With all of the not-so-subtle clues of how original cast members are leaving the most popular crime show on tv, it hardly seems a wonder that this might be the end of "N.C.I.S." as we know it. But as anyone can tell you, the great crime show has not been the same since the departure of the beloved Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo. And with tvguide.com giving away so many facts surrounding the show, it might only be a matter of time before CBS might actually pull the plug on their biggest ratings attraction. But let's start with the fact that nothing has been the same since Ziva left. For one thing, the writing went downhill; whether you want to blame that on Cote de Pablo for leaving so suddenly, or the writers for frantically struggling to rescue a solid working chemistry between a perfect cast of characters is hard to say. But one thing has been made clear: NCIS without Ziva changed very quickly, and not for the better! For the passed two years (or seasons, whatever!) we've been made to deal with a new character that was impossible to accept, and even more annoying than the repulsive Agent Dornegut, who was painted up to be a significant person only after he was killed. What kind of garbage was that?? Dornegut, or "Dorny" as some characters called him behind his back, was never a solid character in the series, and never meant anything to anyone. When a trailer teased that a significant character was going to be killed that was close to the team, I thought they meant someone who actually meant something! Palmer getting killed was where my money was, even though he wasn't anybody the show couldn't survive without, it could have been a shame to see him to go. But I really wanted to see Bishop bite the bullet in the most violent way, just because she was so damn annoying I couldn't stand her. But it was not going to be her.(Dammit!!) There were those who speculated that it might have been McGee, and I thought that would have been a nasty thing to do to him, seeing as how much crap he put up with for so long, but him getting killed made much more sense. He actually meant something, as well as the fact that I liked him, and he had been through a lot with the original cast, since the beginning. And there was also the idea of Doctor Donald "Ducky" Mallard, who really would have stirred things up if he'd been killed. If you've watched the show long enough, you get the impression that Ducky and Gibbs are very much best friends, and killing off someone like Ducky would have been hard for the cast to break in someone new. Not only that, but the fans might have had a hard time trying to break in a Ducky wanna-be. No, it would not have been pleasant at all. But no, it wasn't any of these, instead it was a pissant who meant absolutely NOTHING TO ANYBODY, NOT-So-Special Agent Dornegut. A person could only wonder why the bigwigs at CBS would do this; was it to indicate that many changes were going to take place, now that Ziva had left the door wide open to almost anything to happen at any given time? Who knows? The only thing that seems to be clear now, two miserable years later, is that the end seems to actually be nigh, and it's not looking good for anybody. Not that it ever does.
I have to admit my discomfort at writing an article like this; I've watched NCIS virtually since the beginning, I admit I missed the first season due to my being married at the time, so there was no chance at me getting time off for good behavior. Ever since Season Two I've been as close to being an expert on the show as anyone could be. Also, I come from a childhood in the 1970's in which cop shows were the ones that ruled the roost, even "Barney Miller", a police sitcom that had great ratings in its day. The original "Hawaii Five-O" started in the 70's, which kids now would shake their heads and wonder how an "old fossil" like me is still alive. That's easy, I'm not as old as you think, but I do have a sense of culture from the directions of my life's experiences. But, hey! I'm getting off the topic, shall we get back to where we were?
Something that's been a pleasant surprise has been the addition of Jon Cryer; whether this is a permanent addition or not remains to be seen, but his character, Dr. Cyril Taft, seems to bring some much-needed levity(comic relief to the kids) to a show that is currently under a lot of pressure to rise up from its own impending doom. Taft is a curious, mousy little dude who gives Gibbs tit-for-tat in any good conversation, be it medical or by-the-by. Gibbs seems to have found someone he can talk to in a close regard the way he would talk to the late, great Mike Franks, played by Muse Watson, or Ducky. There has been some talk, although I don't have anything to help prove that it's true, that it's possible that Taft might well become a regular on the show after the departures of Gibbs and DiNozzo. Like I said, I can't prove it, except that I was in a NCIS-fan chat-room when the idea was pointed out by other chatters. IF Taft does become a permanent character, and the show does last longer than one more season, I'd be willing to watch it, just to see what direction the good doctor goes in. But the problem is, really, that the show is running out of steam, and it's had a great run, longer and better than a lot of shows with an established kind of format get to enjoy. Remember "Magnum, P.I." and "Simon and Simon"? Two great P.I. shows that had great material and great characters, but also ran out of steam in their own time, as well as giving in the demands of new ages of shows; for example, "Miami Vice", which was tailor-made for the MTV generation/crowd, and carried the torch for cop shows everywhere until stupidity suddenly became the new fashion for television viewing. One last show I want to bring up, and I'd feel badly if I didn't mention this, is "JAG", the military/cop show that showed the road for NCIS to take the initiative and run. And good God, did they run! "JAG" was a great show as well, and for the kids who have no idea what the acronym stands for, it stands for Judge Advocate General. I remember that clearly because I was a big fan of that show as well, but only nearly as much as my parents were. You know, "close but no cigar". Like I said, I include JAG as an honorable mention to NCIS for giving them their start.
So far this is what I know, the end is nigh for the best show on tv, but the only question is: when is it going to happen? I stand by what I said, about CBS having given NCIS the green light for 2017, and that's true. But now that David MacCallum has revealed that he's willing to play Ducky for as long as he can, he also pointed out that he'll do it as long as his health holds up. And he has said that he sees himself playing Ducky for one more season. You see, MacCallum is 82, and if anyone has a right to want to retire from a life on tv at this point, it's definitely Ducky. Don't forget, he did have a heart attack in one episode some time ago. Could things like this be signals of the show having run its course and most of its ideas after such a great, long run? I don't know. Do you?
There is one last note I want to consider before finishing this article. How will Abbey Sciuto be written out of the show, or for that matter, Tim "Elf Lord" McGee and Tobias Fornell of the FBI? Unfortunately, Fornell has been looking like death warmed over for what, now, two seasons? Although he's not an NCIS Special Agent, Fornell has been an invaluable ally to Gibbs and his team. I do have real concerns for Joe Spano, whose played Fornell for so long. He's been great to watch and enjoy. But again, what about Abbey and McGee? Will they remain the healthiest of the characters, and be able to part company as colleagues and friends? Or will they face an uncertain end, as too many shows have done in the past when their time is coming to its close? I'm hopeful that Abbey will be able to stay unscathed, and pass from her time at NCIS a respected, beloved character that no one would be able to replace or ignore. I'm equally confident for McGee, but sadly, I'm not one of the show's writers.
Next time, as I continue my articles on NCIS, I'll be writing an ode to Ziva David and her influence on the show, and what it meant to her. And just maybe, MAYBE, I'll be able to point in the right direction as to why Cote de Pablo left the show so unexpectedly. And what she's done since.