- Buy the DVD
All photos © CBS
Reviewed by Will Harris
CIS” is a series which has only grown in success over the course of its run, but as far as those who are surprised that it’s taken this long to get this popular, you have to understand that it was well earned. It was already tooling along fabulously before its fifth season kicked off, but when things wrapped up with the murder of Director Shepherd and the dissolution of Special Agent Gibbs’ team, there was never any chance that the premiere of Season Six wasn’t going to be a must-see TV event. Indeed, the show is in the Nielsen Top 10, a feat rarely accomplished by a show that’s as long in the tooth as this one, and although you can possibly attribute a certain amount of that success to the show’s increased profile in syndication (stand up, please, USA Network), the credit really belongs to the camaraderie of the cast and the creativity of the writers.
In a panel during the recent TCA press tour, “NCIS” executive producer Shane Brennan discussed how a great deal of the show’s current success is the show’s creator, Don Bellisario, who, in his four seasons as the top dog on the series, offered up numerous story elements that were left to grow. “When I took over the show,” said Brennan, “I just started to harvest those things. There were little things about it that the audience would be crying out to discover, so we just started to explore those things, and as a result, we ended up with a show that changed ever so slightly, and by degree, over those last two seasons, we brought an element of emotion to the show.”
It would be unfair to say that emotion has only just now become key to the show – the show was completely turned on its ear at the end of Season Two, when Agent Katelyn Todd took a bullet between the eyes in the finale – but it’s definitely true that the tone of “NCIS” has gradually turned more emotional. After spending this long with these characters, we feel like we know them, so it stands to reason that we’d be more invested in their actions. During the course of the show’s sixth season, however, we still managed to learn a great deal about the team that we hadn’t known before. Some of it came through extended story arcs, like the Agent Lee saga or the ongoing relationship between Ziva and Michael, but the majority of the background information came courtesy of the one-off episodes.
“Heartland” was not only one of the season’s best episodes but, indeed, one of the strongest in the history of the show – though to take Brennan’s point, its effectiveness is owed to the information that has been doled out during the course of the series. By taking us back to Gibbs’s hometown and introducing us to his estranged father (played by Pa Walton himself, Ralph Waite), we not only scored considerable insight into how Gibbs came to be the man he is today, but in one notable scene which finds him behind the wheel of a classic sports car, we get a glimpse of what he must’ve been like before he started carrying the weight of the U.S. military on his shoulders. In “Broken Bird,” we not only deal with the shock of Ducky being wounded at a crime scene, but we also find out about his experiences in Afghanistan, and it isn’t a pretty picture. DiNozzo gets a strong spotlight episode in “Bounce,” where he takes point on a case rather than Gibbs, and in “Caged,” McGee’s trip to a women’s’ prison makes for top-notch viewing as well.
What will likely be most remembered about Season Six in retrospect is the fact that it included the two-part “Legend” episode, which served as the point of spin-off for a new series, “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Whether or not it proves to be as impressive as the show which spawned it is something which only time can tell us, but the relationship between Gibbs and Agent Callen (Chris O’Donnell) will clearly be fodder for both series over the course of time. It’s also worth noting that the new series will share a cast member: Rocky Carroll, as Director Vance. During Season Six of “NCIS,” the battle of wills between Vance and Gibbs really brought out the best in Carroll and Mark Harmon, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of dynamic will exist with Vance and his L.A.-based team.
Is “NCIS: Season Six” the best season yet of the series? If you’re just coming into the show after having watched the reruns elsewhere, then you may not be able to sense the difference between these episodes and those that have preceded it. For those who’ve been here for the long haul, however, there’s no question about it: the series has definitely hit a new high.
Special Features: We get a pair of audio commentaries, but while we are once more denied the brilliance of the Weatherly / Perrette pairing, Weatherly deserves to fly solo on the DiNozzo-centric “Bounce,” and we still get Pauley – along with Sean Murray – on “Toxic.” The producers have again rewarded the fans with several new featurettes, including “Starting with a Bang” (about the opening story arc of the season), “Bodies of Work” (Brian Dietzen, a.k.a. Jimmy Palmer, gives us the behind-the-scenes story of the fake bodies used on the show), “Horsin’ Around” (about the wild west adventures of the team while filming “South by Southwest”), and “Season Six: Cruising Along,” which basically serves as a wrap-up of the season as a whole. Fans will no doubt enjoy the acoustic version of Perrette’s song, “Fear,” but what they’ll really love is “Six Degrees of Conversation,” a roundtable discussion with the entire cast; it harks back to a feature from a few seasons ago, where we got to sit in on a casual dinner with the cast, but since that was the coolest thing we’ve ever gotten on an “NCIS” DVD, it’s high praise to earn that comparison.