My family is obsessed with “NCIS.” Or more accurately, my mom and sister are obsessed with “NCIS.” It’s an obsession I’ve never understood, due in no small part I’m sure to my cultural snobbery, but a great deal of that falls on “NCIS” as well. The show is so simplistic; it’s the very opposite of groundbreaking. Basic material getting strong ratings I can understand, but it completely mystifies me that CBS’ marquee show can generate a fan base that rivals devotees of “LOST” in terms of passion.
So a recent Slate article on “NCIS” caught my attention, mostly because it labeled “NCIS” “the smartest procedural on television.”
My reaction to that claim was resolutely negative. And after reading Slate’s piece, I still disagree with it, though I’ve tempered my thoughts somewhat. “NCIS” is not even slightly original and doesn’t do anything particularly well, but it does at least give its audience basic story elements that movies mastered years ago. Its characters have actual personalities – cookie cutter personalities that feel like they came right off the assembly line, but that’s an improvement over the soulless shells that populate the “CSI” and “Law & Order” franchises.
I shudder to call “NCIS” the smartest procedural, mostly because it isn’t actually smart. What it is, however is smarter – smarter than the usual bland fare that network television has been pushing as drama for years, which isn’t a terribly high bar to set.
That’s what brings me to where we are now, at DVR Overflow. First off, thank you for finding your way over to our small corner of the Internet. The idea that people would willingly read anything Kevin and I write is truly flattering. But I’d like to think that more than just chance brought you here.
Hopefully you’re here because you share some of the same thoughts about television that we do, that a seismic shift is occurring in the television world. Years have gone by since “The Sopranos” proved TV isn’t just a means of wasting time, but a genuine medium for art and thought-provoking entertainment. But we’re still waiting for that way of thinking to fully trickle down and permeate beyond HBO and AMC, particularly when it comes to television dramas.
In other words, we’re still living in a world where “NCIS,” the tuna sandwich of network programming, can be believably praised for its alleged intelligence.
I, for one, am looking forward to seeing how American television progresses away from this mindset. I’ll bet my co-blogger Kevin is too, though I’ll try not to speak for him, especially considering he will likely find a much more hilarious way to express himself through something like a “Parks and Recreation” .gif. But regardless, please keep checking us out in the future. I promise you, the next time you drop by, we’ll make sure to talk about a much more interesting show than “NCIS.”
(photo courtesy CBS Paramount)