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Jan. 26 2010 - 9:16 am | 2,067 views | 1 recommendation | 42 comments

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…

ncisthat 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.

This person is famous, apparently.

This person is famous, apparently.

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.

Can't go wrong with star power like this.

Can't go wrong with star power like this.

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.


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  1. collapse expand

    I’m always baffled at how shows like NCIS, CSI, Numbers, etc. even attract one viewer, let alone rank so high. At least I’m not the only one perturbed by these things. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from here.

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      So you’re saying we should all watch mindless crap like the Family Guy and Arrested Development, none of which is funny or worth our time.

      NCIS may be similar to CSI and L&O but it’s not the same and is it’s own show, totally dependent from those others. I was watching both for years before NCIS started and I can tell you, they are nothing alike. For starters, CSI isn’t even authentic, most of what they do, forensics wise, isn’t even real. NCIS is as close to the real thing as you’ll get.

      L&O is the same, only they take a lot of liberties with the law. In real life, cops can’t get away with half the stuff they do on that show.

      CSI is more crime based, you hardly know anything about the characters. NCIS has developed the characters so much you’d swear they were real (and yes I know people like them).

      David McCallum is so dedicated an actor that he studied up on the medical aspects of his character (when he got the part and early on in the series). He’s even performed an autopsy. He used to work closely with the LA coroner to make sure all the medical aspects of the show were correct. Now he’s the medical tech consultant on the show.

      Pauley Perrette actually has a degree in forensics, back in the days before she became an actress.

      Not many shows can say that.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    NCIS is part family drama, part comedy and part police procedural, thus it ties in three of the most of the compelling fields for TV entertainment.

    The key for me is the relationships between the main characters and how “the family” of Gibbs field team interact with each other and deal with the trials and tribulations of the job.

    The show rewards long time fans by being as consistent as possible with continuity, not tying every single story line up, or doing so several episodes or seasons later, and leaving things a bit open ended, much like life.

    Also, there is a referential aspect, much like Arrested Development, where elements of the show draw from the character’s real lives. Two examples:

    Michael Weatherly (DiNozzo) investigates a crime where the victim was the heir to a fortune made by importing Swiss Army knives. In real life, Weatherly’s family made their money importing Swiss Army knives.

    At one point, Special Agent Todd asks Harmon’s Gibbs what “Ducky” the effette Medical Examiner played by actor David McCallum looked like when he was younger. Harmon pauses and goes, “Ilya Kuryakin” which of course was David McCallum’s character in the show “Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

    Those sorts of details reward a cultish and devoted fanbase.

    Also, the patriotic backdrop of the show cannot be denied as a factor. The episode where the great Charles Durning stars as a WWII veteran, is particularly moving.

    Is it the best show ever written? No. But it rewards its fans, and does enough things right both in terms of acting, writing, setting, that makes its popularity justified. Get the DVDs and start from Season 1. It’s worth it.

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      Love it! Thank you Corpsie for a genuine response. I will say that in my brief relationship with NCIS, I haven’t found myself saying “wow, this show is a lot like Arrested Development.” But hey, to each his own.

      Let me ask you this, does it bother you that NCIS is so obviously derivative of Law and Order and CSI? Or do you like the format enough that you’re cool with the similarities? Do you watch NCIS LA?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Just to clarify, I was not directly comparing Arrested Development to NCIS. It would be far-fetched to assume anyone would see one and immediately think of the other. However, the device of story telling with an eye on what happens outside of the fictitious world in which the shows exist, exists in both and I think it is a device that is appealing to fans of TV today.

        Arrested Development used that device with brilliance several times. Replaing Henry Winkler with Scott Baio just like Happy Days, and when Jason Bateman was looking for someone who could be his sister, and him finding his real life sister Justine Bateman at the bar, are added layers of coolness, that while not plot driving, adds to the overall tone of the show.

        Obviously that device is not a driving element in police procedural storytelling, but it gives NCIS that same bit of coolness, that you don’t quite see in other shows. (NCIS LA also uses that device. Showing LL Cool J boxing in one seen, you can almost hear “Mama Said Knock You Out.”)

        It demonstrates that the writers are not simply churning out “Generic Police Drama 178″ but actually trying to craft a show.

