Navy Yard to Norfolk in One Commercial Break

In cleaning out the back-end of the blog over this past weekend, I found this draft post I wrote a year ago today. I am not sure why I never published it – perhaps I was embarrassed to admit I watch NCIS? – but since I found it so close to the date I initially wrote it, I decided to put it in the queue. I haven’t changed a word, and will state for the record that I’m still slightly obsessed by NCIS.


For reasons I can’t explain, crime procedurals are my go-to comfort television. I think it has something to do with the fact that they are both finite and formulaic — the plots are laid out in pretty much the same pattern and are almost always solved in an hour. The various programs of the Law & Order franchise have long been my go-to shows, with a smattering of Bones and CSI (original flavor only) thrown in to keep things fresh. In the past few months, though, USA Network has forced me to switch things up. They’ve replaced almost all of their Law & Order offerings with NCIS. I was initially resistant to adding yet another show to my collection of brain-melters, but it’s proven so laughably awful that I can’t stop watching.

For the uninitiated, NCIS is an acronym for Naval Criminal Investigative Service — which really exits — and it’s mostly a mish-mash of every other crime show on television. Most of the characters are investigators, but there is also a medical examiner and a jill-of-all-trades criminalist. And when I say “of all trades,” I am not kidding. She runs the DNA, matches the finger prints, re-constructs all manner of damaged computer equipment, and more.  Iit seems clear , however, that the writers have never been in a federal office nor met a member of the military — this supposed Navy department sports nary a uniform, quite the opposite, in fact. Everything from Goth-wear to business casual seems to be appropriate. And their fashion choices are hardly the most unrealistic aspect of their office life; insubordination is constant, and the constant sexual innuendo would surely yield a lawsuit or ten, and the primary method of behavior modification is the boss knocking his staff upside the head. (This last bit of business is so ubiquitous that USA uses it in their promos.)

But the most unintentionally humorous aspect of the show is the fact that they have set a show in DC without consulting a map. Now, this is not uncommon… after living in DC for more than a decade, I see egregious misuse of our locations all the time on tv and in the movies. NCIS, though, seems especially determined to veer as far from reality as possible. The opening credits end with  some sort of tree-lined country lane leading down to the Mall, all the highway numbers are wrong (and bear that bizarre Southern California affectation of having definite articles: “the 100,” for example, when the closest road we’d have to that is 110, no “the”), and no matter where they are in the Metro area, they’re always really close to the Capitol, which is, incidentally, always kind of dropped in as an cheesy post-production effect. Except, of course, when they’re in Norfolk, which has apparently changed places with Alexandria. They bop back and forth from their offices in the Navy Yard to the naval base in Norfolk as if it isn’t 200 miles away.

It’s all ridiculous, hilarious in an accidentally-funny sort of way, and I can’t stop watching.

2 thoughts on “Navy Yard to Norfolk in One Commercial Break

  1. Hillary July 22, 2010 / 11:54 am

    Too funny, those are nearly exactly my thoughts. Love L&O but I think moving it to LA is a mistake. Bones is fun but it makes the same location errors all the time. Have you seen what pases for Metro on there. CSI miami is only good for a laugh – david Caruso is so bad that I really do laugh out loud. Lately the family got really into NCIS and I tried to resist but it’s futile when it’s on every time I walk in the door. So sad.

  2. Joanne July 22, 2010 / 8:42 pm

    I’m planning your intervention now. NCIS? Seriously? You need help.

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