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STUDIO: Paramount Home Video
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 1070 minutes
• Gag Reel
Donald P. Bellisario’s show about military lawyers…FEATURING FRIGGIN’ CATHERINE BELL, BABY!! WOO HOO! HOT DAMN!!!
David James Elliott, Catherine Bell, Patrick Labyorteaux, Karri Turner, Trevor Goddard, John M. Jackson.
"Yes, ha ha, I can handle the truth…ooh, never heard that one before…"
Prosecuting, defending and investigating the court cases of the military, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps is the Armed Services’ judicial body, and the TV show JAG showcases their stories. JAG centers around Lt. Cmdr. Harmon “Harm” Rabb (Elliott), a hot shot Navy lawyer and former fighter pilot forced to give up the cockpit due to night blindness. Rabb’s colleague is the gorgeous Maj. Sarah “Mac” MacKenzie, a Marine, and together, they travel the world in pursuit of justice for the military. While Harm and Mac are colleagues and close friends, their jobs frequently put them on opposite sides of a case and their nebulous romantic relationship constantly bubbles under the surface but never quite comes to a boil. They work under the direction of their tough as nails boss, Adm. A.J. Chegwidden (Jackson) and together with junior officers Bud and Harriet Roberts (Labyorteaux, Turner), things are never dull in and out of the courtroom.
Ten hut! (Note to privates.)
I hear now and then that there’s some scuttlebutt that JAG is not a cool show to like. Perhaps it’s that it was overly soapy or that it was a CBS show or that it portrayed the military in exceedingly rosy terms, I don’t know. All I know that if it is uncool to like JAG, then I’m gonna be arrested by the ill na na police, because I was a huge fan of this show during its run and I’ve been scarfing up the episodes in this box set three and four at a time when I could just refresh myself with a couple and then crank out a review. It may be that I just go for shows about the military, or that Catherine Bell is quite possibly the most ridiculously hot female on TV of the last decade, or that JAG harkens back to a recent time when it was even conceivable to want to join the military before a guaranteed trip to Iraq or Afghanland became the third certain thing right after death and taxes. But I do have a theory: I like JAG because it’s a Donald Bellisario joint.
"Wow, that was a close one!"
"Shame about Goose."
JAG is Bellisario’s longest running show to date and the latest of a string of great sci fi and action shows that he has either produced on or created, including the original Battlestar Galactica, Magnum, P.I., Airwolf, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Quantum Leap and the current JAG spinoff, NCIS. I grew up loving all of Bellisario’s earlier shows, especially Magnum, Airwolf and Quantum Leap, the latter of which I think is one of the most original and engaging sci fi shows ever on TV. There are several common threads that run through the majority of Bellisario’s shows, in that his protagonists are former or current military personnel, which stems directly from Bellisario’s service in the Marine Corps. A little factoid for you: one of Bellisario’s former Marine colleagues was none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. Bellisario’s shows are also known for mixing action and story deftly, with occasional quirks thrown in, such as Magnum’s “little voice”.
It’s not regulation attire, but I’ll allow it.
In JAG’s Rabb, David James Elliott has embidied Bellisario’s most staunchly patriotic character, as Rabb is about as close to Steve Rogers as any character could get. He’s a committed and honorable lawyer, frequently guided by his passion to the point of foolhardiness, and dedicated to upholding American and military ideals. In the earlier seasons, Rabb was obsessed with finding his father, Rabb, Sr., who had been shot down over Vietnam in 1968. Season 4 picked up with the season premiere episode, “Gypsy Eyes”, with Rabb and Mac in Russia after Rabb had discovered that his father had been a POW in Nam and then shipped to Russia in a prisoner transfer. The resolution of Rabb’s quest allowed him to finally close that chapter of his life and left him feeling a bit hollow as the holidays rolled around in the episode “Jaggle Bells” because he had spent every Christmas Eve at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
"Hey look, it’s Zack and Paula Mayo over there."