        Personally, I’m not “bothered” by derivative police drama. Most art is derivative. Every fan of a police drama knows the basic. A crime will happen, and it will be solved. How that story is told is what is compelling.

        Ultimately a show stands on its own merits, whether it is derived from another idea, concept, or show or not. The key for any viewer is whether “how the story is told” is entertaining. If I’m entertained, I’m not bothered.

        NCIS LA, is still finding it’s own legs. It feels more like a buddy comedy/adventure with LL Cool J and O’Donnell, a Lethal Weapon type show, than say the familial nature of NCIS original. But it follows the same formula of not adhering to strict police procedural archetypes.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Nice try, Law and Order team, nice try.
    Actually, I don’t like this attitude: “If I don’t know it – then it’s not worth knowing.” NCIS is big enough to do well without your liking it or even knowing it, no prob.

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    Reading your column reminds me of the fellow, who upon viewing a square centimetre of the left hand corner of the Mona Lisa declares “What a piece of shit! It’s just dark brown – the rest of it must really suck!”

    Very “enlightened” attitude and certainly following in that same vein, one that makes you eminently qualified to criticize a show that self-admittedly you have exactly 10 minutes of exposure to (and that you went into with a “motherfucking” chip on your shoulder about, to begin with).

    Perhaps, as a regular viewer of the show, I can hopefully explain to you that the appeal of this show lies in the intricate connections between the characters and the experiences they share.

    The characters are interesting because they are dynamic in form and function. They have their flaws and their strengths which lend depth to the stories and to the interconnections between their various roles. They have developed over the years and grown into complex, well-rounded personalities. While they make captivating studies in their own right, they also add up to so much more than just the sum of the show’s individual parts.

    The actors are dedicated, talented individuals who have a genuine chemistry both on and off the set and work hard at their craft (even after seven seasons) to make things fresh. The writers are clever and skilled – their credentials are as noteworthy as any on television ( take the time to do a wee bit of research into your topic and you’ll find their resumes are impressive enough).

    Using glib phrases to summarise the series like “stupid one with Mark Harmon that no one watches because it’s obviously ridiculous!” or “Effete Doctor in Bowtie” to describe a character that you know nothing about, will get you attention (the same way pulling your pants down in a public street will) but to what purpose does that serve other than just prove one is an exhibitionist.

    It certainly doesn’t pass for anything remotely connected to a thoughtful critical analysis of a popular entertainment show (if indeed that was the intent of this column and not just to insult the efforts of the producers, actors and writers).

    I gave you a fair shot (more than what you gave NCIS apparently) and finished your whole column (as distasteful as it seemed to do so). Perhaps you can learn to do the same thing and then revisit your attempt at understanding why this show continues to grow in popularity and has a fairly wide (and actually intelligent) fanbase that happens to be fully aware of what makes good entertainment and good story-writing.

    Take the advice of corpsie and give the show a real chance (watch say, six episodes… I’ll be more than happy to supply you with a recommended list) – you might find you that viewing it with a bit more open-mindedness could lead you to enjoying it. It really is worth at least that effort.

    Oh, BTW did you know that “No Brain” is about as confusingly similar to “Brian Donovan” as “NCIS” is to “CSI”? Thought you might appreciate that little titbit!

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    Wow! NCIS viewers are feisty.

    For the record, Valdan, I actually watched a few episodes. I should’ve been more clear about that. More viewing however did not lead to a different opinion.

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      So you’re saying you lied?

      How “honest” of you to admit that now…

      Regardless, I think you approached this series with such a closed mind and a big chip on your shoulder, perhaps watching a dozen episodes wouldn’t be enough to give it a fair chance.

      I don’t mind that you don’t like it – not at all. Lots of things that other people like I find uninteresting. Personal tastes are always highly subjective – I have the intelligence and the where-with-all to handle that fact of life.

      What I mind is that you were so arrogantly insulting about the show, the actors and the writers and you never once looked at it with the intention of even giving it a fair chance.

      As someone who has been associated with newspapers and journalists all my adult life, I find it strange that, even in an opinion piece such as this, someone would fill their column with such a preponderance of vulgar poppycock and demeaning remarks in a clear effort to incite readers into reaction.

