21 May 2002 | Metrocrash
Law and Order meets Top Gun!
JAG (Judge Advocate General) is one of my favorite shows. Week after week we see our invincilble-gungho hero and somewhat aloof romatic Harmon Rabb Jr (David James Elliot), pursue terrorists, prosecute, convict, defend and acquit: not-always-innocent scumbags, incompetent sailors and marines, and even his best friend. Its hard to believe Elliot is Candadian born, playing a top American Hero.
I first saw JAG (although I did not really care about it) way back in 1995 when it first aired on NBC, but after 21 episodes (out of 22) and less than spectacular ratings, NBC canned it in the Spring of 1996. NBC refused to air the (still somewhat unresolved to this very day) season 1 cliffhanger finale, although it did air in other parts of the world (More on this shortly). I was a late comer, only captivated by summertime boredom and thus watching reruns on USA network, I realized I loved the show's premise, Law and Order meets Top Gun. Harmon Rabb Jr (Elliot) is Mavrick (Tom Cruise), almost to the letter. He's a tomcat pilot, he's a gorgeous hunk to the ladies, and he's arrogant and reckless. But at the sametime he couldn't be more different from Mavrick: he's a topnotch investigator and litigator, he's determined, he's sophisticated, and he's calm, calculating and sometimes vengefull.
Ironically, JAG's creator, Donald P. Bellisario, himself an former US. Marine, had previous successes on NBC with the Miami Vice predecessor Magnum P.I., and the scifi adventure series Quantum Leap. CBS saw potential in Bellisario's dream, even if NBC did not, and picked it up for a 2nd season, which began airing in 1997, realizing that JAG had a large (and potentially lucrative) following. For years, CBS had been trying to pull itself out of the ratings shawdows cast down on it from NBC and ABC as well as staying ahead of the upstarts FOX, UPN and WB. Today, JAG is among the Top 15 highest rated shows on TV. NBC execs shot themsselves in the foot with JAG's cancellation and are still shaking the heads over.
The show contains stories of American hero's in the Navy, taking real events and writing them into interesting epiodes with war stories and POW tales from Bosnia, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the Cold War with the extinct USSR. It also writes in media feeding frenzies such as Elian Gonzalez, protests involving live fire exercises in Puerto Rico, and last year's Spy plane incident with China. With the tragic events of Sept 11, and subsequent military involvement in Afganistan, JAG's latest season (season 7) now focuses almost exclusively on the continueing military effort to weed out world terrorists writing it into an intricate tale that could be very real in spirit.
The show contains plenty of fascinating film sequences which are often pulled out of cinematic features, to give the stories colorful and exciting action sequences, transitional scenery, and location. The show's producers also insert actual footage recored by the US Military from training exercises, sometimes sending their own photographers to on-duty warships.
Throughout, the show's first season, most episodes were straitforward and hostile. Rabb just did his job, with fire, on the run, never having any remembrance of the previous week's adventure, and a blond female partner, Meg Austin (Tracey something). The season ended with a cliffhanger that never aired in the US, as NBC cancelled JAG. But by the 2nd season, we never knew what really happened in the show's S1 finale (it was later explained, albiet badly in a "flashback" episode in S3). That explanation is: a female officer and lover of Rabb's is murdered, presumably by a stalker. What diehard fans know is that the woman who was murdered happens to be a "twin" of Rabb's new partner, except that they have no familial relations whatsoever to one another...that we know of at any rate. This twin is Rabb's counterpart and princpal character: Sarah "Mac" McKenezie (Cathryn Bell). At first, Rabb had trouble accepting Mac, but gradually a best friend relationship grew between them, for the uncanny resemeblance Rabb sees in Mac to that of his deceased love, but now its created a hell of a sexual tension between the two. Mac herself show's remarkable vulnerability and defiance to Rabb. She's tagged along on his personel "Mulder-like" mission to Russia to learn the truth about Rabb's father who dissappeared during the Vietnam War. In almost every way possible she has kept him inline whenever he screws up, yet when she screws up, she wants nothing to do with Rabb. An interesting tale of melodrama.
Great show, check it out!