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Featured TV on DVD Review: NCIS: Season Seven

August 23rd, 2010

NCIS: Season Seven - Buy from Amazon

It's year seven for NCIS, a spin-off from JAG, which was a show that lasted a full decade. NCIS has also spawned a spin-off of its own, NCIS: Los Angeles, and so far this franchise has been on the air since 1995 producing more than 400 episodes. Given its ratings, I have little doubt that it will last long enough to cross 500 episodes in total. But after so many years, has the quality begun to slip?

The Show

As a police procedural show, it is a little hard to talk about without getting into spoilers. The individual episodes are not quite as self-contained as shows like Law & Order, but there is an overall story arc in a very slim fashion. The previous season ended in a cliffhanger, as is common for the series. Season six ended with Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) quitting as liaison and returning to work for Mossad, only to be captured by terrorists. The first episode of season seven completes this story, and does so very well. Sometimes cliffhangers fizzle out in the second half, as the writers write themselves into a corner in the first half, and don't have a plan to fix it. That is not the case here, as the season opening is arguably one of the best episodes, as is Good Cop, Bad Cop, which is a follow-up to this episode.

The overall story arc I mentioned involved a Blackwater-like private military contractor run by Colonel Merton Bell. Bell pops up in a few episodes, as does his lawyer, played by Rena Sofer. Actually, the latter appears on the show a lot more than the former, but that's not a problem for me. The arc starts with Outlaws and In-Laws, in which Special Agent Gibbs is forced to deal with someone from his past. In another excellent episode, Endgame, Leon Vance has to deal with Stacy Hirano, an assassin from his past. This episode is helped out by another guest star, Lindy Booth, who plays a potential love interest of McGee. (He has another potential love interest this season, played by Jackie Geary, who actually uses her position as the polygraph operator to see if he is available. It's a serious abuse of power, but she's cute enough that I would let it slide.)

Power Down has the team dealing with a major case involving national security issues. A citywide power outage forces the team to use pre-computer age techniques to solve the case. In Child's Play, the team investigate a research company that uses brilliant kids to play computer games in order to look at military problems from an outside perspective. However, one of these kids, Madeline Carroll, could be involved in something a lot more dangerous than playing games. One of the best guest shots of the year is in Flesh and Blood, which has Robert Wagner as DiNozzo's father. (This is one of a few episodes with an audio commentary track, and it is a worthy choice.)

We are at the halfway point of the season, which is where I think I should stop talking about individual episodes. The private military contractor story arc starts to take a very prominent role at this point, and I don't want to spoil things. Suffice it to say, there is not a single episode that is a real miss and even the weakest episodes have high replay value.

The Extras

Extras on the 6-disc set include audio commentary tracks on two of the episodes. There are also a trio of featurettes on disc three. The first is on the jet pack featured in Ignition. They talk about these things being so cool, but all I could think of was how impractical they are. It's been 50 years in development, and they still only have 30 seconds of flight. The second featurette is on the choreography of the bar fight in Faith. Finally, there's a 12-minute featurette on the show's 150th episode.

The rest of the extras are found on disc six, starting with 26-minute long cast roundtable, with all of the main cast. However, while it is 26-minutes long, it starts with nearly 7 minutes of season highlights with the cast watching, which was unnecessary. There is a 24-minute long look at season seven specifically and the show's seven-year run in general. Personnel Effects is a featurette on a weird aspect of the show, which is all of the "official" photos they need for the show (driver's licenses, NCIS IDs, etc.). It's a very narrow focus for a making of featurette. Sound Investment is about the sound design, which is a more usual making of featurette. Finally, there's a five-minute look at the Gibbs' house set.

Overall that's two audio commentary tracks and about 100 minutes of featurettes. I would have liked to have more audio commentary tracks with more members of the cast. That said, it is a full set of extras and lifts the overall value of the DVD.

The Verdict

There are far too many police procedural shows on TV at the moment, and even if you are a fan of the genre, it would be nearly impossible to watch all of them. NCIS sets itself apart from its competition thanks to its cast, which has amazing chemistry, while the writing is top notch. Season Seven has amazing consistency in quality and the extras are more than enough to be worth picking up.

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