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RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 1106 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Gag reel
Take Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Donald Bellisario, frappe, serve with a side of apple pie.
David James Elliott, Catherine Bell, John M. Jackson, Patrick Labortyeaux, Karri Turner, Trevor Goddard.
“So, you wanna get some dinner?”
“I got a better idea, I got us tickets to tonight’s water boarding down at Guantanamo.”
“You don’t find that morally objectionable at all?”
“What? They’re using Dasani…”
Lt. Cmdr. Harmon “Harm” Rabb (Elliott) and Maj. Sarah “Mac” MacKenzie (Bell) are two good-looking military lawyers who take on all of the big cases of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Dealing with everything from courts-martial to murder investigations to missing submarines, Rabb and Mac traverse the globe in an attempt to enforce justice for the U.S. military. And occasionally – okay damn near every episode – there’s a simmering attraction between the two that keeps things interesting, both in and out of the courtroom.
Check out Season 4 (here), where I previously professed my enjoyment of this show, mostly because it was one of Donald Bellisario’s programs. And I may have also included a couple of references and helpful links to a certain former Isabella Rossellini body double. For a solid decade, JAG managed to fly under many people’s radar (yes, I realize the pun) in the public consciousness, yet it remained a top performer for CBS for several years. And out of all of Bellisario’s shows, was his longest running program by a full two seasons over his vaunted Magnum, P.I.
“Commander, get over to G.I. Joe Headquarters ASAP. You’ve got a stalking case to defend.”
“Who’s the defendant, sir?”
“Not much of a stretch with that code name was it, sir…?”
What JAG primarily had going for it was the wide range of stories it could tell, as the real-life JAG Corps deals with all of the U.S. Military’s legal cases all over the world. One episode our heroes could be dealing with allegations of war crimes in Kosovo, then the next prosecuting a rape case in Japan, or tracking down a domestic terrorist in Kansas. Anything having to do with military cases was covered in this show and at the very least prevented JAG from becoming run-of-the-mill in terms of dealing with the same kind of case every week. And frequently the cases that Bellisario incorporated into the show were pulled straight from popular headlines of the time. That’s why seasons in the middle of the show’s run continued to deal with Kosovo, as we were conducting an extended campaign in that country at the time. Later seasons took us to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Admiral, I’d just like to state for the record that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy definitely doesn’t apply to me because every time I catch a glimpse of the Colonel here, I’m always at attention…penis-wise, sir…”
Now admittedly, the show was quite soapy. Lathery in fact. Hell it was a friggin’ car wash at times. But I bought into it nonetheless, mostly because I was interested in the two leads as portrayed by Elliott and Bell. Now I covered in depth both Harm’s and Mac’s pros and cons in the previous review, so I won’t spend too much time rehashing them here. That notwithstanding, however, Rabb was easy to watch as Bellisario constructed him to be the very embodiment of the highest ideals of a military serviceman. Rabb wasn’t corrupted by the tainted stories of excesses and abuses that some of our military men bring upon themselves in reality, like murdering civilians or raping locals, or abusive treatment of prisoners like the Abu Ghraib debacle. Rabb wasn’t a flawless character, as he was previously obsessed with finding out the fate of his father, a Vietnam POW, in earlier seasons. But Rabb is certainly one of the most square-jawed heroes in recent primetime memory. And as things haven’t always gone the military’s way in recent years, it was nice to see what they aspired to be in Rabb.
On the flipside, Mac was a much more flawed character. She had to overcome alcoholism and an abusive childhood and adolescence to make herself into a top military lawyer. Of course, she picked men that were wrong for her like you or I pick our socks in the morning. But like Rabb, she was also a dedicated civil servant. The fact that she could melt lead just by standing next to it was also a plus.
“Uh, Maverick, I’m about to blow up a squad of Taliban, so no, I wouldn’t like to hear about Scientology right now, thanks…”
It’s generally true that if a successful show with attractive male and female leads can keep the sexual tension simmering, but not boiling over, it can sustain itself for much longer. JAG was no exception. Harm and Mac explored every inch of their relationship without exploring every inch of each other for virtually the entirety of the show’s 10-year run. There were subtle and not so subtle overtones to their working and private relationship, but Elliott and Bell had good chemistry and buoyed by that, as well as the variety of stories they were able to tell, the show did reasonably well for itself. Jackson as their boss, Adm. Chegwidden, Labortyeaux as Lt. Roberts and Turner as his wife, Lt. Simms added their own contributions to the show.
Season 5 picked up where Season 4 left off. Harm had decided to resume his fighter pilot career after having the vision problem that previously ended it corrected and subsequently leaving JAG. Meanwhile, Mac was soldiering on at JAG, having all but admitted that she was in love with him. The season started off with the two-part episodes “King of the Greenie Board” and “Rules of Engagement”, where Harm finds himself pulled back into the courtroom when his squad commander killed Russian peacekeepers in Kosovo in the same mission that Harm was flying in. “Psychic Warrior” found Mac and Harm on opposite sides of the courtroom involving a Navy project that used psychic phenomena that went awry.
“Uh sir, you know that what we did up there was completely improper, don’t you?”
“What, you didn’t like doing it at 400 knots?”
“No, it was great sir…several times in fact…it’s just that joining the mile high club while Iceman was fighting for his life against five MIGs was…”
“Among other things, yes…”
In “The Colonel’s Wife”, Harm and Mac journey down to Panama to investigate charges of a colonel smuggling drugs into the U.S. “Ghost of Christmas Past” was a holiday-themed episode where the cast played different roles in a Vietnam era tale about Harm’s father right before he was shot down. And the two-part episode, “Boomerang” had Harm and Bud going to Australia to investigate the reemergence of a Naval officer who assumed a dead Australian’s identity 28 years ago. The B-story to this was that recurring character, Lt. Cmdr. Mic Brumby (Trevor Goddard), and Harm were both vying for Mac’s heart. The season finale upped the stakes when Brumby resigned from the Australian Navy to move back to the States to pursue Mac full time. I’ve always liked the late Goddard, and JAG gave him one of the better characters he played during his career, which was cut short five years ago by a drug overdose.
I tend to find that I liked JAG more than most, even though it was frequently a ratings success. It had a lot of what made Bellisario’s shows unique and while, though not his best show, was nevertheless easy to watch and regularly entertaining.
The show looks good, being shot on widescreen, which is pretty much a must for a show this wide-sweeping in terms of scale and location. Audio is suitably fine. But in terms of special features, all we get is a gag reel. It’s enough to make you go AWOL.