we see Tony (and others) make the same mistakes and it usually ends with Gibbs telling them which rule they forgot of telling them the story behind the rule.  Its kind of funny how I am watching the show to get Gibb's back story while it is being told through Tony in real time. 

All in all, I really like this show.  While the thing that makes me watch it in order is primarily the back story, the show does keep me thoroughly entertained.  I highly recommend checking it out, unfortunately Netflix does not have it streaming, but USA airs marathons all the time for these shows.