Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Tuesday Tradition


The thing about Tube Day Tuesday is, well, it’s on Tuesday.  Not that that’s a problem, of course, it’s just that many Tuesdays include an airing of my oft-talked about White Collar, which puts it at the top of my brain for wanting to talk about it again.  Tonight, for instance, I’ve watched the most recent episode twice.  You might say I’m a bit addicted.  Still, tonight, I’m going to chat with you a little bit about another Tuesday show, one that I’ve been watching for many years now, NCIS


First, let me say that when the show premiered almost ten years ago, it was called Navy NCIS, which I always thought was goofy, considering the N stands for “naval”.  Navy Naval Criminal Investigative Service?  Really?  I’m glad they got that taken care of pretty quickly.

Anyway, as you might guess from the acronym, it’s a show about Navy cops.  Well, civilian Navy cops.  They investigate crimes (usually murder; it is TV after all) having to do with the Navy and Marines.  You know, dead sailors, murderous Marines, what-have-you.

While it’s a big agency, the show is all about one group of investigators, headed up by Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  Gibbs is played by Mark Harmon, who I’ve watched in a lot of stuff over the years, but remember earliest from a TV film called The Deliberate Stranger.  He played Ted Bundy, and I always thought he was the perfect combination of charming and creepy.  He was in a lot of stuff before that, including St. Elsewhere, which I watched sporadically, but somehow creepy Bundy is where he made his mark with me.  I also really enjoyed his series, Reasonable Doubts.

Gibbs is a pretty straight-forward, by-the-book kind of guy, but he’s carrying around some baggage having to do with the murder of his wife and daughter.  He also has a bunch of rules, things like “never apologize”, “never go anywhere without a knife”, and, “never, ever involve a lawyer”.  If you break a rule, you’re almost certainly going to be on the receiving end of a glacier Gibbs stare, but you’re also likely to earn a head slap.  Though, for the most part, those slaps are given to Tony DiNozzo, and not just for breaking the rules.

Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) is the senior investigator of Gibbs’ group of three, but that doesn’t stop him from being a little immature from time to time.  Early on, he was a pretty blatant skirt chaser (though he’s toned that down as he’s grown up), and he’s quick with a wise remark, but his most quirky thing is his love of movies.  He watches them, owns them, quotes them, learns from them.  Did I say quirky?  Actually, that all seems pretty reasonable to me.

The other investigators are Tim McGee (Sean Murray) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo).  McGee started life on the show as the new guy—“probie”, as Tony likes to call him—and the resident geek, but he grows into a capable and effective agent.  Ziva comes from Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.  You have to admit, that’s sort of a nice twist, what with her working with our feds and all.  In the truest form of ensemble shows, it’s a cohesive group of friends close enough to be family.  They might bicker amongst themselves, but there’s no doubt they’d do anything for each other.  And all three of the investigators are completely dedicated to their boss, even if he does whack them on the head from time to time.

Like most cop shows, you need some fringe people rounding out the investigations, and they need to have their own slightly out of the ordinary styles.  Enter Abby Sciuto, freaky Goth chick who also happens to be a forensic analyst, and Dr. Donald (Ducky) Mallard, the philosophical medical examiner who likes to talk to his corpses.  I know I talked once before about Ducky and the man who portrays him, David McCallum, but I’ll say again that I used to love him in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  And Abby is brought to perfectly charming life by Pauley Perrette; she’s great as the slightly off-kilter comic relief.

I’d tell you to tune in to NCIS for its astounding storytelling, intricate plot twists, and diabolical cases, but that’s just not the way it is.  I mean, don’t get me wrong; it’s a well-written show, the storylines are entertaining, and they’ve gotten into some story arcs over the years that have been both intriguing and heart-wrenching. 

But the true strength of this show is in the people on the screen—the characters, and the performers who make them real.  They make you care about what happens, to them, and to the rest of the story.  They’re honorable, duty-driven people, so you want them to see justice done.  They’re friends, family, lovers (McGee and Abby had a relationship for a while, and Tony and Ziva have the whole will they/won’t they thing going on), so you love to see how they relate to each other.  We meet the team’s biological families, and we revel in finding out more tidbits about how they came to be who they are today.  We share car drives, elevator rides, and stakeouts and peel away a few more layers of personality.  It’s fun.  It’s been ten years, and these people have become the viewers’ friends as well as each others’, but we never forget that we still don’t know everything about them.

So, in a nutshell, if you’re looking for a traditional procedural to add to your viewing lineup, of if you just want to get to know some interesting characters, you can’t go wrong with this one.