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Featured TV on DVD Review: NCIS: French-language Releases

July 27th, 2011

NCIS - French-language Releases - Buy from Season One, Season Two, Season Three, and Season Four

NCIS, a.k.a., NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, started in 2003 as a spin-off of JAG, a.k.a., Judge Advocate General. I've been able to review the past few seasons of the show as they've come out on DVD, but now the first four seasons are being re-released in Canada with a French-language track. So how were the first few seasons, and will Francophones want to pick up these four seasons?

Season One

After most of the team was introduced in the backdoor pilot episode of JAG, but there were a couple changes from the two-parter to the regular series. Kate Todd, a Secret Service agent turned NCIS investigator, joins at the end of the first episode. Timothy McGee doesn't join till the second disc, while 'Ducky' Mallard gets a new assistant, Jimmy Palmer, late in the season. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this show's consistency is amazing. Even the weakest episode is worth watching, more than once. (Although one could argue that the series doesn't really take off till McGee joins and the chemistry is set.)

The Extras

The six disc set includes an audio commentary track on the series premiere, an 11-minute look at the genesis of the show, a 22-minute look at the characters, and a 9-minute look at the look of the show. That's a good collection of extras, but I would have liked more audio commentary tracks.

The Verdict

While Season One of NCIS is very good, it is the weakest of series and the extras are only good. The casting for the French voice actors is good, for the most part. DiNozzo is a really hard character to nail down. He's got this overconfidence that's used to mask actual competence. Does that make sense? He acts like he's bluffing, in order to fool people into underestimating him. It's a hard tone to get right.

Season Two

Not a lot changes from the first season to this one, in terms of the cast. Timothy McGee was upgraded to a regular starting in the first episode. There are also more episodes dealing with a single arc, which unfortunately was introduced at the end of season one, so I don't want to spoil anything. The quality remains uniformly strong, while on average it is better than the first season. Also, really good season finale.

The Extras

Extras, on the other hand, are a tiny bit weaker, with no audio commentary track, but there are four featurettes this time around instead of three. The first is an 18-minute featurette on Season Two as a whole and the second is a 15-minute featurette on the changes. The Real NCIS is self-explanatory and runs 6 minutes. Finally, Pauley Perrette takes us on a 5-minute tour of the lab. Again, that's not bad, but I want more, especially from a contemporary show.

The Verdict

If you liked Season One, you will probably love Season Two. Besides that, there's not much else that needs to be said.

Season Three

There were three big changes in this season, the first of which actually happened at the end of season two, and there's no way I'm talking about that, because I don't want to spoil it. The second change was the addition of Cote de Pablo to the cast as Ziva David, a former Mossad agent, who joins NCIS. She's an outsider and a lot of humor comes from her lack of understanding of common phrases or failure to fit in with American norms. (It is something that has evolved over the years.) Finally, Lauren Holly as the new the new Director of NCIS in Washington. This is also a change I liked, as I'm a strong proponent of strong female characters on TV and in movies.

The Extras

The extras start with audio commentary tracks on four episodes, two with Don Bellisario, the creator, and two with Pauley Perrette and Michael Weatherly. While the former offers more detailed information, the latter are more entertaining. There are also several featurettes spread over the last four discs. Disc three has a ten-minute featurette on the real NCIS and a one-minute montage of the characters hitting each other. (Not just Gibbs hitting DiNozzo, but that is common.) Disc four has The Round Table, a 12-minute discussion with the creator of the show and four of the producers talking about the show. Over on disc five you will find The Women of N.C.I.S., which runs 15 minutes and discusses the strong female characters in the show. Finally on disc six there is Season of Change, a 16-minute look at the changes that took place over the course of the season.

Now this is what I expect from a concurrent series.

The Verdict

This is my favorite line-up for the show, and with even better extras than the first two seasons, Season Three continues the upward trend is overall quality.

Season Four

I've previously reviewed this series. The only difference here is the French-language track (and French subtitles). There's not much that needs to be added. There are very few changes to begin with. The main cast have really gelled at this point and the chemistry is amazing. Of the four seasons coming out this week, this one is the best, in my opinion.

The Extras

The extras are also better than the other DVDs with audio commentary tracks on six episodes, includes a wider variety of participants. There are two cast round tables, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more.

The Verdict

Season Four is the best season here and the extras are the strongest. Easily worth picking up for those interested in the French-language options.

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