Finally, this show has really gotten to me. I don’t know what it is about this 8th season, but I was far more interested in the show than I had ever been. Maybe I’ve spent so long with these characters that they started to come alive for me. Maybe I was resistant to a slightly different way of telling stories. Maybe it was that the stories became less about who was with who that I was finally able to enjoy the great courtroom drama and investigation elements of the series. Whatever it was, I am finally a fan.
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.
Season 8 will likely be best remembered for the two part episode, Ice Queen/ Meltdown. It is here that the cast of the spin-off series NCIS make their appearance in this world. Harm’s on trial for murder, and there’s a territorial war between the JAG and the NCIS. This episode gets both shows cooking, although it does come near the end of the season. The season begins with part 3 of the season finale from year 7. In Critical Condition, Bud is finally out of the woods with all of his surgeries. The Senate investigation also winds down. The season ends with yet another cliffhanger. Harm finds out that Mac and Webb are missing in South America. Of course, the season will end with Harm heading out to find them. Check back for the ninth, and next to last, season to find out how it ends. Hell, you know already, don’t you?
Each episode of JAG is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 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.
I’ve mentioned many times how much I wanted to like the show. And while I never really disliked the series, it just never clicked for me, until now. Unfortunately the show didn’t have many more years after this, but it might explain why I didn’t have the same growing pains with its spin-off NCIS. That’s one of the advantages of this job. Even if you don’t necessarily take to a show, it’s likely to keep showing up on your doorstep. You’ll get every chance to find something that works. I might even go so far as to suggest you start with this season, if you want to see the true potential come alive. It’s getting to bittersweet time for fans. With season 8 now out there are just 2 more remaining. You say you knew that? “That tells me you can count.”