Really, America? NCIS is our most popular show?
One thing you learn when watching playoff football, other than how ridiculous very fat men look in sweater vests, is the status of the network’s prime-time lineup. There’s 800 breaks in action, and the announcers use all of them to plug about 4 shows. This week’s was particularly shocking…
“Tune in on Tuesdays for America’s #1 and #5 most watched dramas, NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles.”
What? The NCIS? The stupid one with Mark Harmon that no one watches because it’s obviously ridiculous? You don’t mean…
that NCIS, do you? And it turns out they did. I looked it up. NCIS, the show about a unit that investigates all Navy-related crimes and misdemeanors (that sensation you feel is your spine beginning to tingle), is regularly the most watched show in the country. NCIS Los Angeles, the show about Navy-related crimes and misdemeanors in the greater Los Angeles area, usually ends up around 5th. Which is reason enough for me to kill myself.
Look, we all understand the appeal of the American procedural. The case-of-the-week format is comforting, its stars performances now wear the predictability of an old friend, and the surprise endings aren’t actually surprising, but have just enough twist in them to leave us with a glimmer of self-respect. “OK, that was a real TV show, I have spent my hour justifiably.” But NCIS? Motherfucking NCIS? That’s not Law and Order. There’s no Sam Waterston in the building. It’s not even CSI, which we all feel a little dirty about watching, but vaguely involves science and is therefore somewhat redemptive. It’s NCIS. (And don’t think we haven’t noticed how close the letters of CSI and NCIS are, CBS. You were trying to trick us into watching and we don’t don’t appreciate it.) It stars Mark Harmon, of all people. Name something Mark Harmon was in, quick! Wrong. The correct answer is “St. Elsewhere”. All other shows you had to look up because no one’s ever heard of them. That’s who we’re supposed to tune in for.
What concerned me the most about this mid-game commercial was that it referred to character’s names. “Find out how DiNozzo came to be DiNozzo…” or some such nonsense. That was earth shattering. Apparently we live in a universe where knowledge of NCIS is so widespread that names of characters can be used in passing and we’re expected to have the slightest fucking idea what people are talking about. “Oh yeah, good ol’ DiNozzo. I’d love to know how he came up with all his crazy quirks!” Who the christ is DiNozzo? Everyone watches this show AND everyone knows the people on it? That was too much for me to handle. I had to watch an episode. So I did. It took until minute 2 for this gem:
(man lying dead on the ground, a victim of a bomb attack, his shoes lying on the ground ten feet in front of him. he is surrounded by examiners.)
The Great DiNozzo: I’ve heard of getting blown out of your shoes, but I never thought I’d see it.
Effete Doctor in Bowtie: Now, if the explosion had knocked his socks off, that would be impressive.
“Fuck yeah! Hilariously written scene, Greg. Thanks, Bill – let’s go score some Heinekens!” Thanks for tuning in to the #1 drama in America, next season we’ll get Jay Leno to co-star.
Truth be told, I don’t even know what NCIS is supposed to be investigating. Is there really such a wealth of Navy-related crimes that it needs its own special division of internal examiners? What’s a Navy-related crime anyway? Someone stole my funny white hat? And then presumably, there are so many of these cases that an entire unit is justified for Los Angeles all on its own? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to LA, and I didn’t get the sense that it was teetering on the edge of Naval illegality and insurrection. How is this the most popular show on TV? What’s happening, America?
What I want from you, dear reader, is an explanation. Certainly some of you have watched the show, and I want to know why. What do you like? What keeps you tuning in? Please help me understand. Because it hurts me a little inside to think this is what the majority of us prefer.