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 9 picks up right where the last left off with the second part of the season 8 cliffhanger A Tangled Webb. The gang are still in Paraguay hunting Sadik. Harm’s conflicted feelings continue to get in the way. Once last year’s mess is finally resolved, you’ll be able to enjoy some other highlights from the season. After Harm’s “resignation” he ends up working as a pilot for the CIA. His first mission starts with the episode Secret Agent Man. And so for several episodes we’ll be dealing with two stories. There’s Harm’s CIA mission and whatever case is taking up the JAG unit’s time. Harm finally returns to the JAG with the episode Close Quarters. Mac and Harm work opposite sides of a case when a radar officer is killed while repairing a radar dish. You’ll find that case in the episode Pulse Rate. In People v. SecNav the United States is brought to trial for war crimes. Harm has to defend the SecNav himself. In Persian Gulf, Harm goes deaf after an accidental explosion and Mac is being contacted by the terrorist Sadik. The team is shaken up again as the cliffhanger Hail And Farewell threatens to change the team forever.
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.
While NCIS continues to far surpass JAG, it’s evident that the original series was doing a better job of finding its feet. This would be the second to last season for the series. It’s unfortunate that it went back to the inner shake-up routine for yet another cliffhanger. CBS promises a quick turn around and the final season of JAG soon. “You ever hear of a deadline?”