Archives for posts with tag: NCIS

I started watching NCIS from ep one for one reason. I fell in love with David McCallum’s looks and acting, when I watched him as Sydney’s father in the excellent but largely unsung science fiction series VR.5. In addition to its fabulous cast, it was absorbing and a little too far ahead of its time. So McCallum’s addition to another great cast drew me in and I’ve been watching NCIS from ep one.

McCallum’s character, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, has gone through many experiences over the course of the long running series. He’s always been charming and a bit eccentric. As his character progressed, we learned that, in addition to his keen intelligence, he is resourceful and a good man to be in danger with, if in danger you must be. It took his involvement with a figurative fallen angel to begin to show his romantic side. Then last week’s episode expanded on that and more.

We now know why such a handsome charmer never married the love of his life. Actually that there was a love of his life. Even that he doesn’t like bow ties, and why he wears them anyway.

What we don’t know is why the much younger Alice Krige was cast as said love. With her unusual beauty tweaked, it worked. Star Trek: The Next Generation tweaked her right into scaring us to death as the Borg Queen. So turning her into a Ducky contemporary must have been a piece of cake compared to that. Particularly since David McCallum certainly doesn’t look 81! Maggie’s acerbic demeanor contrasted beautifully with her softer attitude toward “Donnie”. They made a lovely and believable couple that might have been. So much so that I hope we haven’t seen the last of her, or of the dreamy romantic side of Ducky, as fully revealed in their final scene.

NCIS Clip: Over My Dead Body

I don’t watch anywhere near as much TV as I used to. Over recent years I’ve whittled it down to a few favorites that go on for season after season, and tend to try one or two new shows a year. This time the new ones are The Crazy Ones and Almost Human, both of which I really enjoy.

The ones I’ve watched the longest from day one are Criminal Minds, the NCIS twins, Once Upon a Time, and The Big Bang Theory. Newer finds are Haven, Warehouse 13, Falling Skies, The Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. And I have to throw in occasional bouts of Spongebob, because that’s the perfect show to chase away minor annoyances with its goofy yellow giggles.

Futurama deserves its own special difficultified category, because I love it so much. This year brought an awesome season that they insist really was the last one. At last. I add a whispered maybe, because it’s returned from the dead before. More than once…

Um…turns out I still watch quite a lot of TV. I guess I used to watch so much that the pruned back current version seems positively sparse. It seems like less since the seasons tend to be shorter and some series are summer only or split into two separate parts of a single season.

There’s usually an episode or two of all that I watch that take an emotional toll. This year has had so many that it’s been gutwrenching.

The worst one that comes to most minds is probably The Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding. That was absolutely a shocker, though I’m not as deeply involved as most fans. I’ve never read the books and only started watching the series because Sean Bean was in it. We all know how that ended after one season. I now refer to his character as Dead Ned’s Head. I didn’t watch the most recent season for quite a long time after it aired, so I’d picked up the general drift from frenzied wailing and gnashing of teeth that blew up Twitter. Then when I watched it, I’d thought it was one episode later than it was, and blindsided myself with watching it unexpectedly. It was painful, gory, and perhaps Michelle Fairley’s finest GoT moment. If a character has to go, it’s nice when their swan song is a tour de
force.

Whether he’s Rumple or his Storybrook counterpart Mr. Gold, the baddie we’ve loved to hate has had a rough Once Upon a Time season. His journey has had enough twists and turns to make even The Dark One queasy. His reunion with Pan led to the kind of twist/reveal fest that makes TV shine, and the road that led him down made me tumble into a rabbit hole lined with alternating layers of admiration and disappointment, until he redeemed himself grandly. The final fatal twist left me horrified, though if next season’s preview was to be believed you can’t keep a great bad guy down…or doomed…for long.

NCIS did it to me twice. I was sad to see Ziva leave, but devastated when near the end of the previous season they killed off her father. I’m a huge Michael Nouri fan and always looked forward to his appearances as the complicated, sometimes difficult, always riveting Eli David. Blindsided, horrified, jawdroppingly disappointed. I kept waiting for it to turn out to be a ploy…still waiting…not really waiting anymore. Sigh.

