NCIS is a spin-off, of sorts, from the popular military lawyer show JAG. You could say that NCIS is the Order to JAG’s Law. The NCIS is a real government agency that deals with criminal activity inside or involving the US Navy or Marine Corps. The series has an incredibly global feel and honestly looks damn good for television. Production values are high, and the location stuff is out of this world, or at least all over it.
Special Agent Gibbs (Harmon) heads up this group of criminal investigators. Harmon has always been good, but I dare you to find a character he’s played better. He just eats up the part. You won’t have any trouble believing that Gibbs is the seasoned veteran investigator leading this team. Special Agent DiNozzo (Weatherly) is a former Baltimore homicide detective who often lets his determination run his investigation into trouble. He’ll bend a rule or throw a punch, whatever it takes to bring down the bad guy. The newest member of the team is Israeli Mossad Agent Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo, a newcomer to television. She has the unenviable task of replacing popular actress Sasha Alexander, who exited the show after two seasons. She is, perhaps, one of the most complicated characters I’ve yet to encounter in ensemble television. She’s difficult to read and shows a performance level beyond the scope of a beginner. Rounding out the cast are two very nice characters. Pauley Perrette plays the goth chick/forensic specialist Abby Sciuto. She reminds me a ton of the Penelope Garcia character from Criminal Minds. She’s flirty, far too informal for Gibbs, but is a lot smarter and tougher than she appears. Making himself more visible in this series is David McCallum as pathologist Ducky Millard. Ducky is the Quincy of the group as he checks out the bodies. His dry wit makes him my favorite character on the show.
NCIS combines elements from many types of genre shows which make it such a fresh series to watch. There’s a little bit of CSI along with a touch of Law & Order. You won’t have to look too hard to also see elements of JAG in there as well. While the soap opera aspects of the show run deeper than I like, I don’t find the relationship stuff here to be as intrusive as it was in JAG.
I’m happy to report that this season the focus is still very much on the characters. In a way they have become very much like a family. Gibbs is the father figure while DiNozzo is the big brother. Duckie is the quaint old uncle, and Abby is the party girl energy of the family. Nowhere is that all more apparent than the first episode of the season, Spider And The Fly. Paloma is back, and she’s targeted Gibbs. It’s up to the team to pull together and stop it. In Cracked the team worries that Abby has become too obsessed with a case and it’s starting to affect her. This is another example of the season really pushing the whole family angle this season. Palmer gets to finally get out in the field, and he even gets to teach his mentor Duckie a few things. McGee finally gets the girl when we see his geek side. There’s some cool flashbacks using the real actors in makeup effects, particularly Vance. It all ends in an action-packed two-parter.
Each episode of NCIS 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. There are some sweet ocean scenes that appear to shine in color and depth. There are a lot of earth tones here, so don’t look for a particularly bright mood in the presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers a few nice ambient moments, but mostly you’re getting dialog here. It’s all fine and well placed; just don’t look for too much ear candy.
There are a handful of cast and crew Audio Commentary tracks on select episodes.
The extras are spread out over the 6 disc collection.
Questions From The Fans: (11:58) The cast answer questions recorded by fans at a Fanfest convention.
Technically Speaking: (9:14) A conversation with technical advisor Leon Carroll, Jr. He’s been providing the real NCIS insight since the show began. Leon Vance was named after him.
Lights! Camera! Weatherly!: (10:37) A look behind the scenes as actor Michael Weatherly directs his first episode. It’s a bit of a love-fest here.
Grab Your Gear – A Look At Season 8: (26:31) This one looks at the highlight clips from the season but follows the season as it applies to each character. It’s a great look at the evolution of each of the main characters.
Very Special Effects: (10:23) A look at some of the explosive action and fireballs.
Murder They Wrote – The Writers Talk NCIS: (9:37) The writers break down the process from breaking a story to completion.
There’s a reason why this show has become the number one scripted drama on television. It really has a little bit of everything, and it’s evolved without changing the core dynamic. There have been little in the way of cast turnover, and the chemistry is quite extraordinary. At this rate, the cast claim this show can run for a long time before it starts winding down. “I’m starting to get that.”