NCIS Review

By Claire Frank

TV promos always boast that their show is “number one…” and “highest ranking,” but few can actually back up this claim. NCIS is one of those few: last year it had the most views of all network TV shows, overpassing even Sunday Night Football (with the exception of the Super Bowl). A spin-off of JAG, NCIS first aired in 2003 and is currently in its 11th season. It is quickly approaching 250 episodes and its ratings are higher than ever. Unfortunately, its quality is spiraling downhill with every new episode.

The show follows the cases of former-marine Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his team of Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents, womanizing movie-savant Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), MIT-graduate Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), and former Mossad agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo). The characters’ interactions with each other and other regulars, including the happy goth lab tech Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) and storytelling medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum), is a huge reason why the show is so popular. Each character is unique and plays off the others so well. It is very easy to become emotionally invested in the show, and therefore it is hard to pick a favorite character.

I’ve been following NCIS for six seasons and have seen nearly every episode thanks to the almost weekly marathons on USA Network. What originally drew me to the show was not only the chemistry of the cast and the character interactions but also the balance between individual episodes and the overall story arc of each season. Each episode gave as much attention to the actual case in a given episode as it did to the character development and overarching theme. While the cases were often predictable (a norm with crime shows), they were also suspenseful and unique. They were also ordinary; unlike its spinoff NCIS: Los Angeles, where every episode involves a case that threatens the safety of the entire country or world as we know it, the cases in NCIS are not over the top.

The characters were never really developed in the first six or seven seasons; DiNozzo remained as boyish as ever, Gibbs was a complete mystery, the question of whether DiNozzo and David were ever going to hook up was unanswered, etc. Recently, however, character development has been the emphasis of the show, with complex backstories being unveiled every single episode. Each character’s past has been explored within the past three seasons, and often the explanations were unsatisfying and felt forced.

For example, Cote de Pablo’s character Ziva left earlier this season. Ever since Ziva first appeared in season three, the show has been building up the relationship between her and DiNozzo. In Ziva’s final episode, the way the show climaxed this build up was so incredibly disappointing. Fans had hoped for so much more and felt cheated.

The cases are no longer the focus of the show and have become increasingly more about national affairs, especially terrorism. Each situation is more far-fetched than the last and leaves the viewer feeling as though the writers are running out of material (which is likely giving that the show is on its eleventh season). The last memorable case was the story arc for season eight, the Port-to-Port Killer. Ever since then, the cases all stand in the background to the drama between characters.

NCIS has been going downhill. Does that mean you shouldn’t watch it? No. Am I going to stop watching it? No. I’m curious to see how it plays out even though I know it’s probably going to be disappointing. Even though it’s mediocre in comparison to its earlier seasons, it’s still a great show. People still enjoy it and will continue to enjoy it.

NCIS airs on CBS at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. Reruns are also aired daily on USA network.