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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

JAG: a show's legacy saved by the fans.

Good morning!

I finished watching the final episode of JAG Season 10. Is it wrong to still break down in tears during the last episode of a TV show that's been off the air for 5 years?

JAG was one of those shows that every writer should watch and learn from. I'll admit it, the Husband enjoyed that show before I did. I recall calling it his "Airplane show." I came on board during season three when I got my first glimpse of David James Elliott. I was hopelessly hooked after that.

But, I came for the hunk, I stayed for the writing.

I cannot imagine how hard it is to be a TV writer, especially on a long running drama. (Jag ran for 10 years.) Especially when the two main characters fall into that, "Will they or won't they?" pattern for romance. ("Moonlighting" Best example of a show that DIED when they did the deed. Not even the wonderful Mark Harmon could save that dog once Dave and Maddie had the sex.)

JAG managed to combine action, drama, and romance all in one, maintain it for ten years (Over two networks) and do it well. Somehow, it seemed completely real that of the most beautiful people to ever grace TV (DJE and the lovely Catherine Bell) could stave off their feelings for each other until the very last episode.

I've watched the entire ten seasons over the last few months. Watching so many episodes in such a short time brings one big thing to light: The writing was AWESOME to the end...except for the last few episodes.

Fans of the show will agree with me. When season ten aired, we all got the feeling that something was amiss. Less Harmon Rabb and more of everything else. And then, Chris Beetham showed up.

Poor Chris Beetham.

I liked Chris Beetham when he was on "As the World Turns." He should have stayed there. The few episodes he did on JAG aren't bad...but the producers were definitely trying to sell us something that wasn't JAG. The writers did their best to make us fall in love with Lt. "Vic" they really did.

JAG was always about Harmon Rabb, Jr. In season ten, DJE apparently made it clear to the show that he wasn't coming back for a season eleven. (Not something that was announced publicly.) The show brought on Beetham as Greg Vucovic. Most fans saw him as a very watered down "Harm lite." He fit the bill, sort of. He was good looking, had great eyes, had a cocky attitude. Only one thing.

He wasn't Harmon Rabb Jr.

I can't speak for everyone, but I know I wrote several heated emails to CBS, informing them that if DJE was truly leaving the show, that this weak replacement wasn't going to cut it. Apparently I wasn't alone. If you watch the last episode of JAG, you get the very real feeling that the writers heard the fans and gave them what they wanted, as quickly as they possibly could.

Don't get me wrong. I loved all the characters on JAG. (I have a special affection for Bud and Harriet, played by the hilarious Patrick Labyorteaux and Karri Turner.) But this was a show about Harmon Rabb Jr. The writers knew it. It took the producers a bit longer to figure it out. But the writers knew it.

So maybe that last episode seems rushed. After watching the romance grow between Mac and Harm for nine years, the last episode feels like everything is in fast forward. That said, the writes saved the legacy of that show. Can any fan imagine JAG starring Chris Beetham? (Or, as I like to call him, LT. Suckwad Who Sucks the Biggest Suck that ever Sucked. But that's just me.) It would be like taking the other Brady kids out of the Brady bunch and leaving Cousin Oliver. Or take Gilligan off the island, and leave the rest. Or have Dave and Maddie "do it" then try to sell us Mark Harmon as Maddie's love interest...oh wait, that happened, and it was terrible!

So now we have JAG on DVD, all ten seasons. The legacy of the show is saved because there were no desperate last seasons. I applaud the writers and the producers of the show for hearing the fans.


  1. You know I never watched this in earnest, just an episode here and there as I'd catch one.

    And when I google Chris Beetham, I get your blog among the random facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

    Popular actor.

    And I agree, the thought of coming up with something new for the same set of characters to do every week for ten years (well, let's be fair, 2.5 years) is unimaginably tough.

  2. But man, I would have love being a writer for that show! If you do get the yen to watch it in earnest, just watch it from a writer's point of view.

  3. Oh Elliott? You possibly had trouble finding Chris Beetham, because I spelled his name wrong. It's Chris Beetem. See? I hated that charactor so much I didn't even bother to get his name right! But, in his defense, I think they could have put anyone in that part and the fans would have revolted. Go ahead and google'll see what I mean!