And then there’s The Walking Dead. I didn’t start watching that until they were at the farm. Just had a chance to figure out pretty much who everyone was…in time for Sophia to go into the barn. Daryl is my favorite character there. I was impressed with Norman Reedus all the way back to Dark Harbor, and that drastically increased from watching him on The Walking Dead. It’s probably easy to see this next part coming. My second favorite character? Why Hershel, of course. By the time the fall season finale was through with me, I was left wondering if I want to continue watching a show that can hurt me so much. Ridiculous, isn’t it? To feel so devastated by the fate of a fictional character. There it is, though. Hershel put the human and the humane in what was left of humankind, as the zombie apocalypse wore on year after year. The walkers walked on and the infected living fought to live. It’s one thing to fight against herds of unknowing undead, another entirely another to go up against a broken, depraved, vulnerable, psychopath like the Governor. First the can’t look away little girl in the flashflood walker trap and then the didn’t look away fast enough brutal, grisly (senseless?) use of Hershel as a way for the Governor to discharge at least the raw, initial explosion of grief and rage over losing a second little girl to the new normal. That sequence seemed to go on and on, leaving little room for satisfaction in what came after. I’ll probably keep watching the show. It’s got a rare finger on the pulse of the place where bloody horror meets humanity at its worse…and finest. But I’ll be wary from now on, watching for the defining moments that gut me where I sit.

So it was a difficult TV year. I’ll hold out at least a little hope that 2014 will bring a little glee for Daryl and Michonne shippers, a fun and adventurous reboot for transplanted Storybrookers, and for Joffrey to fall face first into a dung heap…full of flies…with his entire kingdom watching…at the very least. However, at the same time I’ll be bracing for a not so charming ever after, for the rest of the Starks to fall into new ruin, and a new big bad that makes the Governor look like Gandhi. At least one of those shows will still manage to blindside me anyway.

I hope.

*Spoilers for this week’s NCIS episode!*

In my previous post Killing Off Characters, I wrote about doing it in novels and feature length screenplays. I just watched tonight’s outstanding NCIS episode, and find myself compelled to write about when a TV series does it to a character I love. A view from the other side of the fence, as it were.

Oddly, the same series triggered that other post. They left Ducky lying on that beach for months, and I was really wanting him to still be alive the next time a new episode aired. Cliffhanger time isn’t measured the same way as regular TV episode time. Cliffhanger waits are more like regular episode waits…squared. At the end of Ducky’s, he lives on to make me smile over his one-sided conversations with the nonverbal guests in his morgue.

I am very much afraid Ziva’s very complicated father will not fare so well. He is more likely to be on the receiving end of a Ducky soliloquy to the dead. Or is it actually a soliloquy, in the presence of another character, even a dead one? A ponder for another time.

Watching Eli David struggle with problems ranging from attempting to create peace from chaos to trying to connect on a deep level with the daughter he obviously adores despite his often contradictory actions, it’s impossible to resist being drawn to such a complex character. The writing is faceted and compelling, but for me it is the multilayered performance of Michael Nouri that makes it so riveting. I’ve been a great admirer of his work for several years, and am often moved by his ability to convey emotion with the simplest of gestures and expressions. I look forward to his guest appearances on NCIS, and would hate to see them end.

So, my writery brain latches onto the tiniest hint and hopes that there is more to come. Perhaps a plot twist I can only play guessing games with will keep the character around to wreak havoc and heartache another day. That’s what the words “To be continued…” always mean to me, until it becomes clear that in any particular case dead really does mean dead.

In a different sense, it’s interesting to be on the other side of the magic curtain made of words and flickers of light.  Of course I hope to someday have my own words and flickers of light absorbed by the masses in our entertainment hungry world. I realize that when I’m absorbed in writing, I’m thinking of the characters and what works best for their particular stories. It’s like tunnel vision, with the real world outside their microworld invisible to me even as I live in it, while I write.

A small part of that process knows that there are three layers of people to consider–the characters, their creator, and their readers/watchers. It’s really only when I am solely the consumer of someone else’s work that I’m hit hard by the idea of how much responsibility writers actually hold. It falls to them to make decisions of fictional life and death. If they get it right, no matter how much a character’s death may be a blow to the reader’s/watcher’s gut, it will still be a satisfying experience.
What NCIS did tonight is a fine example of making it count…assuming “To be continued…” doesn’t actually end up meaning Ziva’s dad, as well as the episode.

I just came across this article about last night’s NCIS season premiere (spoilers galore) that touched a writery nerve. The question it raises is about killing off characters.

Is it a good idea?  Depends on how devoted you are to what’s technically best for the story.

Minor characters need to go periodically in novels and feature length screenplays . That kind of thing drives the momentum forward, adds dramatic oomph, and, frankly, thins the cast herd when it starts to get unweildy.

Star Trek was brilliant about this, to the point that it became a pop culture gem. Red Shirts can be planted from the get go. It makes it easier to send them to their doom, if you know it’s inevitable for pages and pages. Makes more of an impact, though, if nobody sees it coming until they have one foot out the literary airlock.

Major characters require more finesse. Sometimes the person at the keyboard is so emotionally invested in a character that they can’t even consider offing them. Other times the central character is created with the intention of their death inherent before a single word is typed. Even so when the time comes to actually write their death its almost impossible to lower the boom, as it were.

