TV so easy, it’s like a diligent mama bird chews each episode for me and places it gently in my drooling mouth, right next to those Cheez-Its I forgot to swallow. Yum! Sometimes that’s what you want — simple, uncomplicated stuff — and CBS’ good-natured crime drama NCIS serves quite well. It never gets very tense: In one recent episode, Israeli bomb expert Ziva (Cote de Pablo) pretended to drop a $20 million weapons system just to create ”a little levity.” Thanks, Z! Although I was never too nervous — even the show’s opening theme music is cruise-ship smooth.
Now in its fourth season, NCIS isn’t insulting to the intelligence, but it’s not really taxing, either. (For that, I turn to NBC’s classic Law & Order.) NCIS is more akin to Fox’s Bones: The mysteries are fine — serial killers, arms dealers, a dash of terrorism — but the team that solves them is the reason to watch. The NCIS crime busters are stock characters — the stud, the nerd, the perky-Goth-tech-girl-with-pigtails-and-skull-shirts — enlivened by genial writing and game actors. With charming predictability, each episode features at least one of the following: Lead officer Gibbs (St. Elsewhere’s Mark Harmon) gets confused about technology (I particularly enjoyed his recent slack stare at an expert who compared an outdated weapon to a Commodore 64); Ziva makes some goof with the English language (”You need to cut the man some slacks”); awkward McGee (Sean Murray) suffers an indignity, like poison ivy on the crotch; and someone — or two or three — in the crew offers up an endearingly square sex joke. The cast pulls it all off by embracing the corniness: Sometimes NCIS feels less like a crime drama and more like an affable family comedy, with the team teasing each other relentlessly about male manicures, girlfriends, and crushes.
Speaking of which, the writers have wisely given alpha-male agent Tony (Dark Angel’s Michael Weatherly) a serious love interest this season. Weatherly has tile-toothed hot-dude looks that could make him easy to dismiss — particularly if stuck playing to type. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Tony has acquired a very un-leading-man-like eagerness around his new doctor girlfriend, phoning her 12 times a day and whispering cheesy medical puns into her ear. And the guy still manages to pull off silly ”undercover” gags: Never has an actor serenaded a dog with such gusto.
In the end, it’s hard not to grin at this series, unless you are a staunch ironist. (In which case, your eyes will be sore from the rolling.) I, for one, declare NCIS to be popcorny good fun, and salute it with my heartiest B.