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TV Review: NCIS – Navy Criminal Investigative Services – “Cover Story”

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“Cover Story” first aired April 10, 2007

The time has come for a little “come to Jesus” discussion regarding NCIS specifically and television dramas in general. What we typically see on television (including news reporting) is not real life. It was never intended to be. Television is a homogenized, sanitized, autoclaved, and hermetically-sealed product for mass consumption, the greater the mass, the better. As something being consumed, if television were regulated as food and drugs are, it would be scrutinized to the point of banality. But that should offer no comfort because television programming itself ensures almost a bad a fate as it is based on a cultural lowest common denominator, where viewers are throttled by Jungian archetypes so basic that lower level primates can grasp their significance.

The majority of television programming invokes Coleridge’s plea for “That willing suspension of disbelief, which constitutes poetic faith,” in order to more fully enjoy the programs being watched (and again, this unfortunately applies also to news reporting). So, where do we the viewers draw the line for this will suspension? Regarding NCIS, no one in their right, above average IQ, mind is going to mistake the law enforcement practiced on the drama for how it is really done. If the viewer requires that level of fidelity, I recommend The First 48, which shows the grueling monotony that makes up the bulk of law enforcement. But, in a word, that is boring.

Why this prelude to a review of the NCIS episode “Cover Story?” Because “Cover Story” is the least satisfying episode aired in this, the program’s fourth season. The plot of this episode surrounds the plot of Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee’s (Sean Murray) follow-up to his successful novel, Deep Six, which he shamelessly based on his NCIS co-workers. When two murders occur involving two strangers McGee has based characters on in his new book, things get dicey for the team. A mysterious note reveals that one more murder is to occur and the victim is somehow defined in McGee’s unfinished text. The episode is propelled by the need to find out how McGee’s draft was released and who the next victim will be. The leak of the draft occurs from McGee’s discarded typewriter ribbon and the next victim was to be Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette).

The antagonist in the episode is an employee of the coffee shop, Landon Grey (Steve Braun), McGee frequents and where he saw the two people he based characters on everyday. In the mix is McGee’s morally ambivalent publisher, Lyndi Crawshaw (Jayne Brook) and her assistant, Todd Ryder (Wilson Cruz). “Cover Story” compares poorly with more complex episodes such as “Grace Period” or “Blow Back”

The next episode, “Brothers in Arms” will air April 24, 2007. According to TV.com, five episodes remain, including the Season Finale. We should hope the writers are busier creating a provocative ending to this season than they were the plot of “Cover Story.”

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About C. Michael Bailey

I am sanctified and Southern fried, My mama tried and daddy cried; I tell the truth 'cept when I've lied And I like my huevos on the side...
  • Megan

    You know, you can’t bash NCIS for every little bad episode. They try and they do a really good job. “Least satisfying” God, you know i dont see you writing the shows, working really hard to please the public. It’s wrong to criticize when all you do is write articles, unless im missing something there. NCIS is the best, and it shouldnt be bashed!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/c__michael_bailey C. Michael Bailey

    Megan, you are so correct in your position and I am correct in mine. “NCIS” is more entertaining than any of the “CSI” franchise, is smarter than “Criminal Minds,” and has a better, more intelligent sense of humor than the majority of situation comedies. My disappointment arises from “Cover Story,” a soft script for sure, following such a powerful episode like “Grace Period.” Yes, I do just write articles and I am the only writer at Blogcritics that addresses “NCIS.” I don’t expect every episode to be of the same standard. When they are good, I say so and when they are less than that, I say so. I love the show, make no mistake about it. “Grace Period” and “Blow Back” prove that the writers can do better than “Cover Story.”