      You’ve got your reaction sir! And the fact that you now confess to including purposeful exaggeration doesn’t really ease my mind at all.

      I hope the other NCIS fans are able to “enlighten” you as to the merits of the show.

      Honestly… I do!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      QUOTE: “Wow! NCIS viewers are feisty.

      For the record, Valdan, I actually watched a few episodes. I should’ve been more clear about that. More viewing however did not lead to a different opinion.”
      + + +

      Don’t worry, Brian, not all NCIS fans are complete brain f*rts like Valdan. You were unfortunate enough to run into one of those TV nerds that act like they are being paid to defend “their” show and who have multi-orgasms on seeing the latest ratings.

      Just so you know who you are dealing with: “Miss Valdan” is a 56-year-old woman who lives in a complete fantasy world and who has a crush on Michael Weatherly aka Tony DiNozzo like some little teenage girl. She defends everything and anything about the show to the bone and if someone happens to have a different opinion that person is, of course, spreading “negativism” in her book. What she doesn’t know is the fact that she and her equally delusional buddy NavyResGirl on the IMDDB message board have become quite the laughing stock in the NCIS community. What they also don’t know is the fact that fans aren’t the only ones laughing (if you know who I mean). That NavyResGirl (and yes, another one of those old birds in her 50s with a crush on Michael Weatherly) person is equally insane. Check out the IMDB message board for her “Observation” threads. She spends several hours each week watching and re-watching a new episode and writing down her notes. That’s what you get when you make a living as a pet sitter and have no life to speak of.

      To give you an idea of what “Miss Valdan” is like: She posted your blog entry and her “glorious victory over you” on the IMDB.com board, check it out:


      A rather sad case of a delusional old bird watching too much TV. There is always a handful with every show, I suppose.

      + + +

      While I am at it: Thank you very much for your article. I may be amongst those who actually watch the show, but by GOD… I know its weaknesses! I may enjoy it, but it is something I watch while multitasking, nothing else. I certainly don’t consider it a masterpiece or Shakespeare in the making like Miss V over there does. It is entertaining on a good day and cringe worthy on a bad one. Simple as that. Oh, and if you ever run into one of those old birds again: They are all convinced that the showrunner is a bloody genius and that all actors should have received at least three Emmy Awards by now. So better brush up on your martial arts before you step into the ring. ;)

      Other than that: Tell it as it is. Nothing wrong with taking those crazy dodos down a peck or two.

      Greetings from Stockholm (where we are busy freezing our asses off)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Brian, thanks for the piece. Let me co-sign on to Corpsie’s review. NCIS manages to bridge genres that shouldn’t go together — procedurals and geek culture. The basic “murder-of-the-week” brings in the CSI procedural (and military drama) fan. Meanwhile, the Abby and McGee characters are offbeat enough to make this very Gen-X friendly. Abby’s all Goth and hip, while McGee has this whole other life as a suspense/fantasy author. I was a fan of JAG, which NCIS spun off from, but the latter far surpasses the former in being a remarkably original show made out of not-so-original trappings.

    Even though the production got taken away from him a few seasons ago, keep in mind that the show was created by Donald Bellisario, who also created geek-cult favorite “Quantum Leap” 20 years ago. In fact, there was an early NCIS episode featuring McGee tracking down a suspect at a “Quantum” convention. That’s the kind of wink-wink insider stuff that Corpsie was referring to. Oh, and the show has a damn fine soundtrack too!

    One last thing: You need an up-to-date picture for this piece: Lauren Holly’s character died two seasons back. Rocky Carroll is the new head of the bureau.

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      Alright, this is what I’m talking about Robert. I saw the character with the Goth attitude, and was gonna mention it, but cut for space. A crime scene technician who is cheery and quirky, and the way they demonstrate that is to give her vaguely goth attire? Come on, that’s pretty lame. She’s not goth, or an at all realistic human being, she’s a sanitized silly creation. To me anyway, but clearly not to others. It genuinely doesn’t bother you?

