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JAG, an acronym for Judge Advocate General, is a long running TV show (1995-2005), about judge advocates (pentagonese for lawyers in military uniform) the in the Department of the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General who deals with military justice matters wherever the forces of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps go in the world. The show lasted one season on NBC before being canceled. It was picked up by CBS soon after, and they turned into one of the most successful shows in their history.

Many episodes have storylines which often were Ripped from the Headlines, e.g. the war in the Balkans, introduction of female combat pilots on aircraft carriers, racial bigotry, U.S. sailor accused of raping Japanese woman, the War on Terrorism, and so on and so forth.

JAG has a number of dramatic episodes, some of which were based loosely on historical events. The characters are so involved in them, that considering that they are lawyers, it tends to strain your Willing Suspension of Disbelief.

The show's biggest fans fall into one of two categories: the late middle-aged and bored college students, who came to love the show via the USA Network's early-to-mid morning repeats. Now found on HD Net.

It produced a spin-off, NCIS, which has somehow managed to become more popular than its parent series[1].

Character tropes added here, please. Edit

Tropes used in JAG include:


  • Abusive Parents: Big Bud Roberts' idea of discipline was beating up his kids. He never quite comes to regret it, unfortunately.
    • Mac's father was also a bit abusive, though she managed to forgive him eventually.
  • Actor Allusion: Before playing Admiral Chegwidden, John M. Jackson held the same position as Capt. West in the film version of A Few Good Men.
  • Adorkable: Married couple Bud & Harriet. Chegwidden's yeoman Petty Officer Jason Tiner also qualifies.
  • Alphabet News Network: ZNN, the fictional counterpart to CNN.
  • Amoral Attorney: Singer.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: No more than four episodes had stories involving characters other than the main cast, though still played by the main cast.
    • Season 5's Christmas Episode was a Whole-Episode Flashback to when Harm's dad was shot down over Vietnam, framed by Harm speaking with a USO performer who'd met his dad shortly before.
    • Season 6's "Mutiny" had a dramatization of the Real Life mutiny attempt on the USS Somers and the investigation that followed, framed by Mac preparing to lecture on those events.
    • Season 8's "Each Of Us Angels" focused on a group of Navy nurses before and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, and is probably the only episode where the cast appears but doesn't play their characters.
    • Season 9's "What If" is an Elseworld story inspired by a series of identical fortune cookies. Harm and Mac are married and about to divorce, Chegwidden's retired and married to his current girlfriend, Sturgis is working as manager for his girlfriend, Bud and Harriet aren't married, Coates is helping in a sting operation to catch thieves, and the head of JAG is Cmdr. Alison Krennick, unseen outside of flashbacks since the first season.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: No one was particularly sad to see Lt. Singer leave for sea duty in the Middle East save Sergei.
    • He was a bit sentimental if I recall.
  • Audit Threat: Ted Lindsey's investigation in season 8.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: The U.S. Marine Corps supported this series early on, but it took a while for the U.S. Navy to get behind it. They were allowed to film on location with their actors at several military installations in California, such as Camp Pendleton, Point Mugu Naval Air Station, and at Naval installations in San Diego. They also filmed aboard the frigate USS John A. Moore (FFG-19) for the season 3 episode "Tiger, Tiger", aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) off the coast of California for the first episodes of season 5, and aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA-5) for season 6 episodes. After the events of 9/11 Bellisario said it became increasingly more difficult to shoot on location than it had been before.
    • Following the cancellation in 2005, Commander Bob Anderson of the Navy's Office of Information Agency West said that in JAG "the Navy never looks bad".
  • Badass Grandpa: Admiral Chegwidden, the boss of the team and a former Navy Seal.
  • Baseball Episode: At the beginning of "Innocence" in season 4 it's the Navy judge advocates versus the Navy Chaplains. **Also "The Boast" in season 9 where Harm and the Admiral witness a Navy pitcher hit a Marine batter during a friendly baseball game, leading to the pitcher being charged with assault.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, JAGC, USN.
