Written by Evan Braun
I’ll admit it: I’m confused. JAG was on television for an long time, 10 seasons in fact, which puts it in the company of a lot of truly remarkable shows. The current popularity of serialization probably accentuates the challenge, but it seems especially difficult for good dramas these days to make it into the double-digits.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that even bad dramas can achieve the impossible, given the right set of circumstances.
Maybe it’s David Elliot’s psychotically intense eyes that turned me off (either that or his blandness in the starring role of Harm Rabb). Maybe it was the acting that’s so bad it’s almost good. These are all probable factors, but here’s the biggest problem of all: it takes itself way too seriously. The writers of this show are never happier (or so it would seem) than when doling out fortune cookie social commentary: terrorists never win; we should honour our veterans; love conquers all. These sage nuggets are delivered with deadly seriousness. After all, these are serious people: military men and women who have devoted their lives to serving the United States of America. As a team of lawyers, they are also the final moral authority on what is right, and what is wrong. To say that JAG is a bit patronizing would be to suggest that the earth is not entirely flat.
I have little explanation for how this show managed to stay on television for ten whole years, but all I can say is “Congratulations.” Wrapped up in a thin veneer of patriotism (the very act of not loving this show probably makes you unAmerican), this is the perfect picture of absolute, dismal mediocrity.
As many of you may be aware, film is shot at 24 frames per second while digital video is shot at 30 frames per second (or, more accurately, 29.97, but that’s neither here nor there). The difference means that film contains a lot less real-world detail, giving it the sleak and stylized look we’ve all come to know and love. Digital video is often too clear and reeks of home-videoness. Now, as you have become aware, JAG concerns the military, and as a direct result features a large number of episodes and scenes taking place on military aircraft, Navy vessels, and large-scale aircraft carriers, to name just a few. Unfortunately, the producers of this show didn’t have the budget to produce their own video footage of these assets; the result is that they’ve substituted digital news-reel or B-roll footage for establishing shots of harbours, ships, and planes. The result is incredibly cheap and disappointing. After all, one of the things this show should have going for it is the cool military stuff.
As for othor video considerations, the presentation is unspectacular. The full screen video transfer does little to improve on the original live broadcast and the colours are muted. There isn’t any artefacting or graininess, but that’s the only positive and for a studio like this, you would hope for better.
If you’re looking for great, original music that uplifts and inspires, look elsewhere. This show’s soundtrack is as campy and lame as you could imagine. The stereo mix is decidedly low on bass. I hoped for satisfying rumbles from my speakers as planes and boats passed through frame, but there was hardly more than a low-level hum.
The bonus material is equally uninspiring. All this set boasts is a short gag reel, which (like most gag reels) is disturbingly unfunny.
Here’s a little known fact on which to end the review on. As it turns out, JAG was originally broadcast on NBC, but was cancelled after one season. It’s nice to hear about a network getting something right. CBS rode in and picked up the series for a shortened second season to see if it could earn its keep, which apparently it did as it continued on for nine more seasons.
In any event, hopefully you’re like me and you’re vaguely aware of the existence of JAG but have never invested any time in it. Just keep it that way. Keep walking; there’s nothing to see here.