JAG: Season Seven
There have been more TV shows about lawyers that you could possibly count. There have also been a similar number of series that have been centered on the military over the years. In 1995 well known television series creator Donald P. Bellisario decided that he would take on the task of coming up with a show that would combine these two seemingly different genres. The result was ‘JAG’ which stands for ‘Judge Advocate General’, the legal branch of the U.S. Navy, Marines Air Force and Coast Guard. Whenever a legal issue confronts a member of these branches of the service the men and women of JAG are sent into to resolve the issues. They are both soldiers and lawyers; eminently proficient in both areas of endeavor. They are not there to enforce the laws of any specific jurisdiction; they answer to the tightly regulated Uniform Code of Military Conduct. This permitted Bellisario to go beyond the usual crimes we have all seen on TV lawyer shows and enter the realm of treason, espionage and conduct unbecoming an officer. Of course there is also more than ample opportunity for a murder to two along the way. No matter how most television studios try to dress up a legal show they are always just variations of the same old theme. Military series have for the most part fallen out of favor with the studio executives. This series was a breath of fresh air in both cases. One thing that should be noted; there is a little more than just a touch of pro-military sentiment that verges on propaganda. This is not really a negative; there is nothing wrong in recognizing the dedication of the men and women who serve our country in this capacity. This slant is to be expected considering the creator. Bellisario was a marine and almost all of the hit series he has created has had a strong tie to the military such as ‘Magum PI’ and ‘Quantum Leap’. This series is just more up front with the connection. The series lasted for a full decade which is amazing by current television standards. CBS Paramount has released the seventh season to DVD and it is a must have for fans of fans of quality television.
The first episode of season seven was initially aired on September 25, 2001; just two weeks after the tragic terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC. Some of the season’s stories were already prepared so it took a few weeks to change the course of the show to reflect current events. This season of JAG would be different from the previous one with its intensified concentration on the new war and threat of continued domestic terrorism. A show like this that had also maintained a strong patriotic and pro-military sentiments it new a renewed chord with the audience. While American flags were dominantly on displayed this series was showing an established faith in our armed forces.
The main character of the series is Commander Harmon 'Harm' Rabb, Jr., USN (JAGC). He certainly had a fast track career path in JAG having started in season one as a lieutenant and promoted to commander in season five. Harm started out in his first love, pilot of a combat jet. When it was discovered that he suffered from night blindness he lost his flight status and entered JAG as a lawyer. In a later season the condition was resolved and he was reinstated for flight duty eventually returning to combat missions. The call of the law was more than expected and he returned to JAG since as a pilot his career opportunities would be limited. As the season opens Harm is missing; shot down at sea. When he is found and returned home he has amnesia. Okay, this is a plot device common to soap operas but it usually is a fan favorite to reset relationships. Harm also returns to some bad news that his long lost father had died. The news was given by Renee Peterson (Cindy Ambuehl) a documentary director which whom Harm has had an on again off again relationship. There are also some career bumps for harm this season. In one episode Harm is forced to break the confidentiality with his client and faces disbarment. Some of his cases were controversial. One case was when Harm has to defend a Marine who was charged with disobeying the rules of engagement that resulted in the death of six of his men. Harm also gets a new partner for many of the episodes; Commander Sturgis Turner, USN (JAGC) (Sturgis Turner). He was a classmate and friend of Harm’s from back in their Naval Academy days. He also served as a submariner. As the story lines began to reflect the changes in the post 9-11 world more was pulled from the current headlines. In one case Harm has to given seminars on the rules on engagement in Afghanistan and investigates a reporter who gave away a SEAL team’s position in that turbulent country.
Harm’s closest friend and frequent partner is Lieutenant Colonel Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie, USMC (JAGC) (Catherine Bell). As the season starts Mac is about to get married to a lawyer from the Royal Australian Navy, Lieutenant Commander Mic Brumby, CSC, RAN (Trevor Goddard). He was sent to JAG as part of an exchange program and almost immediately began a relationship with Mac. When Harm was brought back home without his memories he began to reconnect with Mac forcing them both to reconsider their relationship outside of work. Since Mac is fluent in Farsi she is often sent with Mac to the Middle East for a case or other investigation. In one episode they are caught behind enemy lines in a minefield forcing them to talk about their relationship. Also working out of JAG is Lieutenant Commander Bud Roberts Jr., USN (JAGC) (Patrick Labyorteaux). He is married to another JAG officer, Lieutenant Harriet Sims, USN (Karri Turner). She is not a lawyer but part of the administrative staff. That is when she is not on maternity leave which seems to occur every couple of seasons. In charge of the area is Rear Admiral Albert Jethro 'A.J.' Chegwidden, USN (JAGC) (John M. Jackson) who is the typical TV boss who is hard on the outside but sensitive at his core.
This series was resilient enough to change course as this nation went to war. It dealt with issues that were hitting home to an increasing number of Americans such as Harriet’s concerns when Bud is stationed in a combat zone. The plots are typically TV lawyer faire with a military twist but are usually more intense than usual. Some of the season and series arcs are right from the soap opera play book including the ever changing relationship melodrama between Harm and Mac. Over all this was one of the better series of its genre on television and is missed by millions. Now with the DVD release by CBS Paramount there is a chance to add it to your collection. The rules of engagement are simple; buy it.