NCIS – Pay to Play

Really? They flipped their episodes round? You can’t introduce the team to Clayton Reeves now, when Torres was talking to him two weeks ago.

The episode before last was the very worst I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot. What were they thinking? Quinn fantasising about Gibbs, and him letting her?

But we all make mistakes, and the Thanksgiving episode was pretty good. Not old good, but passably good. They seem to feel that Bishop should do her relationships in the Thanksgiving episodes. That’s three years in a row, if I’m not mistaken. I liked her brothers, and they had the best line at the end.

Made the mistake (see, told you!) of checking what people on Facebook thought. Basically that if they are going to be muslim friendly on NCIS, they will stop watching. So that’s reassuring to know. And it appears the new British Prime Minister is a fan.

And then this week we’re back to crap again. Except, if they made the programmes in the opposite order, there is still hope for the post-Thanksgiving one, yet to come. A date for Vance? Well, maybe it’s time. I almost hoped he’d opt for the night security detail.

There is still time to sort this show out! But the scriptwriters need to sharpen their wits and the directing needs to be better. And perhaps if Mark Harmon showed a bit of interest…

Bing and Bowie

I needed this. Having only heard the soundtrack before, I enjoyed seeing Bing Crosby and David Bowie in this video. Bing, of course, is Christmas for me, even discounting White Christmas. Back in the olden days, when Christmas in the television backwater of Sweden meant that you got old films every day, instead of once a week, somehow Bing was always there with one – or two – of his films.

I took a while to appreciate his singing, though. I arrived in Brighton autumn 1977 and noticed that he was appearing at the Brighton Centre a few weeks later. I didn’t go, because he was an old man and I had no interest in that kind of thing. After Brighton he went to Spain to play golf, and died. And then I regretted it, and I have since bought his albums and learned that he was a marvellous singer.

The same can be said about David Bowie, it seems. I have to admit to not being a fan, and in most cases if you played me one of his songs, unless so well known that even I knew the title, I’d not have recognised him. If you’re a fan, I apologise for my lack of enthusiasm. Back in the early 1970s when my friends at school loved him, I had no interest in Bowie at all, and I never changed.

But this Christmas video helped bring his voice to me. I find that when famous singers sing something completely different to their normal repertoire, you are able to discover their voice for what it is; unfettered by what they usually do. If they are truly good, then that will shine through that ‘other’ song. And this is what happened here, when I encountered Bowie with Bing on social media.

I could even see myself trying some regular Bowie now. Any suggestions of where to begin?

The Weatherly glue

Watching Bull this week I had a bit of an epiphany. I’d merely hoped to be entertained, something I was in much more need of after this week’s NCIS. Home of the Brave was a dreadful episode, even if they were dealing with a worthwhile topic like the right for soldiers of non-US nationality to live in America.

They tried. But the writing was poor as was the acting. Although I did come up with a purpose for Quinn. She could be there to be got rid of. The token sacrifice that needs to be made, but which doesn’t upset too much when it happens.

So, Bull. It wasn’t marvellous. But it told me one thing, and that is that Michael Weatherly has the ability to pull a whole team together; on screen, and possibly off screen as well.

I’m pleased to see him, because over the 13 years he was with NCIS, you get used to a person, even when they are not actively admired by you.  I am discovering a long term fondness for Michael.

The loss of him as DiNozzo is not the loss of one character. It’s the loss of the glue that held NCIS together. It’s often been said that Mark Harmon is that person. If so, he’s become unstuck. But I suspect it was that pesky joker, DiNozzo/Weatherly, all this time.

He took his superglue and went off to be Bull. It’s not award winning stuff – yet – but it’s a first season, and they are trying. His old place of work ought to give that a go, because they need it. Glue. And good writing. Maybe even a little good directing and good acting.

NCIS – Bête Noire

I’ve been relaxing with some top-notch season one NCIS. Well, someone has to!

Having previously complimented them on the line ‘I can’t wait to weigh your liver’ there is no reason to mention it again, except I just did, and for the reason that it’s a terrific line. They might not have fully worked out where NCIS was going back then, but they knew how to get there. It’s for stuff like liver-weighing lines and the plot of Bête Noire in general that the early fans were quite so fervent.

I can’t stop being fervent even now, but only as regards the older seasons.

And if part of the reason for writing Bête Noire was to get rid of Gerald, he certainly got a good start to his send-off, without having to be killed. At least, I’ve heard there was someone they couldn’t wait to write out, and Pancho Demmings is the only one who fits the bill. Shame, as I liked him (but clearly slackers can’t be tolerated), but then he was replaced by Palmer, and we like Palmer.

Gerald and Ducky

The plot is very good. The writing and the acting likewise. Kate has warmed up as an agent, and how perfect her love affair with Ari would have been had they both not, well… you know. Gibbs talks about ‘his people’ which is only slightly clichéd. Abby gets to be weird, but she has to do that every now and then. And several of the recurring agents like Paula Cassidy and Pacci have cameos.