      I like to Quantum Leap past though. Now that’s a great show.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        But thats just it. Abbey isn’t trying to be goth, she never calls herself goth, she’s not trying to fit an image imposed on her by any group. She likes tattoos, heavy metal, anything or any one unusual and has a macabre fascination with death and accidents.

        Everyone else calls her goth because they have to label her something. In reality she’d probably be called Emo.

        Tony summed her up best as “a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron, smothered in contradictions.”

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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        You clearly know nothing about the show and the real NCIS. The cast has visited the real NCIS and have said that they are much like their real life counter parts. Including Abby, yes there are people in the real NCIS forensic lab that look like her.

        As for her being a “watered down goth” she is a perky goth, and as someone that’s had goth friends, she is like them, in her own way. Not all goths dress in all black, wear pale face and darkened eyes. There are plenty of goths that dress closer to normal. As a former friend used to say, goth is not a state of dress, but a state of mind.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Brian, is Abby “silly and sanitized”? Maybe. But, in the context of the other shows to which NCIS is compared — the CSI franchise, primarily — I find her completely original. In fact, as I tried to point out in my earlier response — show takes a basic genre, but its character choices give it a fresh vibe all its own. Perhaps you don’t like the individual characters, but I think they are original separately and as an ensemble (none of the other crime shows has a technician like Abby).

        Interestingly, NCIS:LA used Abby’s goth-ish background in a more compelling way as she crossed over to track down a serial killer in one of its first episodes.

        By the way, have you checked out the soundtracks?

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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      “NCIS” is also part-soap opera in one respect regarding the interplay between its characters. Specifically Abby Sciuto and Timothy McGee.

      After eight years, it’s fairly obvious to this viewer that Abby and McGee love each other a lot more than they’re allowed to show.

      With the ninth season now starting, I’m wondering if and when McGee will finally screw up the courage to 1) confess to Gibbs that he’s fallen in love with Abby, in spite of Gibbs’ “no fraternization” rule and 2) Tell Abby his true feelings about her?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Thanks for the laugh Brian… i feel ya man; but is it so surprising? I mean hell, Fox News is the most watched news station and anyone who is actually living on planet Earth knows what a load of mental arsenic that station injects its viewers with daily. So…?

    I actually watched at one point almost a whole season of CSI-Miami because 1) it looks so great in hi-def and 2) friends and i played a game where we would try to determine the exact moment in the plot that David Caruso had smoked a big fatty before coming on scene. (it was usually quite obvious)

    That said, i think you are on to something… it’s a little more than disturbing America’s obsession with crime shows. I know i know, the mystery genre is a classic theme that taps into human curiosity on a base level; but why such a glut of cop shows? Is there a correlation between it, and our gradual decline into a fascist police state?

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    You say Mark Harmon, i think The Deliberate Stranger. I’m not a huge fan of true crime, but i do remember watching that miniseries a couple of times when i was younger.

    As for why NCIS is so popular, i think you have to look at the trends in television.

    10 years ago the science approach was in with forensics shows (like CSI) popping up and spinning off left and right.

    About 2 years ago this began to change, with people wanting more character based drams, driven by more old fashioned detectives, as evidenced by the emergence of shows like the Mentalist and Castle.

    NCIS has always straddled the two with a good mix of science and a good old fashioned intuition.

    The serious/science type shows also had very little sense of humour. It was a relentless onslaught of rape and murder, kidnapping and torture. Hell, for it’s 100th episode Criminal Minds celebrated by killing off one of its characters wives. Do those guys know how to throw a party or what?

    The newer detective shows have a gentler, lighter touch and plenty of laughter mixed in with the heinous crimes.

    But NCIS always had that too. Thanks mainly to DiNozzo (who you laugh at as often as with).

    In these troubling times, people don’t want to be depressed even further in their off time.

    From a feminist perspective, this show also has some great role models (one awful one, but we’ll skip her for now).

    None of the women have a husband or family and this choice is not questioned. It’s not to say that the show looks down on families, simply that so far these characters have chosen not to go that route, and no one is questioning their decisions, like having a husband and children is the only way to be happy. These women love their careers, don’t seem to be looking to settle down and aren’t viewed as odd, weird or unfeminine for it.