That’s when the hard thinking kicks in. The attempt to reason with the part of your brain that knows the entire long process that lead up to the moment of doom was your idea in the first place.

Can you weasle out of it at the last minute, because you love your character with all but one foot in the grave so much? Of course you can. If you must. Should you?

I think the really true answer to that question is only if you can write a sequel that continues the character in such a way that all the word weaving contortions it will take to justify why they’ve survived their brush against the grave to become a zombie character was worth it.

I tend to build entire elaborate plots around characters specifically created to die by the time of fini. All of my screenplays are like that.

I unintentionally developed death as a recurring theme in my writing. Perhaps because I had a lot of relatives die when I was a child, and began pondering the whys and hows at an early age. I don’t regret it. It provides a backdrop for rich, emotional storytelling.

I have a novel (one of the projects that’s garnered wonderful compliments I’ve mentioned before from TPTB, but no golden ticket…yet) that gave me perhaps my favorite character I’ve ever written. I fell in love with him. Then I realized I had to kill him.

I fought it, mentally kicking and screaming. I looked at it from every angle and couldn’t land on a way out that would honor the character and all I’d put him through. And then I did some of my best writing ever to do him justice. And do him in.

It comes down to  what’s right for the story and the characters that drive it. Because in the end, when they’ve become “autonomous “…accomplished what Stephen King calls getting up and walking around…the characters take over that place in your gut that knows what’s best. Somehow, once you trust them enough, the characters know what they’re doing.

If they decide on a death scene, whether a dramatic event or sighlike whisper, it’s up to the writer to oblige them with a shove off a proverbial cliff or by holding their figurative hand as they slip away.

The new fall TV season is getting close enough that it’s time to start up the anticipation machine. In high gear.

While I will admit that some shows are best limited to runs of a few years, others can sail on into infinity and I’ll happily watch.

A few of my favorites–

Fringe–Top of the heap. I went from mildly enjoying it to “can hardly wait for every episode”. Science tends to interest me, so of course Walter’s version of fringe science fascinates me.

It caters hugely to the most curious centers of my brain. The ones involving Observers, the guy who played Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows so very creepily, and watching Leonard Nimoy inhabit William Bell, the anti-Spock if ever I saw one.

While on the subject of catering…it’s always a smart idea to refrain from watching and eating at the same time. In the way of walking and chewing gum, it just might make you fall down…on your way to the bathroom to throw up!

John Noble deserves awards for his work on Fringe. Most Endearingly Tragic Not Quite Right In the Head Super Scientist. At the very least. Funny how having part of his brain removed by his best friend made him a better person

And funny how Pacey grew up to be such a charmingly romantic mad genius’ son…and a bit of a chip off the old block. Depending on which version of Peter you consider. But then I lost track of exactly which Peter I was seeing and how many Olivia’s are roaming the multiple universes at any given moment somewhere in the middle of last season.

You know what? I don’t mind a bit.

Once Upon A Time–I fell in love with this one from the commercials.The people in charge know how to create lush visuals, fascinating characters, and storylines that keep me guessing.

The costumes alone deserve their own accolades. Regina looks appropriately evil whether in Storybrook or storybook land. And I still want to raid her closet.

I want to visit Mr. Gold’s shop.

In fact I’d be happy to vacation in either reality. As long as the big bads were all toned down for the duration and the happily ever after potential did a preview show while I was there.

And I remembered that even apples in tart form are not to be approached lightly.

The NCIS twins–I started watching both because favorite actors are among the casts. David McCallum is priceless as Ducky on NCIS, as is Linda Hunt as NCIS:LA’s Hetty. I’m still watching both these excellent series all this time later. ‘Nough said.

Criminal Minds–Another cast related choice. I’ve loved Mandy Patinkin’s work since Yentl. He was amazing on Chicago Hope. And he has a true gift for singing, which I know in detail from having a number of his CDs.

I’m fascinated enough by the series’ criminal psychology storylines to remain a fan even this long since Patinkin’s deep well Gideon departed. The cast remains strong and the storylines remain fresh, which can be a problem with long lived TV dramas. The story they did a while back guest starring Harold and Maude’s Bud Cort was so outstanding that it rebooted the entire series for me.

Keep it fresh, keep it surprising, keep the audience. Criminal Minds knows this mantra well.

I can’t cover TV I’m looking forward to without mentioning Downton Abbey. I love it so much I simply cannot wait for more. Unfortunately, I have no choice since the new season doesn’t start until early next year.

The absence of new series is intentional. I can’t decide what to try. If anything. It seems to have been all but proven by fall seasons past that at least half the new shows I fall in love with get cancelled before I’m finished with them.

Often before I really get started….