NCIS: The Nineteenth Season DVD Review

4 Stars Despite the odds, the show's momentum continues for another season.

NCIS met all of the challenges set for it in its nineteenth season, settling comfortably into a new timeslot and welcoming new actors to take the place of two veteran members of the cast with nary a ripple to disturb the momentum of CBS’ most popular drama.

NCIS (2003–)
Released: 23 Sep 2003
Rated: TV-14
Runtime: 60 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Cast: Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum
Writer(s): Donald P. Bellisario, Don McGill
Plot: The cases of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's Washington DC Major Case Response Team, led by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
IMDB rating: 7.9
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: CBS
Video Resolution: 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 14 Hr. 52 Min.
Package Includes: DVD
Case Type: Amaray case with leaf in a slipcover
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: 1
Release Date: 08/16/2022
MSRP: $39.99

The Production: 4/5

The nineteenth season of CBS’ most popular scripted series NCIS was a pivotal one: after almost two decades, the series had been moved to a new and later Monday night timeslot and four episodes into the new season, it lost its top-billed primary star Mark Harmon. Naysayers predicted this would be the show’s final season, but like it has done for much of its run, it confounded its critics, thrived in its new slot, and remained as CBS’ most popular scripted series with a renewal for a twentieth season as a reward for a season well done.

The four-episode story arc which began the season wrapped up a serial killer investigation which had been a running story during the eighteenth season pairing Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) with investigative news reporter Marcie Warren (Pam Dawber), but one must admit the resolution was fairly humdrum: what was suspected as being a serial killer at work turned into a kill-for-hire plot with corporate greed as its motivation. It did allow a graceful exit for series star Harmon to get lost in the wilderness of Alaska (some very nice location work for those sequences) with FBI deputy director Wayne Sweeney (Erik Passoja) not only hot on his trail but also fired up enough to dismiss FBI agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) for allowing Gibbs to get away making it easy for NCIS director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) to snap him up as Gibbs’ replacement on his lead team.

Apart from a two-episode story arc during the season with the search for a vindictive killer known as The Raven (which served as the cliffhanger for the season leaving Agent Parker’s life in the balance), the remainder of the season’s episodes were stand-alone episodes containing some of the show’s strongest mysteries in some time. Plotlines revolved around such varying topics as a domestic suicide bomber on the loose, a Naval track coach suspected of drug dealing, a missing key for the Defense Department’s surveillance and combat drone brigade, an underground fight club fronting for human trafficking, an old undercover gun running operation which comes back to haunt one of the squad’s members, and computer hacking in a Naval housing development (the hacker turning out to be played by Cay Ryan Murray, the daughter of series co-star Sean Murray). Sean Murray was also involved in the season’s weakest episode (“Docked”), another one of its feeble attempts at comedy where his character McGee’s mother-in-law (Patricia Richardson) stumbles over a body on a cruise ship which neither he nor his wife Delilah (Margo Harshman) were aware she was on. With mother and daughter squabbling constantly and McGee too timid to interfere in their dysfunctional relationship, the episode turned out to be anything but amusing.

But three others were the real highlights of the season. Agents Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), Jessica Knight (Katrina Law, added this season to replace the departed Emily Wickersham’s Ellie Bishop), and Alden Parker find themselves trapped on a boat under siege by terrorists in “All Hands.” Medical examiner Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and forensics expert Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) find themselves dying from biotoxin inhalation in “The Helpers,” a script co-written by Dietzen. And Palmer and Knight, who become romantic interests during the second half of the season though weighed down by the show’s typically juvenile approach to romance, find themselves stalked in a forest by a team of terrorists determined to prevent them from delivering a liver for a much-needed transplant in the thrilling and surprising “All or Nothing.”