    The two main female cast characters are also top notch. Abbey is a leading forensic scientist, frequently courted by other organisations for her skills because she’s just that good. She’s weird, non-conformist and doesn’t care that she doesn’t fit the typical woman or scientist image. She is who she is, simple as that. In a world where so many young girls are striving for an unrealistic body image (which is unattainable until they invent photoshop for real bodies) i think that’s a good message to send.

    Ziva kicks ass and the men are happy to sit back and let her. She frequently loses her temper but never once has someone mentioned PMT or belittled her or told her off for getting angry or said it’s not very lady like. Sometimes they hold her back, but just so she doesn’t kill their suspect.

    There’s no coddling of the women on this show, which is a true sign of equality.

    Finally, between the team there is a real family vibe. These people are there for each other, no matter what and when the chips are down, that means a lot. When one is accused of murder, his boss tells him “You never need an alibi with me.” I never had a boss trust me like that.

    And on the other hand when things are good, they tease, taunt and make fun of each other, much like siblings do, until Daddy Gibbs breaks it up, of course!

    • collapse expand

      I also meant to add why i think procedurals are so popular.

      While they have over arcing themes, each episode is it’s own story, tied up in a neat little package with a few threads left to be tugged on in layer episodes.

      It’s like reading a series of short stories.

      Other shows, like 24 and True Blood, tell one story over a whole series, dividing it into chapters and giving you only a small piece of the picture each week. I have zero patience for that sort of story telling and tend to wait until the series has ended to start watching. That way i can watch the story unfold in a week or two rather than the 9 months they were originally aired over.

      If you miss half a dozen chapters of those shows, you’re going to have a hard time catching up again. If you miss 6 episodes of a procedural show, it’s safe to assume you can tune in again without having missed anything significant enough to hinder your enjoyment of the episode.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      Cat, great observation on the change in crime shows (I’m a Castle fan too). Agree too with their use of gender roles. Any thought that they decided to off Lauren Holly’s character because they thought there were too many “strong” women? Or did it give them a chance to utilize a bit more diversity (notably, they switched in Rocky Carroll before Obama was elected).

      I also think the way they use DiNozzo is interesting. As a serial womanizer (or talker, at least), he could have come across as crass and obnoxious. Instead, he’s appealing, I think to both men and women, creating a jerky older-brother dynamic with McGee and an odd father-son relationship with Gibbs. The episode with Robert Wagner as DiNozzo’s dad — especially the last scene — was a keeper.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        You had to mention Jenny… As a feminist, I hated her character.

        Anyone with power must use it wisely, especially when you’re dealing with the first woman to hold a position because her moves and motives will be scrutinised much more closely than a mans would.

        Instead of being a good leader, sitting back and overseeing the organisation, she used the office to pursue personal vendetta’s. She employed very underhanded methods to achieve her goals, flirted with her ex-boyfriend, grew very “familiar” with DiNozzo and used agency resources for personal reasons.

        The icing on the cake was when it was stated that on a previous mission she had been unable to kill another woman and had lied about it, thus leading to the death of another agent as well as her own.

        Jenny is the sort of role model women can do without.

        As for DiNozzo, i really didn’t like him in the beginning, he was sexist and uncouth. Gradually they have toned down the sexism but kept the sense of humour. And when i say sexist, i mean comments like ‘all women pretend to be someone they’re not’ (or something similar). I don’t care that he dated a lot of women, and would only care if he had lied to them about being exclusive. Since Jeanne though he isn’t even dating much now.

        I like the way he’s grown and matured over the seasons, very realistic. (though way back in the pilot, his answering the phone while pretending to be the dead man in the body bag will probably always be one of my favourite moments)

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    Let’s just call it like it is: The vast majority of television programming is by dullards, for dullards. Television (and pretty much all of pop culture) is, as author Chris Hedges states, the “revels of a dying culture”. That NCIS is so popular is not, unfortunately, without consequences. A nation enamorate of such vapid garbage will likely lack the intellectual, moral and spriritual abilities to survive. That most television shows draw the numbers they claim only confirms the witless, lobotomized state of the citizenry.

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    I get it, you don’t like NCIS.

