Directed by Dennis Smith et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 836 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 stereo surround English
MSRP: $ 55.98
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Review Date: August 24, 2008
Continuing to maintain great popularity in the face of heavy competition from the other networks, CBS’ NCIS had an above average fifth season. With the continuing story arcs dealing with the pursuit of French arms dealer “The Frog” and an agent’s undercover operation with his daughter concluded in the season premiere, the series was then able to concentrate the remainder of its time on mostly close-ended stories with only occasional moments in episodes which hark back to earlier situations in the series.
The Naval Criminal Investigation Service is a branch of the military investigating crimes committed against military personnel. Though most of the crimes involve murder, there are occasionally kidnappings to solve or missing persons to find. The series doesn’t rely heavily on forensics (though forensics naturally do play a role in the solutions of the crimes), but the one thing that NCIS has going for it that most other procedural shows lack is the playful and loving camaraderie among the members of this unit. True, Mark Harmon’s Jethro Gibbs is mostly taciturn, a man of few words though he has occasional soft spots for certain members of the team, and NCIS director Jennifer Shepard (Lauren Holly) is also stolid and lacking a sense of fun. But all of the other members of the team are playful with each other and bond in a way than none of the other procedural teams on television quite do. We have office lothario and eternal cut-up Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), his usual teammate and verbal sparring partner Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), computer whiz Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), forensics specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), and medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) Also playing a greater role in this season’s episodes is Dr. Mallard’s assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen).
A few episodes were really standouts this season. An exploration of a ghost ship by the team makes worries about airborne viruses on board a nail-biting ride and my own personal favorite for the season. Gibbs’ bittersweet memories of his dead first wife and daughter give “Requiem” an unexpected poignancy leading to a very touching conclusion. Information about DiNozzo’s love affair conducted during working hours last season make a lot more sense in retrospect as two episodes this season see the return of Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson). Secret use of steroids to enable a marine to qualify for the service found the team being battered by this “superman.” And, as is the clichéd custom of most shows currently in production, we have a monumental cliffhanger to close the season suggesting major changes for season six (though one doubts CBS will tinker very long with one of its most successful shows).
Here are the 18 episodes which constituted the shortened season five of NCIS. Those episodes which contain commentaries have names in parentheses next to the episode title.
1 - Bury Your Dead (Michael Weatherly, Patricia O’Hara)
2 - Family
3 - Ex-File
4 - Identity Crisis
5 - Leap of Faith
6 - Chimera
7 - Requiem (Mark Harmon, Shane Brennan)
8 - Designated Target
9 - Lost & Found
10 - Corporal Punishment
11 - Tribes
12 - Stakeout
13 - Dog Tags (David McCallum, Brian Dietzen)
14 - Internal Affairs
15 - In the Zone
16 - Recoil (Cote de Pablo, James Whitmore, Jr.)
17 - About Face
18 - Judgment Day - Parts 1 & 2
These anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 transfers are down converted from the 1080i network broadcasts. As in previous seasons of this show on DVD, the image quality is spotty. The show is filmed with a softer focus than other network shows, and this sometimes wreaks havoc with color values making some look natural and others looking plugged up and hot. The grain structure is also erratic sometimes seeming natural and film-like and at other times intensified into a really ugly image. Fans of the show are used to this look by now, but it’s always a bit off-putting to watch an episode seesaw back and forth between nice clarity and disconcerting smear. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix mostly uses music to fill out the surround channels. There is an occasional use of ambient noise in the rears, but it isn’t consistent, and the subwoofer doesn’t get much of a workout either.
There are four audio commentaries contained in this season’s set. Michael Weatherly brings along his mother to sit in on the season premiere, and he’s much too busy asking her questions about her opinions of the show in general than offering much information about the episode at hand. The other three are all fairly standard issue with James Whitmore, Jr. showering the cast with compliments while Cote de Pablo chatters away. The McCallum-Dietzen talk was probably my favorite even though episode # 17 might have been a better one for them to narrate.
All of the featurettes in this set are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“Requiem Revisited” spends 10 ¾ minutes discussing the making of the show’s highest rated episode ever. Present are the show’s writer, producers, director of photography, stunt coordinator, and actors Harmon, De Pablo, and Weatherly.
“NCIS Stem to Stern” gives a broad overview of the entire season, designated the “season of answers” by the show’s producers. Most of the featurette's 17 ¼ minutes is spent with each of the principal actors discussing his character and the growth of the character from the beginning until now.
“The Dressing Room” has the show’s two wardrobe supervisors discussing the difficult job of providing clothes for so many principal cast members. We are given a tour of the costume department (where we see racks for all the main characters as a supervisor discusses each individual look) and the tailor shop where clothes are made or altered. This feature runs 14 minutes.
“NCIS on Location” is an interesting featurette detailing the mountain of work required to film on location in downtown Los Angeles masquerading as Washington, D.C. The focus is on the locations for the “Stakeout” episode going from script conference to location scouting and then the logistics of getting the cast there for filming. This lasts 10 minutes.
“From Pauley to Abby” is a 10 ½-minute trip with actress Pauley Perrette as she gets her hair styled, her make-up applied, and her tattoos affixed so she can become the character of Abby on the show.
An above average season with consistently good work from almost all of the principals (excluding Lauren Holly who is one of the poorest actresses on network television) will make this season five box of NCIS a must for fans. Quality is on par (but no better) with previous season sets of the show, and the extras are slightly above average.