I'm about to cross over into super-dork territory here (and the audience shouts, "Too late!" in unison), but so be it. I was sitting here last night, clicking between the Angels game and an NCIS rerun on USA, and I couldn't help but think about how much I really like that show. These days it's basically a coin flip as to whether you'll catch it on USA at any given moment, but I remember when it first came on CBS almost seven years I scoffed at the commercials, thinking it looked like just another disposable police procedural. Not long after that I got sucked into the HBO drama factory and plowed through some of the best television ever produced in Deadwood, The Wire, The Sopranos and more, presumably making me even more snobby to case-of-the-week style drama. Then USA went and acquired NCIS and started airing it in three hour blocks right when I got home from work, and it slowly worked its way into my heart. There are some pretty clear reasons why this happened:
1. Mark Harmon
As Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Harmon is the badass that every guy wishes he could be. A former sniper when in the Marines, he's also tougher than the grey hair and usually calm demeanor would lead you to believe. As anyone who's seen The Presidio knows, Harmon even managed to pull off badass next to one of the original badasses, Sean Connery, and that's no small feat. My brother thinks that they waste Harmon's natural charm in a role that isn't exactly gregarious and can seem a bit cold, but I would say they play off of it to show you why his team respects him so much, even while he seems like such a tough leader. Also, it never gets old watching him kick ass when up against it, though usually in a realistic way that includes him getting worked over as well. Yes, I realize I've used "ass" in various permutations four times in this paragraph, but what can I say? This show brings out the G.I. Joe-loving little kid in me.
2. The rest of the cast
There's lots of fighting, gun play and gore, but the real appeal of the show lies in the interactions between the characters, and the people around Harmon all have an easy, sometimes quirky charm that makes you care about what happens to them, adding suspense to scenes that would feel like an obvious win for the good guys on any other show. There have been a couple of deaths by major characters over the course of six seasons, and these guys make you feel every one as if it were a beloved character in a series of books. Which, in a way, they are.
3. The writing
The individual cases are usually interesting, if a little far-fetched at times. What makes the writing really stand out is the effort to build the relationships between the characters, so you understand why they do what they do, and why they care about each other. It seems like such a small detail, but it's really what makes this show stand out, especially when one of the cases directly involves someone on the team. Not many case-of-the-week shows can claim they have back stories and mythology, and it makes it worth coming back to. There's also a lot of goofy humor, and it works all the more because you've seen these people in dire situations with each other.
I doubt I can really convince anyone to watch, but I'm telling you, it's really good. Everyone who knows how much I like to watch egregiously awful horror and sci-fi films may find my opinion dubious, but just go turn on USA for a bit and see what you think. At the very least, Ziva is hot, right?