Rarely does a show completely bomb and become a blockbuster when given second life on a rival network. After two seasons on NBC, JAG was given a dishonorable discharge for fraternizing in the ratings basement with 77th place. CBS took a chance and grabbed the navy thriller. It paid off royally as it became a major hit and cruised for an additional 8 seasons. JAG: The Final Season gives the series a dignified retirement instead of NBC’s unsuccessful burial at sea. What would be the fate of Harm (David James Elliot) and Mac (Catherine Bell)?
That’s not to say the tenth season of JAG was a victory lap. Things started out rough behind the scenes when the producers refused to renew star David James Elliot’s contract for any additional seasons. They thought they could create JAG: The Next Generation by introducing several new characters including the new Harm in Lt. Gregory “Vic” Vukovic (Chris Beetem). The figured they could Law and Order the show for another decade by swapping out actors. This meant the new episodes were more intent on establishing the new characters before they jettison Harm as dead weight. However fans grew frustrated at this transition since JAG isn’t Law and Order at sea. This is a watery Gunsmoke with Harm as Matt Dillon. CBS decided that they didn’t want a JAG without Harm. They already had their spin-off in NCIS. The network let the producers know that this would be their last season. Thus the series got back to the business of Harm and Mac.
“Hail and Farewell, Part 2” continues Mac’s belief that Clayton Webb isn’t dead. A girlfriend ought to have a sense when her lover has truly bitten the dust. Her investigation leads to exposing an MI-6 Agent that’s really “The Hawk.” The episode ends with her becoming a single woman, but no need to spoil how that’s achieved. “Corporate Raiders” touches up on the subject of independent military contractors. In this case, one of them is accused of killing a Marine as part of friendly fire. Can a privately purchased bullet be that friendly? “One Big Boat” kills a midshipman at Annapolis during a sailboat exercise. Was someone at fault for them going through a storm. “Camp Delta” involves a soldier dying at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during detainee treatment drill.
“The Man on the Bridge” has them hunting down a missing navy personal from the Bio-Weapons Defense lab. What’s his project? Should they wear latex gloves while in close pursuit? “The Four Percent Solution” has Mac get knocked out during a car wreck on Christmas. We get to see her life in flashbacks. So many of her secrets slip out while she’s in the semi-coma. “Automatic for the People” has nothing to do with R.E.M. Instead it’s a plane that crashes near a playground. Harm suspects there never was a pilot on board. “Heart of Darkness” flies Mac and Harm to Afghanistan to hunt down a modern Col. Kurtz. “Unknown Soldier” tries to slide in the new crew. But it just doesn’t work. It’s almost like a Coy and Vance episode of Dukes of Hazzard.
“Fair Winds and Following Seas” is the big finale. The dynamic duo are being split up as Mac gets assigned to London while Mac must report to San Diego. What will they do? Can they be completely open in their relationship? They also know long distance won’t work for them. Which one will retire from the Navy to let their love flow? The answer would be spoiling it. But it does work as a send-off for the series. While fans were disappointed by the front office politics that altered the flow of the show, at least JAG ended on the right note.
“Hail and Farewell, Part II,” “Corporate Raiders,” “Retrial,” “Whole New Ball Game,” “This Just In from Baghdad,” “One Big Boat,” “Camp Delta,” “There Goes the Neighborhood,” “The Man on the Bridge,” “The Four Percent Solution,” “Automatic for the People,” “The Sixth Juror,” “Heart of Darkness,” “Fit for Duty,” “Bridging the Gulf,” “Straits of Malacca,” “JAG: San Diego,” “Death at the Mosque,” “Two Towns,” “Unknown Soldier,” “Dream Team” and “Fair Winds and Following Seas.”
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer is crisp and vibrant. The ocean shots might make some a little sea sick. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix works well for the field action and the courtroom stand offs.
The Final Goodbye (2:18) is a home video of the cast saying thanks after a decade on the air.
JAG: The Final Season wraps up the naval legal thriller series on a bit of choppy water. The inserting of extra characters with the hope of extending the series clutters up the stories. It’s nearly as painful as the last seasons of Scrubs. Luckily the finale does end the series with Harm and Mac making a big choice.
CBS DVD presents JAG: The Final Season. Starring: David James Elliott, Catherine Bell and Patrick Labyorteaux. Boxset Contents: 22 Episodes on 5 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 2, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.