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    honestly, it’s always amazing to me to read a review of a show by somebody who CLEARLY has never seen the “stupid show that no one watches” (you know, not counting the 15 million or so people that tune into each new episode) with that “unknown” Mark Harmon

    Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can take you seriously. First of all, how credible is a review that has to be blanked out in places when reproduced on other sites. we get it. you don’t like the show. I’m not sensitive to cussing (I do more than my fair share) but you just sound biased, stupid, and uninformed when you write a review and it sounds like you’re talking in the locker room. And how can you trust a review that can’t even give the name of a main character that was not mentioned in the ad with BIG BOLD LETTERS.

    Now, the show itself:

    NCIS is so popular for many reasons. First of all, it has the lure of the “American procedural,” the same “case-of-the-week” format as your beloved L&O or CSI (though I must ask, how do you leave a procedural with a glimmer of self-respect?)

    The difference that puts NCIS a grade above, though, is the team dynamic. It’s not just a bunch of law enforcement emotionless robots, like all of the other procedurals. It’s very character oriented, and has the feeling of a real team, a real workforce. Between Abby, Ducky, Vance, or the core of Team Gibbs, many people identify with at least one character, making the show more likeable. Try watching more than 5 minutes of the show and you’ll see

    and why do you care about how the ads introduce DiNozzo? a lot of the viewers DO know who “The Great DiNozzo” is, so it seems to make sense to advertise as such. If you don’t like the ad, why don’t you get up and do something while ads are on?

    (oh, by the way, in reality, there must be a lot of people getting their “funny white hats” stolen too, because NCIS is a real agency)

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    God help me, I had to join to comment on your ridiculous article. It is obvious that you haven’t watched the series. Not a problem, this type of program may not appeal to you and as others have said, that’s your right in America.

    I, on the other hand, have watched since the first two spin-off episodes on JAG. Why? I would have to admit that the appearance of David McCallum would be one. I’ve been a fan of this remarkable man since I was a child. The second reason is because the series-to-be was from Don Bellisario, a man who has put many series on the air that I love.

    Why have I continued watching? There are many reasons, but the major one would be the character dynamics. I know and have worked with many of these type of people, I know their archetypes (look that up if it is too big a word for you, I’ll wait.)

    The cast and crew of NCIS respect both the actual agency of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Services) and the forensic work that is done in a series of this type. Even considering how procedures must be trimmed for television requirements, they make a sincere effort to get it right. The same cannot be said of any of the CSIs. BONES may come the closest to that same respect.

    And they have respect for the fans. We’re not pandered to, but they do listen to our comments and complaints. The show runners put in little bits that hark back to prior episodes, things only longtimers like myself would get.

    The fact that you don’t like the series doesn’t bother me as much as the lack of knowledge, respect, and intelligence on your part. Not to mention a respect for the language of commentary.

    True/Slant appears to be an appropriate name for this site. The truth is slanted enough to have no resemblance with reality.

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    Brian, here’s a question for you: Given the wide landscape of mainstream television, what show do YOU think SHOULD be Number One? You’ve explained (sort of) why NCIS shouldn’t be. Various fans here have explained why we/they enjoy it (including individual and ensemble character dynamics) — and why it stands out from other procedural and cop shows. What’s YOUR criteria on what makes a good TV (comedy and/or drama) show and give us some examples. Is it just intentionally “deep” stuff like “Mad Men” or can lighter fare also make the grade?


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      Fair question, Robert. I’ve discussed my favorites in the past on the blog, but for new folks — for sitcoms: I love 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and enjoy The Office and Community.

      Hour long favorites: Lost, Friday Night Lights, Southland, House, Dexter, Fringe, Breaking Bad and of course Jersey Shore. I guess I’d include Mad Men there, but I’m often conflicted on it.

      What unifies these shows? I’m not really sure. I guess what I’m looking for is a program that can give me something different, something original. Shows that offer a truth or a thought or a story or a joke that I haven’t seen before. A rich, creative product that is carefully written.

