To Watch NCIS or Not to Watch?

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by Ann Giles

We were driving along, when The Husband suddenly said ‘do you think we really ought to be watching NCIS?’, but what he meant was we shouldn’t. That NCIS is not the sort of show people ‘like us’ ought to be watching. We’re condoning US politics, not to mention various American federal agencies.

I felt that after seven seasons it was a little late to be closing any stable doors, whatever one might think of the show. And as I love NCIS - almost - above everything else (I am quite fond of my family), it’d not be a good thing to give up. So I pointed out that it is actually fiction, albeit on screen instead of a book.

And since we seemed destined to have an ideological debate, again, I used my other trump card; ‘well, if Sara Paretsky can watch it and admit to it in public, then so can we.’ I had already made my feelings clear, both on my culture blog and in my piece on the Guardian’s television blog. Since we are all entitled to enjoy light entertainment I really do feel there is nothing wrong with watching NCIS. I don’t see how my not watching would right any wrongs in the world. I’d just be a little more miserable.

Though I have to admit to being not only surprised but relieved when two years ago V I Warshawski’s creator wrote in a short story that “looking for his bank accounts was a harder job. On NCIS and some of those other crime shows, they make it look so easy: you don’t have time for a search warrant, so you tell McGee and Abby to hack into the accounts. But that means you have to know what banks the person is using, and then, when you finally—at eleven-thirty—have found the bank, you have to get through the bank firewall.”

Later Sara blogged about her impending book tour saying “I have a problem: I’m supposed to start my tour for Hardball on September 22, but that’s also the season premiere for NCIS. I confess that I’m a fan. Some of my friends say the dialogue is wooden and the action predictable, others that the show is hard on women, but I still love it. Because we left Ziva in a Somali torture cell, I’m not sure I’m strong enough ... to read from Hardball while her fate is in the balance.” After this confession her fans ‘came out’ en masse. It appears we are all fans, more or less.

If someone of Sara Paretsky’s standing can enjoy the show, then so can we. She’s on the FBI’s ‘hitlist’ or whatever you want to call it. I’m sure she likes FBI Agent Fornell as much as the rest of us do. And Fornell aside, this is about NCIS, the Navy cops. As the cast repeatedly point out in interviews, the caper is the least important aspect. The show is about the characters and their relationship to each other. In short, they’re family and we care what they get up to. Yes, some of the stories are a little heavy on dubious politics and Agent Gibbs has killed too many people,but...

It’s not coincidence that NCIS is viewed by over 20 million people every week. There is something in it for ‘all’. The characters like each other and work together. The actors also like each other and enjoy their jobs. And as Mark Harmon who plays Gibbs said in an interview last year; he feels responsible for the two hundred or so people the show employs. That’s the right attitude to have.

They have work. We have entertainment. Long may it continue.

Whoops sorry wrong clip.  Here's the right one ...

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