Along with the very smooth transitions to the team by Gary Cole (whose Alden Parker is the antithesis of Gibbs with his easy-going personality, praise for his team’s hard work, and tendency to treat them to pastries each morning) and Katrina Law, a couple of NCIS recurring characters pop up a few times during the season. Joe Spano’s Tobias Fornell, former FBI agent, helps out in a couple of the early episodes and returns later in the season when we learn that he, Palmer, and Knight are part of an anonymous group who meet regularly to discuss their grief for having lost loved ones. Aiding them in their grief counseling is Dr. Grace Confalone played by Laura San Giacomo who also works with Nick Torres who spends much of the season in a nagging state of depression over the abandonment issues he’s been dealing with his whole life exacerbated by the exits of both Ellie Bishop last season and Jethro Gibbs this year.

Here are the twenty-one episodes contained on five DVDs in the 19th Season set:

1 – Blood in the Water

2 – Nearly Departed

3 – Road to Nowhere

4 – Great Wide Open

5 – Face the Strange

6 – False Start

7 – Docked

8 – Peacekeeper

9 – Collective Memory

10 – Pledge of Allegiance

11 – All Hands

12 – Fight or Flight

13 – The Helpers

14 – First Steps

15 – Thick as Thieves

16 – The Wake

17 – Starting Over

18 – Last Dance

19 – The Brat Pack

20 – All or Nothing

21 – Birds of a Feather

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The program is presented at 1080i on the network broadcasts, and these downconverted 1.78:1 transfers are anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The show switched to digital production a few seasons ago, and the image has finally reached a point where it matches the visual quality of the network’s other top shows. The picture quality is perfectly pleasing and sharp enough to note facial details or fabrics of the costumes, but being standard definition, there are occasional slight examples of aliasing if one doesn’t have a good upconverting player or a television with excellent upconverting abilities. Flesh tones are natural and quite appealing, and black levels are all more than decently rendered. Each episode has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track does a very good job in surrounding the viewer with aural activity. Music by Bruce Kirk in each episode seems to be the most frequent occupant of the rear channels as the score is generously spread through the soundstage, and ambient sound effects usually get the full surround treatment though when explosions hit, they hit with real impact waking up the subwoofer. Dialogue, an important aspect of this crime procedural, is always well-recorded and has been placed firmly in the center channel. The Dolby 2.0 stereo surround track which has been a part of the audio offerings in these box sets for several seasons now is not included in this set.

Special Features: 4/5

NCIS on Location in Alaska (5:46): writers Brendan Fehily and David Noth, producer Mark Horowitz, cinematographer William Webb, and actor Sean Murray describe their delight in filming the season’s fourth episode on location in Alaska, made particularly memorable since it was actor’s Mark Harmon’s exit from the series.

Brian Dietzen and Scott Williams on “The Helpers” (5:42): actor Brian Dietzen explains how he came to co-write the season’s thirteenth episode with staff writer Scott Williams and producers Steven Binder and Chas. Floyd Johnson also contributing to the discussion of the episode.

Torres and Tennant (7:16): actors Wilmer Valderrama and Vanessa Lachey discuss the season’s crossover episode with new series NCIS: Hawai’i. Also contributing to the discussion of the crossover is the new series’ showrunner Christopher Silber.

NCIS: Hawai’i episode “T’n’T (43:09): the second half of the crossover episode with “Starting Over.”

Gary Cole and Katrina Law Join NCIS (8:00): the two actors describe what they know so far about their characters and express their delight in joining the series. Their efforts are also praised producers Chas. Floyd Johnson, Steven Binder, and Scott Williams.

Being Gibbs (10:30): Mark Harmon expresses what playing Gibbs on the show has meant to him for almost two decades. He’s also celebrated by the cast and the producers of the series.

Cast of Characters (11:21): each principal cast member discusses his character’s arc this season talking about their favorite episodes from season 19.

Overall: 4/5

NCIS met all of the challenges set for it in its nineteenth season, settling comfortably into a new timeslot and welcoming new actors to take the place of two veteran members of the cast with nary a ripple to disturb the momentum of CBS’ most popular drama. Though it’s only a standard definition release when high definition would look so much better, this 19th season box set will no doubt find its way onto the shelves of numerous collectors of the show’s run.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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