      Most procedurals are cookie cutter experiences in my mind – you’ve seen one, you seen em all. They come down the conveyor belt, you throw in a few hacky jokes, an eccentric medical examiner, and a suspicious businessman three steps removed from the crime and you’ve got an episode. To me, that’s NCIS. Nothing true or creative or original about it. However Southland, for instance, tackles similar subject matter in a completely different and engrossing way. Real scenes with real, richly drawn characters. None of this “hey, let’s make her a goth! Give her spikes and tattoos and…quirky dialogue!” nonsense. But it’s not easily digestible, so it has trouble staying on air. I wish I liked the NCIS-style, there’d be a lot more to watch.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Hate to break it to you Brian, but House and Fringe are procedurals with a cookie cutter formula. They just disguise that fact by having an illness or pseudo-science bad guy.

        I normally love sci-fi/fantasy shows, but Fringe didn’t get the mix right. Their ideas are far too freaky to ever be called science fiction but the series is too based in reality to be fantasy. I really wanted to like it but could barely make it through an episode without screaming at the TV for breaking yet another law of physics or trampling over human biology/biochemistry.

        House was original for a time but it’s just too predictable now. But the House drinking game is fun, especially if like me, you watch a few episodes together. Everything someone gets fired, resigns or gets rehired, take a drink.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  14. collapse expand

    Actually, there is a real life NCIS – they investigate crimes involving both the Navy and the Marines. The show sensationalizes the process of course, but the background is real enough.

    Indeed the show is popular enough to have spawned a Discovery-channel show called “The Real NCIS” that involves real crimes that the real NCIS has solved.

    As far as the show goes, I think of it as a parody of the CSI-like shows that take themselves just a little too seriously. People are all weird and full of quirks, there’s no reason that actors and characters need to be any different.

  15. collapse expand

    i love NCIS the thing i love most about it is how funny Micheal Weatherly (Anthony Dinozzo) is and how Cote De Pablo (Ziva David) messes up English. and how David McCallum (Dr.Mallard-ducky) goes on and on about his past and his mother basically his life and how Abby always blasts her music and then Gibbs yells at her to off the crap and how Gibbs hits Dinozzo & McGee on the back of the head and how McGee talks tech crap and both Dinozzo and Gibbs yells at him he says it a different way and really i love the trying to figure out who did it following who is dating who and why and how and i love the interrogations and by the way im 11 years old but I’ve been watching CSI ever since i can remember

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    Well, unlike some people, I actually like to watch a few episodes to get the sense of what the show is about, just watching one episode isn’t going to give you any knowledge of what it’s about. Honestly, I had the same reaction when I heard Navy and Criminal being used together, but I check out about 3 episodes and I got hooked, I now have seen every aired episode of both NCIS and NCIS:LA. Yes I have a social life, but I can see these shows because of the nice machine called the DVR. But anyways, it’s not about whether you believe it or not, it’s about enjoying something new, and some of the many things NCIS brings to the table is humor (dry, explicit, and haha), family, something to keep you thinking about while watching the story develop. NCIS is #1 for many reasons, one of them being: people like it! It’s been #1 for many seasons and sometimes you lose viewers as your show (and cast) move on, but despite that, people still watch because it’s different than the other shows. Also, unlike all three CSI’s (which are just as good), NCIS is a real investigative agency of the DOD. So, you keep writing about how you hate it and can’t stand it and all that other stuff, and NCIS and NCIS:LA will continue to dominate ratings on America’s most-watched network!

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    NCIS is a real life thing there really is a Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The show however is not of real NCIS investigations. NCIS in my opinion is an amazing show and i love it. I love the relationship with the characters and how i find it funny. I think it deserves to be in the top five shows in america if not the number 1 show which it is. Its cool that you totally hate NCIS its your opinion and its your right. COuld you imagine if everyone liked the same thing we would have a boring world. NCIS is addicting to me and my whole family friends ect.. I hope they keep the seasons coming and continue to be lead by Mark Harmon he completes the whole show without him it wouldnt be the same.

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    wow…that was hilarious!…not.
    you have alot of contradictions in your story. You said that it was the #1 show then you said that no one watches it?…come on lets make up our minds.
    But we all know which one’s the right one now don’t we, Probie? ;)

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    I watch NCIS because it’s fun, light-hearted and I love the chemistry between Gibbs and Abby.

    Television is for mindless entertainment. When I want to be educated or productive, I read a book.

