The sins of NCIS

NCIS is a very popular American TV show about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Usually, the procedural style plots involve the ensemble cast solving the murder of the week. I know that it’s just a TV show, and yes, I understand that corners must be cut to make for good TV. But if you pause, for just a second, you’ll begin to realise just how awful NCIS really is.

NCIS often simply ‘makes stuff up’ to solve the plot, maybe the writers are simply ignorant, maybe they believe everything they read on the InterWeb, or worse, maybe they’ve stolen from other badly produced TV shows or movies with technically impossible scenarios. Lets look at some examples:

1. Image enhancement. Oh dear, really! This old chestnut usually involves the amazing Abby Scuito taking some blurry CCTV footage and then ‘enhancing’ a relection in the wing-mirror to get a facial match on the perp. Lets be clear here, if the data isn’t there, then you can’t invent it. Sure, you can change the brightness or whatnot to reveal detail hidden in shadow, but the data must be there in the first place. Otherwise there’d be no need for Crime-stoppers (a UK show – for my foreign readers), where blurry CCTV is shown, usually followed by a sketch and a plea for the audience to come forward if they ‘recognise this man’.

In the clip below, we see an episode of Castle that gets everything right.

2. Computer programming can be frantic fast-paced fun! This next scene is pure comedy gold, here we have two people mashing the same keyboard to stop a computer hacker. Look at all those whizzy pop up screens and stuff, it’s like trying to close a load of porn popups, before someone see’s what you’re looking at.

3. Abby Scuito and her ability to derive impossibly quick results from almost impossibly difficult scientific analyses. Take Abby’s amazing DNA sequencer that spits out a result with a picture of the perp in 10 seconds flat. Come to think of it, would the perky and somwhat annoying goth even be allowed to work in an elite navy unit, wearing all-black outfits, sporting pigtails and refusing to work as part of a team?

4. An ill-informed understanding of technology. Just check out this quite incredible clip.

Amazing, he looks at the screen and exclaims ‘is that a 12 core’. Wow. This woman allegedly has the highest score on (and I quote) ‘almost every massively multiplayer online role-playing game’. That’s quite an achievement, especially as MMORPG’s don’t generally have scores. Couple this with the fact that this lady appears well adjusted and clean, with good body hygiene, and you wonder where she finds the time. I’ve tried to find out just how many MMORPG’s are out there, and I can only tell you that there are a lot of them. Apparently, when Guild Wars 2 was launched, there were 400,000 simultaneous players during the early start.

5. Speed. Everything is done so fast, need to reconstruct a crime scene – bam! 3D visualisation complete. Need a website hacked, call McGee, he’ll do it in less than ten minutes flat… and so on.

Why NCIS sucks

Don’t cry, he didn’t say NCIS was terrible TV!

And yet, despite all these things, this hokey drama about a bunch of navy investigators, is one of the most-watched TV programs in the world. It’s not that I think NCISis terribleTV. It’s just become tired, formulaic, uninspired, and unrealistic nonsense.

I used to quite enjoy NCIS, in it’s first few seasons, but I guess I’ve fallen out of love with it, in much the same way as happened with ‘The X Files’ after season six, ‘Heroes’, ‘The Simpsons’ and even my beloved ‘Star Trek’, with ‘Enterprise’. As NCIS moves into a tenth season, sometimes you can have too much of a once good thing.


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