Friday, September 25, 2015

NCIS Anyone?

NCIS Anyone? by Debra H. Goldsein

I should be revising a manuscript today but instead I’m watching an NCIS marathon. Why? Because I’m intrigued trying to figure out why this show remains in the top ten despite its thirteenth season being about to begin.

Maybe it is the guest stars? Today’s marathon is older shows, but I recognize the faces of many bit part players as actors who went on to bigger roles. Also, there are several, like Ralph Waite, Lily Tomlin, Gena Rowlands, and Robert Wagner, whose characterizations are so good and so deep that for a moment I forget the movies and shows that brought them to public prominence. But then again, while some episodes use stars I recognize, most don’t so that can’t be what keeps people tuned in weekly.

Maybe it is the plots? Nah. They all stick to a standard format. A cute scene that results in a dead body being found that just happens to have a navy relationship so the NCIS team can be on the case, confusion and a beginning hypothesis that establishes a point for the team to begin investigating, lab and/or pathology findings that clarify the path the team should follow, an obstacle, and a clever resolution. In other words, writing’s three act concept: Act One – setup with an inciting incident and a plot point, Act Two – confrontation with a midpoint and a second plot point, and Act Three – the climax and resolution. After twelve years, the format is predictable so that can’t be what keeps the show in the top ten.

Maybe it is the NCIS team? Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Tony (Michael Weatherly who I acknowledge has a cute smile), Abby (Pauley Perrette), McGee (Sean Murray), Dr. Mallard (David McCallum), Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), the director (Lauren Holly in many episodes and now Rocky Carroll) plus the different female members of the team (Ziva – Cote de Pablo, Cait-Sasha Alexander-who now stars in Rizzoli and Isles, and Bishop-Emily Wickersham) blend well. Each has a quirk or a specific personality characteristic that makes interaction with the others comical, impossible, challenging, and downright fun.

The interesting thing is that like a well-written series of fiction novels, watching a marathon lets one see how each character grows and matures over the years while also observing how even a slight modification impact the character’s interaction with the other members of the team. In my mind, it is the subtle character changes that keep this show in the top ten. If these characters never grew or matured, the show would have gone stale years ago.

Will I be watching the thirteenth season’s premiere? You bet. Gibbs was shot and while I know Mark Harmon’s character won’t die because Jon Cryer, playing against character, will successfully perform a surgery that saves Gibbs’ life, all of the trailers promise that this will be a season of introspection for all of the main characters. I’m hooked enough to want to go on the ride with Gibbs and his team. Will you be joining me?

10 comments:

  1. I stopped watching after Ziva left. The shows just didn't seem that interesting (and it had been one of my favorites). Hmmm, maybe I should begin again...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting growth supposedly for Mark Harmon this season.....and Cryer was funny and so out of his past character on Two and a Half Men that that performance was worth watching.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like NCIS. Agree about the character growth, which helps keep me engaged. That said, Gibbs' journey has been getting darker. Hope he finds some peace this season.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right but having watched the premiere episode last night, I think it will be dark for awhile although there was a subtle difference in the way he turned away from the light this time. The difference was in his daughter's remarks to him. Telling him he lives too much in the past rather than inviting him to join her

      Delete
  4. My husband watches all the NCIS shows and occasionally I walk through and get grabbed by the original. There is something oddly comforting about this one. I've always found Mark Harmon mellow and appealing, even now, with his wretched hair cut. I now like all the characters, since they have matured. Cannot stand the LA NCIS, loathe it. The New Orleans one is so-so and fun because of its locale. Debra, you did a great job at trying to get to the bottom of the strong appeal of the original NCIS, but for me there remains a somewhat unfathomable extra something. It is just plain soothing somehow, despite all the mayhem and gore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the interaction and growth of the characters helps with that comfort level. From following the leader to having skills of their own and the interaction between each doesn't seem as contrived as in the other shows. Maybe time has mellowed is viewers.

      Delete
  5. I think it is the characters, females as strong and competent as males, and their interactions, teasing, challenging, caring . . . a family beyond traditions. I also like that the plots involve thought and strategy, not just massive amounts of shooting and explosions . . . and Gibbs. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you can see from my answer above, I agree with you wholeheartedly - -actually with both points you made. Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Delete
  6. My absolute favorite show! I tell my family DO NOT call me or expect me to answer the phone on Tuesday nights. LOL and I also love the marathons. I also have all the season DVDs. Hmm, I think it's the "family" aspect that I like, and Kate's death really hurt. Then Ziva left. Emily is good, but needs a bit more. Abs is fab. Ducky - loved the "flashback" into his past that brought in a "hint" of MAN from UNCLE. Great writing, like Remington Steele - my past absolute favorite show.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meg, I enjoyed Remington Steele, too. The writing, especially in the beginning, was crisp. As somebody noted in one of the other comments, this show has guns and violence but dialogue and character interaction make it different than similar shows.

      Delete