Continued Writing Skill

Last year – to the day as it turns out – I wrote about a good and bad example of continuity in TV. If I do say so myself, I enjoyed re-reading my own blog post. The good example was NCIS and how they dealt with Tony DiNozzo leaving the show.

After many seasons I still enjoy NCIS; but that doesn’t mean I am blind to the show’s weaknesses. It is highly formulaic and the plots of the episodes are seldom surprising. That’s not to say there isn’t any suspense or the occasional plot twist which catches me unaware. What keeps me watching are the characters. After so many seasons their quirky natures and chemistry continue to be enjoyable.

Continuing on the same theme as my former post, the way the writers handle characters leaving the show is done well; much better than many other shows handle it. Season 15 of NCIS saw Abby wave farewell to her former colleagues as she left the show. As if to echo my earlier blog post comments about continuity, McGee had a phone call with Tony and DiNozzo senior popped in for a cameo visit.

After the death of MI6 agent Duane Henry, Abby decides to leave NCIS to carry on his community work. Like Tony had, Abby left on good terms, after having “nice moments” with most of the crew. Killing Abby, even if it was dying heroically, would not have been kind to the audience. And its my belief that it wouldn’t fit the tone of the show. While characters do sometimes die – killing a 1-season Kate needs to handled differently than a 15-season Abby. Kate was also a field agent where danger is expected; Abby would have been more of “an innocent”. Killing her off in any manner would have been traumatic and put her long-term fans offside.

Kasie, who would become Abby’s replacement entered the show six episodes before Abby’s departure. She entered the show as Doc Mallard’s editor/writing assistant. (Incidentally, letting Mallard write a book and teach is also setting him up for a transition out of the show. It is a reward for both him and Jimmy who is my favourite “autopsy gremlin”). I’ve heard writing advice that says to create a twist by letting a side-plot become the main plot – and this is largely the same: a minor character transitions into a major character.

Kasie is introduced early, she builds a good rapport (if shallow) with all of the characters, and importantly shows homage to the brilliance which is Abby Scuito.

Also important, she defines herself quickly as both quirkly and different from her predecessor – which will leave many opportunities for interesting interactions with her co-stars. (Ditto that, with the introduction of the troubled Jack Sloane).

In a character-driven show it’s important that we’re seeing character development in both their personal and professional lives. Ellie is stepping up as a potential leader and McGee now has baby twins to deal with. Torres – well I’m not sure about Torres…

The way the writers handle introducing and departing characters is stronger than many others shows.

(In closing, I also want to mention how I wish they’d have a few more multi-episode plots. Take Vance’s capture at the end of the season… I’d like to see that drawn out for at least 3 episodes… it doesn’t need to be tied up in a bow after a single episode or 2. Let the characters work hard to secure his release – give me at least one try-fail cycle first).

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