Just as JAG closes out its 10th and final year I really think the show was peaking. Most regular readers to the site will remember I was not much of a fan when I started with the 5th season set. I thought the stories failed to work on the action or courtroom levels. As the show evolved, or I did, I was drawn in with the clever and unique types of stories the series began to explore. By the time it ended here I was ready for more, but no more will be forthcoming. Of course, it lives on in the two NCIS spin-off shows currently on the air.
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.
The series ends with some very strong episodes. As the season begins we must face the retirement of Admiral Chegwidden. The new JAG is Commander Turner, played by Scott Lawrence. These events are picked up in the first episode, the continuation of the season 9 finale, Hail And Farewell. But by This Just In From Bagdad, General Cresswell played by David Andrews takes over the post. The whole Gitmo torture issue comes up in Camp Delta, when Harm must defend Marines accused of excessive force. Mac gets into a Christmas Eve car crash and while unconscious examines her past life in The Four Percent Solution. Harm is once again the defendant when he shoots down a plane violating a no-fly zone in Bridging The Gulf. Mac has to negotiate with Pirates in Straits Of Malacca. In the season finale Harm is reassigned to London and Mac to San Diego. They have to say goodbye and resolve their relationship issues. Both want Bud to come with them on their new assignment.
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.
The Final Goodye: (2:17) The cast and crew offer up thanks and goodbyes to each other.
JAG is gone but lives on in two series still airing on CBS. The NCIS shows are dominating the ratings leading many to call CBS the NCIS/CSI alphabet network. The shows are unique and deserve their own props. I was always a fan of NCIS. I have not yet watched the Los Angeles version. The shows share a common thread of solid writing with some of the most unique legal dramas on television. But these shows do not replace JAG. “They have their own way of doing things.”