When last I reviewed a season of JAG, a couple of the show’s fans had a few problems which I will attempt to address here. The first was about knocking a show I wasn’t extremely fluent in. Unfortunately, when I’m called upon to review a season of any series there is no time, or money for that matter, to go back and watch several years of the show to get acquainted. Secondly, I believe that a series season needs to be able to stand on its own if I am to recommend it as something you should buy. If you’re already a big fan of the show, who knows all of the story threads, you have likely already decided to buy the set and don’t need my advice at all. While I do feel that the action sequences and courtroom drama are often compelling, I believe much of the personal lives of these characters muddles up the overall show, leaving guys like me feeling a bit left out. The second comment informed me that in later seasons the show spent more and more time in the courtroom and less on the soap opera elements of the show. That may well be true, but I don’t see evidence of it yet in year 6. Also, I am not reviewing those seasons, yet, so can’t really talk to how they will eventually play out. Of course, if you’re a fan, these stories have already run their course and you have, I freely admit, an entirely different perspective on the series as a whole. For those who have not read the season 5 review, I will repeat my unchanged observations of the series in general, followed by some specific season 6 information. Still, keep those comments coming, because agree or disagree, it’s good to hear what you have to say.
Most of each episode is dedicated to the investigation of the particular case. For action junkies, this often means flying some sweet high tech aircraft. The show’s primary character, Commander Harmon “Harm” Rabb (Elliott) does a lot of the high flying investigations. He was once an ace pilot who developed night blindness, which essentially grounded him.
The second element of JAG, of course, is the courtroom drama. Like Law & Order, the show takes us through a case from its beginning through to its court disposition. It is here that all of those legalese junkies got their fix each week. There were usually those “Perry Mason Moments” where a surprise witness or a late arriving key piece of evidence offers a suspenseful twist on the trial’s outcome.
John M. Jackson has the best role as Admiral Chegwidden. Fans of Bones will recall his appearances as Sam Cullen, the Deputy Director of the FBI. Coincidence or not, he was also Captain West in the aforementioned A Few Good Men. Catherine Bell looks like something out of a 1940’s film playing Sarah “Mac” Mackenzie. I’m not sure if it’s the hairstyle, makeup, or the soft light and color of the show that gives me that impression, but it’s one I just can’t shake. Trevor Goddard, who died of a suspected drug overdose in 2003, brought his penchant for playing villains to the lawyer role here. The cast, while not remarkable, was pretty solid, but so much relationship baggage got in the way, and JAG ended up never more than a good or average show for the 10 years it played.
With all of that said, I did rather enjoy a handful of episodes in this season. The opening two part episode, Legacy, has pretty much everything you could want in a television episode. In spite of its rather dated Cold War aspect of selling secrets to the Russians, the show did a great job of dealing with two different cultures clashing over justice. Catherine Bell delivered the best performance I have seen to date in her role of Mac in this episode. There’s some real edge of your seats drama happening here. Plenty of murder mystery, political intrigue, and a few nice twists. Scott Brazil is one of the best directors in drama television today. You can see his work on Hill Street Blues all the way to The Shield. He adds to his credits the episode JAG TV. Mac goes up against a media hound lawyer and must deliver under the pressure of television cameras in the courtroom. For guest stars the show hit a highlight with Touch and Go. Andrea Parker returns as Kate Pike, who wants to return to the JAG. Parker was best known as the often evil but always cold Miss Parker from The Pretender. It’s nice to see her in a more animated role. Another guest star most known for a stoic character is Jolene Blalock as Lisa Antoon. Blalock is, of course, better known as T’Pol from the Star Trek series
Each episode of JAG is presented in its original broadcast 1.85:1 aspect ratio. At the time of airing you might not have been watching in HD, so these prints will be a welcome treat for you. While there is at times a bit of grain, the presentation is mostly pretty solid. The colors are often soft, but there seemed to be an intentional lean that way, particularly on interior scenes. At times the exterior stuff gets pretty bright, and colors find themselves nearly dead reference.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track is a little disappointing when you get to the more action packed elements of the show. It would be so nice to have some real zing and swoosh to the aircraft material. The courtroom stuff is served just fine by the presentation, however, and dialog is always easy to hear.
No gag reel this time.
We all have our favorite shows, and I have a great amount of respect for fans of any show no matter what I may think of it. The bottom line is we’re in the opinion business here, and unfortunately mine hasn’t changed. I don’t hate this show, not by any means. I find many of the cases to be clever, and there is a reason the show survived for a decade, longer when you consider the spin-off, NCIS. Dick Wolf, I think, understands exactly my point. He made a rather controversial decision when Law & Order began so many years ago. He commented that a teleplay has so little time these days, just over 40 minutes now. He believed that more compelling stories could be told if you limited the operatic overindulgence of the characters’ personal lives. I wholeheartedly agree. If JAG does begin to drift in that direction, I expect I will enjoy future seasons all the more. Until then, this is an average show, not great. Not terrible. So what do I think? If you’re a show fan, you’ve likely already preordered this release from Amazon; if not we’ve provided a nice little link for you to do so. If you’re not familiar with the show, check out some first season discs first. If you like what you see, move forward. Just don’t start here. Either way, “It doesn’t matter what I think”.