Friday, November 05, 2010

Must Watch Friday : : NCIS . . . still

Anne McAllister is revising so she's taking heart by watching tried-but-true, same-but-different television shows -- and celebrating one of the best.

NCIS has been around forever. Well, perhaps not forever, but it certainly seems that way.

I had heard of it long before I ever began to watch it regularly. It was around in the days when I didn't watch anything regularly. It was practically around when we still didn't have a television.

Like series romance, it endures.

NCIS began as a two part episode in the earlier drama JAG back in 2003. It entered its eighth season a few weeks back, and in terms of popularity, definitely is still going strong.

In fact except for a tiny dip in season four, it has continued to grow in popularity every year since its inception. It's not only in the top ten in the US, but was, last I heard, the most popular US television show in the world.

Why? Because, I think, like the best in series romance, it delivers on its premise.

It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Viewers know what to expect -- strong quirky characters, a dead body, bad guys being brought to justice, a little comedy amidst the drama, and Mark Harmon delivering a figurative or literal head-slap or two.

NCIS offers the quintessential "same but different" fix that consistently appeals.

In every episode we know that Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is going to go with his gut. He's not going to tolerate foolishness or slacking, he's going to go nose-t0-nose with authority at the same time he's going to demand the best from his team.

We know that Tony (Michael Weatherly) is going to indulge in a bit of foolishness regardless of Gibbs' disapproval, but that deep down he's not quite as shallow as he'd like everyone to believe.

We know that McGee (Sean Murrary) will make nerdiness sexy and, like Tony, has hidden facets that make him more than just a geek.

We know that Ziva (Cote de Pablo) could kill with her little finger, will mangle Americanisms regularly, and will try to mask even the tiniest bit of emotional vulnerability beneath her Moussad-trained professionalism.

We know that Ducky (David McCallum) will wing off on verbal flights of fancy inspired by whatever dead body he is currently confronting, but that, yanked back to the moment and the murder victim, he will find a clue.

We know Jimmy (Brian Dietzen) will be a foil for Ducky's wisdom and then surprise us with an insight of his own.

We know that Vance (Rocky Carroll) will bring the weight of his authority to bear on Gibbs, but that he's a wise enough man to know when to back off and let his agent do the job that needs to be done.

And we know that Abby (Pauley Perrette) will be the voice of science and the heart of the show, both at the same time.

Every one of these characters is predictable, but not one-dimensional.

We know them, and yet to some extent they continue to evolve. They are the same -- our familiar friends on Tuesday nights (and practically every day several times a day on USA Network in re-runs) and yet we come back because they are also different. Tony gets wiser (well, slightly). Ziva becomes more human. McGee isn't quite so geeky. Even Gibbs shows a hint of emotion now and then. And even when he doesn't show it, deep down we know he still feels it. A lot.

We come back to NCIS because it delivers on our expectations. It gives us an hour (or several if we're watching USA or DVDs) with old friends.

It reinforces our belief that right will triumph, that the good guys are not always perfect, but that when the chips are down, they will find a way to do the right thing.

I came to NCIS rather late in the game, but I think by now I've watched almost every episode thanks to my local library and USA Network.

This season I'm catching the new ones first time around -- and enjoying every minute of it. NCIS delivers on its promise.

It's not only fun to watch, it reminds me of why I write series romance -- and, I hope, it helps me deliver a good story that has the same elements we who read it look for, and at the same time, brings something new and surprising in every book.

Are there some good series programs that you watch regularly? Which ones? What makes you keep coming back?

Anne's latest book, Hired by her Husband, was out in UK in October as a Mills & Boon Modern. It will be a Harlequin Presents in February.

In it George Savas does his best to prove that being a physicist can be sexy, and tha
t getting hit by a truck can lead to true love.

Who knew? Certainly George did


  1. Have to admit I'm not a huge fan of the CSI franchise.... Must be all those close ups of brain matter and the like splattering in slow-motion!!

    But NCSI has two of my former crushes in it, namely David McCallum from The Man from Uncle and Mark Harmon from St Elsewhere.. It's like a smorgasbord of guilty pleasures from my teenage years, so have to admit to enjoying it immensely, and being sure to look away discreetly whenever the brain matter starts splattering. Top pick Annie!

  2. Love! Your post, Anne! NCIS is my favorite show. I hated losing JAG, but NCIS won me over. Love the characters...all of them. Michael Weatherly is second a tease, the next trying to impress Gibbs. Love the chemestry. Hey, I love your post! LOL

  3. Heidi,
    I'm not a CSI fan, either. Not enough humor for me. I like my series quirkier. NCIS (note juxtaposition of letters CIS vs CSI) is not one of that franchise, though. Different writers, different editors, different approach.

    I was never a big David McC fan in the old days, because I generally don't do blonds (they were my sister's interest, not mine). And Mark I remember from when he was Tom Harmon's kid, so not a lot of guilty pleasure there. But he's definitely improved with age (or I've got younger!)

    Carol, I didn't sever see JAG due to the lack of television hereabouts. But if it had the same sort of blend of drama and humor I could find it on DVD, right? So glad to know you enjoy it, too.

  4. ever. I meant 'ever' -- not 'sever.' Oops.

  5. Great post, Anne. Your word 'evolve' is right - the characters develop, but don't change out of all recognition.
    PS I remember David McCallum as a man from Uncle, too!

  6. They don't change much, Christina. Maybe what changes is we learn bits and pieces of their backstory and that helps us understand more of who they really are. Maybe it's our understanding that's evolving as much as the characters.