Wednesday, August 1, 2007
In praise of NCIS
I don’t like fictional programmes based upon current or recent events. I squirm from a disgust at what we humans do and also because these productions feel like exploitation. Dramatisations of 9-11 or soldiers’ lives in Iraq or Afghanistan, for example. I wonder about family, friends and acquaintances of those who have suffered. When it comes to military programmes seething anxiety is doubled. Not only are we supposed to identify with the ‘just cause’ but also endorse the sending of men and women to their deaths. So I don’t watch military drama on principle.
With this as background how do you explain the following? By chance I watched an episode of NCIS on Channel 5. Then another. And another until I realised that I was hooked to the point that, while it wouldn’t stop me going out, I’d be irritated at missing it. It has many of the ingredients I hate. Plots are up to date and based upon national events affecting American military (terrorism, particularly). The boss figure is as patriotic as could be imagined. He believes in truth, justice and the American way (until the bitter end!). Plots are sometimes ludicrous and revolve around extraordinary use of computer hardware and software, extreme forensics and a mix of front edge expertise in its characters.
BUT, it has some of the best scriptwriting around. It has an ensemble playing that transcends everything above. This group of actors could be dropped into any script and would make it come alive. The interplays are sharp and believable. They veer from very un-pc behaviours to moral uncertainties. What is even more important; they grow and mature with each other, refer to previous episodes, bits of biography and underpinning psychological traits. As well as all this, it is very funny indeed. And central characters that you have learned to ‘love’, die.
NCIS is the froth on my pint of human bitterness. I think it is the only light television I bother to watch; certainly the only series. It is the Achilles heel in my snarling, frothing dislike for much of the dumbing down that seems increasingly to clog the multi-channelled screen.
This feels like a confession!