Not only are they beginning to show Gerald the door, but for Ari the door opens a little. Enough to invite him back in later. He’s crazy and violent, but in a nicely restrained and almost British way. The type who ‘gets’ steam trains and old cars.

Can’t help but wonder if Gibbs would have got on better with him had Kate not been in the middle.

But we know how that ended.

What’s worse, we now know what they are like today. As Son said recently, when he’d finally caught up with season 14, he wondered if they are ‘taking the piss’ and he has no interest in getting to know the new people. He’s lasted this long, but I agree; it’s not new people we don’t like. It’s having these particular new ones thrust at us in one fell swoop.

So, taking a leaf out of Gerald’s departure, maybe someone could be swiftly despatched elsewhere. No need to kill them.

(Photos © CBS)

Bye Napoleon

So, 2016 has claimed another life (or so it seems). Robert Vaughn died today, on the day we learned that Leonard Cohen had died earlier in the week.

He wasn’t my favourite Man from U.N.C.L.E. but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t fond of him. A little, anyway. I’m trying to refrain from calling him Nappy, but it was a nickname Napoleon Solo used at some point. Maybe it didn’t sound so stupid to them, then… It certainly wasn’t sexy-sounding.

I thought he was very good as the politician in The Towering Inferno. And after that I didn’t see much of Robert in anything. Once, in Prince of Belair, with Mark Harmon, as a not terribly nice man. (Could be why it’s not on Wikipedia..?)

More recently he did well in Hustle, which I never watched, but Daughter loved. It’s quite nice when older actors can come out and be sort of recycled when they are well past retirement age.

And it’s good when the different generations can enjoy the same stars in the same shows.

The Crown

As we grow fonder of the Queen and her family by watching The Crown, Netflix’ own ‘Downton,’ I can’t shake the image of the 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth having to feign interest in cheese in Waitrose in her son’s pretend town. I found that somewhat sad even before this blockbuster soap on Netflix, but it’s seeing ‘first hand’ what this woman had to go through, and all so she could be taken to Waitrose seventy years later.

It’s fun, though, and informative, even for someone who used to follow royal news rather more than I do now. They have done well in finding an actress who convinces as the Queen. Claire Foy is sufficiently non-famous for it to work, while Matt Smith as the Duke of Edinburgh is perhaps a little too much Doctor Who. Although, the same could possibly be said about the Duke. I find myself liking him a lot more now.

I noted that the Guardian review used a lovely Christmassy photo, but they failed to see that the woman in the centre was Princess Margaret, and not the main character (who I suspect was the one hidden behind her husband). But that’s good, as I said, since it indicates the series isn’t full of superstars, who might make us forget the Windsors.

The Crown, Netflix

Claire Foy manages the posh accent quite well, but the rest of them get by on just sounding English, which I presume is enough for an American audience. Can’t help but feel that the Duke of Windsor came across a bit Alan Bennett.

So far we have only watched a few episodes, going on the principle that it isn’t good for you to scoff all of it in one or two sittings. We’ll string it out for a week, at least, interspersed with our normal television diet.

And unlike the Resident IT Consultant, I have no problem with a programme featuring people who are still alive. It’s what you do with them that matters.

I wonder of the Queen watches? Does she have Netflix?

(Photo © Netflix)

How to introduce new NCIS team members

The most disappointing thing about the lack of a new NCIS episode this week was how little disappointment I felt. Where once I would have waited for a new episode with baited breath, and would have been quite upset at a delay (I’m guessing we might have to miss next week too, for some reason…), I barely minded. All I felt was that I had expected to watch something that evening, and I had a slot to fill.

So I watched Silver War, episode four from season three. It’s where Ziva becomes the new member of Gibbs’s team. We’ve already met her, but this is when she starts work.

Ziva

Silver War was never a popular episode with me, so I’ve watched it less than many other episodes. But hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it was amazing how great I thought it was. Well written, and reasonably well acted. It has a lot of little sub plots, which give it some depth. And whatever you thought of Ziva, she was well introduced. She behaved like a creditable addition to the team, albeit a foreign newbie. No particular hang-ups that disturb the pace, and the viewer isn’t left wondering what on earth possessed them to create Ziva, or to hire Cote de Pablo to play her.

NCIS was still having to prove itself back then. Presumably that’s why they took care in choosing a replacement for Kate. They needed to persuade fans that this was good.

It’s a pity they forgot this. I’m almost tempted to say we need Donald Bellisario back.

I love the way DiNozzo comes into work to attend to his morning ablutions. Jenny Shepard’s reaction to Gibbs giving her his coffee. The involuntary ‘bath’ for McGee and Ziva. The latter’s dangerous driving. The way Ducky actually doesn’t remember the beautiful doctor, or falls into her trap.

Abby © CBS

OK, there were inconsistencies. Clearly DiNozzo Sr has never been into Civil War Reenactment, but it fitted the plot, so he was. Abby has been given orders to dress properly. She is devastated, but recovers unusually quickly after that. And you knew from the fact that Gibbs handed Ziva her weapons back that they’d be needed.

But, looked at from the height of season 14, this was one fabulous episode. The way things are going, I’ll be sticking to season three.

(Photos © CBS)