  20. collapse expand

    NCIS sucks . . . the end. For that matter, the entire CBS lineup with the single exception of How I Met Your Mother sucks. Period. All of those bullshit shows (CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, The Mentalist, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Numb3ers) use the EXACT same formula to create the EXACT same mind-numbing idiotic portrayal of criminal investigations. For crying out loud how hard is this to grasp?!?!?! NOBODY ACTS LIKE THESE PEOPLE!!! People who work in a crime scene unit collect some evidence from a crime scene then sit in lab and perform mindless forensic tests while the detectives do the rest of the work. And they do NOT all look like runway models with their trendy white shirts only buttoned half way up while they do the “yep it’s blood” test that you see in every single one of those episodes (see CSI: Miami).

    But the worst offender by far is NCIS. The show is just absolute and complete garbage. Oh but they have a nerdy guy, a (not-so-good) womanizer, the hard knock boss who slaps people (HAHA that’s hilarious), the pseudo goth/emo chick who works in the lab, the old British necrophiliac who also works in the lab, the stern black man who runs the place but Gibbs still plays by his own rules (or earlier that dumb bimbo who provided some sexual tension). I dare anyone to find a workplace like that. You won’t find it because IT DOESN’T EXIST!!!

    Aside from the ridiculous casting, the acting is completely overwrought. If people talked the way actors delivered their “funny” lines, people would think they were being a pretentious douchebag. Probably the ONLY procedural that was close to an accurate portrayal of what it was trying to portray was Law and Order (the original; not the bullshit SVU or CI spinoffs). Even then, there were always some procedural inaccuracy (usually involved with the criminal prosecution) that was acceptable because it was necessary to make it fit within the time constraints.

    And don’t think I haven’t watched the show. I have. A lot. It’s practically the only thing that my father, sister, and brother watch when I’m around. If you want a real show, by pass the stupid acting, simplistic writing, and overall happy-go-lucky/”witty”/its-family-friendly-but-they’re-still-solving-crimes-which-are-kind-of-gritty formula of this horse excrement.

    Off the top of my head here’s a list of better shows, all of which appeal to people with IQs above room temperature (unlike NCIS): Law and Order, Prison Break, 24, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Southland, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Justified, Lights Out, The Sopranos, Weeds, Rome, Friday Night Lights, Entourage (despite the recent story mishaps), Sex and the City, House, ER (before it became ridiculous), Arrested Development, Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, Seinfeld and hands down the two best shows ever created: SOUTH PARK and THE WIRE.

    Maybe some people will continue to create original shows like these instead of spewing out the same procedural dogshit that plagues prime time programming. What they can’t even create orginal names for the shows so they just rehash the same plots and either put a “:” between the shows name and the location or they don’t even bother and just give it a title from a previous show (“Hawaii 5-0 . . . what a fucking joke).

    • collapse expand

      No one says you should or ought to like it. I like it; I also like 30 rock, how I met your mother, mad men, parks and rec. The list goes on and on. If you do not like it, don’t watch it. I also like Mozart, scotch, and Johnny Cash. No one has any right to say there is something wrong with my enjoyment of NCIS, or any other show. It is the ultimate in snobbery to look down on the interests or hobbies or entertainment of others for no other reason than your dislike of said items. So called high culture is not better than pop culture. I hate a lot of tv shows; I do not insult the intelligence of those who watch them. Oh, and not only do I enjoy NCIS, I have an IQ in the 150s and a 3.79 GPA at a major University. I would appreciate it if you would not insult my intelligence because I enjoy a TV show that you do not. Last time I checked, I am free.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    Twitter: @b_donovan

    I am a writer, actor, and North Korean Dictator. Over the years though I've written for everything from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Fox News to Chapelle's Show, and can be seen frequently on Vh1 making snide remarks at the expense of others. Recently I was the Head Writer of "Fair Game", a news and comedy show from Public Radio International. My interests range from news to sports to entertainment, so this blog should read kinda like the evening news, except funnier and with less Brian Williams. Fuck Brian Williams.

    Contact: NewsCastAside@gmail.com

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    Contributor Since: January 2009
    Location:Brooklyn, NY