OK, it’s difficult to talk about Season Three of NCIS without talking about what happened in Season Two of the show, so I’d suggest anyone reading this who hasn’t seen it to skip ahead to the next paragraph. OK, done. Season Two of NCIS brought in a cast change that virtually nobody saw coming, let alone the cast member who indicated they wanted to leave anyway. Agent Todd (Sasha Alexander, Mission Impossible: III) had been shot and killed by a terrorist, and her comrades made concerted attempt to avenge her death at the beginning of Season Three.
(OK, spoiler over, come on back). Still, the cast felt a little bit incomplete. Enter Agent Jen Sheppard (Lauren Holly, Dumb and Dumber), to fill the void. At least the remaining members of the cast were still around so that Holly’s breaking in period could be a slow and gentle one. You still have the unofficial head of the group in Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon, St. Elsewhere), the young stud who frequently clashes with Gibbs when it comes to style points in Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly, Dark Angel), and the resident tech geeks in McGee (Sean Murray, Hocus Pocus) and Abby (Pauley Perrette, Brother Bear). Holly’s character also has a past with Gibbs as it’s discovered later in the show, which adds another layer to the relationship of the characters.
The show still manages to investigate and attempt to solve murders that surround military personnel or more exactly, their deaths outside a combat zone. The supporting players do get their chance to shine now and again during the season, but Gibbs and Sheppard are unarguably the ones to watch, more for Sheppard as she gets her sea legs.
To the show’s credit, in the wave of all the forensic/medical/crime drama shows on television, it has quietly plugged along and now just finished its fourth season, one away from the magic mark of syndication. So there certainly is an audience for the show, big ups to Bellisario for keeping it going when he easily could have pulled the plug any number of times.
At least somebody wised up and gave the show the treatment it deserves, with a 5.1 Surround track that was woefully missing from Season Two. As is the case with TV, everything is mostly up front for the viewer, with little panning to speak of, but there’s no distortion during the dialogue or anything else of note.
The show’s 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation has been retained for Season Three, which is another plus. The film grain that the show was shot on is retained and is pretty consistent, but doesn’t distract from the picture quality which, for TV, isn’t bad.
The discs are laid out pretty straightforward as before, with four episodes each on five discs (the season premiere is a two parter), and three on disc six, where most of the extras are housed. And surprisingly, there’s another solid mix of extras accompany NCIS in its DVD life. Commentaries on four episodes during the season kick things off, one with show creator Donald Bellisario and another with family member David, and two others with Weatherly and Perrette, who revive their friendly dialogue from their commentaries on the Season Two episodes here too. Going past those, you’ve got interview footage with the real NCIS people, which is OK, but I’ve reviewed several Bellisario shows on DVD and this piece is nothing too new or revelatory. There’s also a retrospective on Season Three, along with a roundtable with the show’s creators as they discuss the reasons for the show’s success. The women of NCIS are given their own featurette where everyone talks about how cool girls are, and then there’s a montage of people getting hit in the head by Harmon (watch the show and you’ll get the joke, believe me).
The end of Season Two and beginning of Season Three in the NCIS provides for some surprising dramatics before settling back into the usual excellent mix of scripts and storytelling, buttressed by outstanding performances by all involved. The extras are a little bit better than Season Two which is an added plus. If you haven’t been watching this show yet, these two Seasons are the reason to jump into it.