NCIS (short for Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is one of the most successful television series ever made with a wide audience spanning different backgrounds and countries. It is no surprise the show is as popular as it is. The series features continuing story-arcs from time to time but the bulk of the series is episodic and the characters are some of the best written and acted on any network show. The plot follows a core cast of characters working to stop many horrible situations from happening and so forth. These characters care about the community, world, and those who inhabit it.
The number one reason to watch NCIS is the characters and the performances the actors bring to their characters. Each actor has one of the best roles on television and it is rare to find so much talent (both on screen and in scriptwriting) on one show.
The writing and directing on NCIS is strong and plays a huge role in why the show continues to be so excellent. James Whitmore Jr. does a particularly great job in the director's chair and has crafted some of the most excellent episodes.
One of the greatest strengths of NCIS is that it remains creative in how it tells its stories despite being a procedural series. The behind-the-scenes creative team is so good at what they do that even with eleven seasons the show feels full of great ideas and genuine energy. While it would make a lot more sense to begin at the beginning of the show there is little doubt that NCIS can continue to gain new fans through re-runs and new episodes.
It doesn't take long to realize the greatness of NCIS is not in the plots (although there are some great ones) but in the characters, the dynamics, and the unique writing and direction that keeps each episode in a special league known as the highest class in television entertainment. To put it simply: If you haven't already started watching NCIS you're missing out on one of the best shows out there.
Mark Harmon is Special Agent Jethro Gibbs. Gibbs is the leader of the entire group on the series and the character is one that brings in charisma, intelligence, and strength to the show (especially through guidance to the other characters). Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) probably looks up to Gibbs the most and he brings the comedic factor on the show up by several notches, and still manages to be a dramatic backbone to the entire show too. As per usual, he's a character known for his many and varied film references. Film buffs can and will enjoy.
Pauley Perrette excels as the lovable and high-energy Abby Sciuto; an interesting character that melds the world of gothic-style clothing design with the kind heartedness found in a genuinely loyal and intelligent woman. Abby is one of the smartest and kindest characters on the series. The eccentricities of the character would seem bizarre in one sense of understanding but make perfect sense when considering who the character is that viewers get to know and love over the course of the show. It's actually difficult to not smile when Abby is on screen.
Sean Murray plays the nerdy but somewhat reserved and solemn Special Agent Timothy McGee. This character is a bit of an underdog in the show (McGee started out in a fairly normal office position) yet there are many moments where the strength and dedication of this spirited man shine through and that is wonderful to witness.
Season 12 continues to explore the new character addition of Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), who steps into the series in place of former star Cote de Pablo. Fans of the character Ziva David were upset when she left the show but actress Wickersham has done a solid job entering into the series core cast of characters. Ellie was a smart and on-her-toes analyst for NSA who leaves that agency to work with NCIS as a ground field agent while using smarts towards figuring out some of the more difficult technical stuff that the team can benefit from.
There's also the tough glue to the NCIS department: Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), who is the one character that manages to keep things running as smooth as possible. Lastly, the show just wouldn't be the same without the eccentric Ducky (David McCallum) and his equally bizarre yet sweet apprentice Jimmy (Brian Dietzen) working on all of the medical examinations.
The season starts with the intense premiere episode Twenty Klicks, in which a naval helicopter with McGee and Gibbs in it crashes after being shot down by a missile and the characters must survive the crash landing, trekking across unfamiliar territory, and stop a dangerous Russian. This season has a continuing sub-plot related to the Russian terrorist and terrorism is one of NCIS's primary storyline focuses this season.
One of the biggest goals of the season seems to be to continue to develop the new addition to the series as a number of episodes deal with developing NCIS team member Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), who only joined NCIS during last season. This season deals with her training preparations as an agent and even has a episode in which her training score plays a big part. Wickersham is an excellent addition to the cast and fits in well with the rest.
Other character-based storylines this season include Abby (Pauley Perrette) starting to go out into the dating world again as she falls for a new employee working at NCIS. This storyline continues to explore the relationship between Abby and McGee. Anthony DiNozzo is still feeling the loss of Ziva David in this season and is dating more than usual and even gets a adopted cat (for an episode). Gibbs also opens up a bit about the loss of Ziva to the team.
Fans of Ducky (David McCallum) will be pleased to know he gets his own character-centric flashback episode in which there is a back-story to his early years living in England. In the episode entitled So It Goes, Ducky travels back to England (along with the aid of Bishop). Remembering his early days, Ducky remembers an early love and meets her once more. This episode of NCIS was an especially romantic one (and it even explains why Ducky wears bow-ties).
There's an episode entitled The San Dominick this season which plays out like an NCIS version of Captain Phillips. Gibbs has to save the day after a pirate overtakes a naval boat. It's a well-done, fast-paced episode. In The Searchers, there's a storyline surrounding the Vietnam war. Gibbs and Ellie help to find out what happened to someone during the war in this emotional, satisfying episode.
NCIS remains a successful and entertaining television series in its twelfth season. The series manages to combine great characters and storytelling. The cast is wonderful and adds a lot to NCIS. Fans will continue to find it to be a well-made program that is worth checking out. The series is still one of the most entertaining series around.
NCIS arrives on Blu-ray (for the first time!) with stunning MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfers in 1080p High Definition and the results are excellent. This is far and away the best the series has ever looked. The presentation quality is superb with great color reproduction, clarity, and detail. Gone are the irksome compression artifacts which could be seen on the DVD's. The boost in clarity is impressive. The cinematography for NCIS is done in HD and it's great to see it in HD on home-media at last. This Blu-ray set is a massive improvement over the DVD editions of NCIS and is a high-quality release.
The audio is presented in lossless quality 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue clarity is excellent. The audio has nice sounding bass and fidelity. This is a nice sounding audio presentation. Subtitles are included in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
Extras:Audio Commentaries: House Rules with Sean Murray, Terrence O'Hara, and Christopher J. Waild, Cabin Fever with Mark Harmon, Bethany Rooney, and Joe Spano
Deleted Scenes: From We Build We Fight, From Cadence Extended Scene, From The Lost Boys Deleted and Extended Scenes
Featurettes: Pre-Flight Jitters: Shooting on Location (9:54), Bad to the Bone (11:18), Rocky Carroll: Director (6:45), Inside Season 12 (24:54), Table for Ten (30:20), and The Number One Drama in the World (7:10)
Best Buy Exclusive Edition Bonus Features (DVD):
Meet McGee (16:47)
Getting Crafty (4:28)
Emily Wickersham Fan Q & A (4:23)
Rocky Carroll Fan Q & A (14:49)
Final Thoughts:Even after so many seasons, NCIS continues to be a massively successful series. It's easy to see why it remains a hit with audiences. The show has great characters and the storytelling is well-done as well. The production is always impressive. Fans will certainly want to continue to see the series. This season continues to expand the role of Ellie (Emily Wickersham), who joined during last season, while offering more great stories with the core cast of characters. NCIS is entertaining television that is well worth checking out. The Blu-ray PQ/AQ is excellent. This is the way fans should want to own it.