JAG: The Eighth Season
Directed by Kenneth Johnson et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 1052 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround English
MSRP: $ 64.99
Release Date: March 17, 2009
Review Date: March 8, 2009
The eighth season of JAG was the last season the program landed in the Nielsen top thirty shows on broadcast television (it finished 22nd for this season). One of the reasons for the show’s slow fade in the ratings after this year was that during the season, the show presented a back door two-part pilot for NCIS, and the next season, NCIS was given JAG’s plum Tuesday night timeslot. Those episodes, “Ice Queen” (Part 1) and “Meltdown” (Part 2), are among the strongest of the season and provided a masterful foundation for the show that has now become one of CBS’ top-rated series.
Still, with JAG now slowly winding down, its popularity on CBS was still secure enough to continue presenting its cases assigned to the Judge Advocate General’s office with hearings and court martials covering everything from sexual harrassment suits to stealing Navy secrets for work in the private sector. As in earlier seasons, not all episodes revolved about courtroom activities. The season premiere had nothing to do with a trial as fan favorite Lt. Bud Roberts (Patrick Labyorteaux) stepped on a land mine and blew off part of his right leg. The episode featured his life and death struggle during two operations for the amputation of his leg and the removal of his spleen, all the while various principal characters had flashbacks to memorable encounters with the lieutenant during happier days. Another one-off episode (“Each of Us Angels”) found the entire cast once again playing completely different characters in a story set yet again during World War II (this time during the Battle of Iwo Jima). Romances for the two principals had ended during the previous season, so that aspect of the show was less focused on this season. Only Admiral A. J. Chegwidden (John M. Jackson) was shown in an on-going relationship, and it was played quite a bit early on for comic effect. Otherwise, it was the work that seemed to provide the greatest feelings of satisfaction for the members of the judge advocate general’s office.
David James Elliott returns for another season as Commander Harm Rabb. Catherine Bell is back for another go-round as Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, and for much of the season, their sexually flirty rivalry maintained the public’s interest in seeing the two characters connect more directly on a personal level. At different points during the season, these two advocates were assigned the judge’s role in different cases, both times finding it a difficult fit with their continual friendly rivalry causing some friction in the courtroom. We also enjoy once again two returning regulars assisting in the office, Petty Officer Tiner (Chuck Carrington) and Roberts’ wife Harriet (Karri Turner) who was given a lot more to do this season as she not only assisted in the office but had her hands full with her husband‘s rehabilitation.
A few new recurring characters were added to the cast this season: the rather humorless Commander Sturgis Turner (Scott Lawrence) and the aptly professional Lieutenant Commander Tracy Manetti (Tamlyn Tomita) both had important roles to play in various cases during the season. Admiral Chegwidden’s new love interest was Meredith Cavanaugh (played by Isabella Hofmann). Though the romantic aspect of their relationship did get a little more serious as the season progressed, there were surprises in store for the Admiral during the course of the season and on into the next.
Never a show for focusing on big guest star names, a few did manage to show up during the season including Dean Stockwell (in a recurring role as the new Secretary of the Navy), Doug Savant, David Marciano, William Windom, Terry O’Quinn, Tony Denison, Steven Culp, Gavin MacLeod, Peter Haskell, Greg Evigan, James Denton, Jameson Parker, and Theodore Bikel. From the NCIS pilot episodes, Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, and David McCallum went straight to the series the following fall.
Here are the titles of this season’s twenty-four episodes contained on five discs:
1 - Critical Condition (Part 2)
2 - The Promised Land
3 - Family Business
4 - Dangerous Game
5 - In Thin Air
6 - Offensive Action
7 - Need to Know
8 - Ready or Not
9 - When the Bough Breaks
10 - The Killer (a genuine murder mystery; the best episode of the season)
11 - All Ye Faithful
12 - Complications
13 - Standards of Conduct
14 - Each of Us Angels
15 - Friendly Fire
16 - Heart and Soul
17 - Empty Quiver
18 - Fortunate Son
19 - Second Acts
20 - Ice Queen (Part 1)
21 - Meltdown (Part 2)
22 - Lawyers, Guns, and Money
23 - Pas De Deux
24 - A Tangled Webb (Part 1)
The picture is framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The transfers are variable in sharpness on almost a scene-by-scene basis. Color saturation is adequate, and flesh tones generally look appropriate though they can occasionally be too hot. Much of the stock footage of naval vessels and fighter jets looks terrible, but it always has. There’s some occasional edge enhancement, too, but it doesn’t turn up all that often, and there is occasional flashing and aliasing. Black levels are actually surprisingly good. Most episodes are divided into 7 chapters though a few two part episodes have only 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround audio mix typically places the dialog in the center channel and puts music and an occasional sound effect elsewhere. There is also good use of bass in some of the sound design. Overall, it’s an adequate mix, very typical for the era of the show’s production.
The disc set does offer a 3-minute gag reel in 4:3.
There are previews for Mannix, Hawaii Five-O, and Nash Bridges.
Season eight of JAG offers more of the things that made the show a ten-season fan favorite. The transfers offer above average sound and picture quality, and while the bonuses are light, the box should be a welcome sight for fans of the series.