"Why’s he carrying her everywhere?"
"It’s sort of their thing…"
Elliott’s costar, (the luscious…I mean, okay, can I just take a quick aside and say, goddamn) Catherine Bell, portrays Mac as an equally dedicated Marine who has baggage of her own in the form of being a recovering alcoholic and former teenage runaway, who also had an affair with her former commander in her posting at Okinawa. She also had a shifty ex-husband who comes back into her life after a decade looking to blackmail her for money to pay off a loan shark and also to get her back together with him. When he’s killed in the episode, “People vs. Mac”, Mac is held as a murder suspect and all of her dirty laundry comes out during trial, which doesn’t sit well with Chegwidden. She also deals with her issues with her father as she goes to visit him on his deathbed in the episode, “Second Sight.” As Rabb has his fighter pilot skills to aid in his service as a lawyer, Mac is of Persian descent (as Bell is in real life) and speaks fluent Farsi, Russian and a couple of other languages which come in handy on foreign missions.
Season 4 also saw the introduction of the late Trevor Goddard as Australian Navy Commander Mic Brumby, who would become a colleague of both Rabb and Mac and an eventual love interest for Mac. He’s immediately at odds with Rabb over Mac’s murder trial when he defends her co-defendant, Mac’s former commander and lover Col. John Farrow (Ben Murphy), and Mic is willing to toss Mac to the wolves in order to get Farrow off the hook. Brumby and Rabb would also spar in future seasons over Mac as Brumby becomes engaged to her, but Rabb is in love with her.
"Hey Admiral, isn’t that Lt. Daniel Kaffee?"
"Huh, he’s shorter than I would have thought."
The supporting cast in the forms of Adm. Chegwidden and Bud and Harriet Roberts provide interesting storylines as well in both the serious and comedic variety. Chegwidden is the no-bullshit head of JAG and is frequently at odds with both Rabb and Mac for various reasons, particularly when Rabb wants to go to Russia to look for his father at the beginning of the season and late in the season when he goes off to return to his fighter pilot career. And also with Mac as she becomes embroiled in her murder trial. Chegwidden has some of his own storylines such as when his Italian daughter is kidnapped in the episode “Going After Francesca” and when he becomes the overbearing advisor on a military movie in “War Stories.” Meanwhile, Bud and Harriet’s storylines are dominated by their impending parenthood. In a comedic twist, they decide to name their son after Chegwidden, but are horrified to learn that his initials “A.J.” stand for Albert Jethro.
Admittedly, JAG can get very – okay let’s say overly – soapy, such as Rabb’s and Mac’s nine-year will-they-or-won’t-they and their individual relationships with other people which never end well, especially Mac and Mic’s engagement in future seasons. And their investigations into various cases can sometimes be wrapped up a bit too tidily, such as in “People vs. Mac” where Mac is exonerated in her murder case by the timely appearance of a loan shark who witnessed the actual killing from a closet. But overall there was a good cast in place here and Bellisario kept the stories coming apace for ten seasons. In fact many of the stories told on the show were straight from real life headlines such as the Kosovo War, Operation Desert Storm, 9/11 or the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. JAG had the distinction of being the first TV show that the military gave their full backing to in terms of access to military equipment, locations and their official endorsement. With this support, JAG was able to tell stories that ranged from many ports of call, aircraft carriers, destroyers or submarines.
I get the perceived uncoolness of this show, but I dug it and still dig it. Sue me.
*English accent* "’Ats right you friggin’ Krauts! Take that!! Boom boom boom!"
"Tower to Rabb, did you say something?"
"Rabb to Tower…uh no, why do you ask?"
The transfer looks great, although the show was shot in TV standard when it begged for widescreen. Sound is also suitably fine. The only special feature is a gag reel. Could definitely have used a couple of commentaries, a behind-the-scenes, hot photos of Bell, something…oh well, some special features you gotta do yourself…