    • And the Admiral's replacement Major General Gordon Cresswell, JAGC, USMC
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Bud and Harriet are the sweetest couple and good parents, but both go on the warpath if someone screws over their spouse.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Harm to Sergei, Bud to Mikey.
  • Blatant Lies: For a time, Webb insisted that he worked for the State Department, rather than the CIA, despite always turning up in the middle of various plots. Nobody, hero or villain, ever believed him for a second, but most of the time his claim would be accepted with a roll of the eyes and a grain of salt.
  • Boot Camp Episode: "Boot" has Meg investigating Paris Island's female DI's in the most straightforward way.
  • California Doubling: Except for the pilot episode (partly shot on a decommissioned aircraft carrier in Texas), location filming in Washington DC for two season 4 episodes and a season 5 two part episode filmed in Sydney, Australia, the series was entirely shot in California locales.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Bud and Harriet both do this in a single episode with separate parents, Bud with his blowhard, semi-abusive father and Harriet with her meddlesome Southern Belle mom. Mac later gets one of her own against her mother.
  • Canada, Eh?: Clayton Webb getting assigned to a station in Canada was considered punishment for leaking classified information, and Harm expresses sympathy that he was getting assigned there, despite Canada's status as a first world country that's culturally a fair bit like the US, speaks the same language, and is a short flight from his home in the DC area.
  • The Cameo:
    • Jay Leno
    • Oliver North appears in a few episodes (two in the first season) as himself.
    • Johnnie Cochran
    • Bill O Reilly
  • The Captain: Admiral Chegwidden.
    • Probably more of a Colonel Badass.
    • Actually, it's The Brigadier, since Rear Admirals are equivalent to Army/Marine/USAF Brigadier Generals.
      • Actually, he's the upper half of Rear Admiral, which is equivalent to a Major General, not a Brigadier.
      • He's closer in rank to The Brigadier than a Four-Star Badass. But he is the perfect representation of a Four-Star Badass.
  • The Cast Showoff: Harm plays the guitar, and Mac does kick-boxing and speaks Farsi.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Donald P. Bellisario, the series show runner and creator, exists in the JAG-verse as does his series Quantum Leap. Actor Dean Stockwell who had a major part in Quantum Leap, later plays Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield.
  • Christmas Episode: JAG had five of these, once per season following the fourth (save the show's sixth season) and with the common sight of Harm visiting the Vietnam Memorial his father was shot down on Christmas Day. One episode aired on Christmas Day 1997, but had nothing to do with Christmas.
    • Season 4's "Jaggle Bells"
    • Season 5's "Ghosts of Christmas Past"
    • Season 7's "Answered Prayers"
    • Season 8's "All Ye Faithful"
    • Season 9's "A Merry Little Christmas"
    • Spin-Off NCIS has been carrying on the tradition with style.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The CIA and other espionage agencies are evil or morally gray/grey. The FBI is portrayed as using Jurisdiction Friction to take control of the investigation and refusing to cooperate with others.
    • In fact, only the JAG lawyers acts like ideal police. Everybody else is concerned with controlling the publicity.
  • Cliff Hanger: The first season ended with Harm being arrested for murder, though same episode was a Missing Episode and later adapted, thus bordering on Canon Dis Continuity. The third season ended with Harm and Mac about to be shot down in a Russian jet while looking for Harm's father. The sixth ended with Harm lost at sea, having ejected from his F-14 trying to get back in time to catch Mac's wedding. The seventh ends with Bud stepping on a landmine while trying to prevent an Afghan boy from doing likewise. The eighth ended with Harm leaving JAG to save Mac and Webb against orders. The ninth ends with Webb apparently killed and the Admiral's retirement. The series itself ends with something like a cliffhanger, leaving the audience wondering if either Harm or Mac will retire after they decide to marry and whether they'll end up in London or San Diego afterwards.
  • Colonel Badass: Both Harm (a Navy Commander from early season 5) and Mac (a Marine Lt. Colonel fom season 4) qualify. Sturgis doesn't, but it's more because he's never really given a chance to be particularly badass.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Webb's practicality about covert warfare often shocks everyone else. The others sometimes act as his conscience.
  • Cool Boat: Various US Navy vessels appear throughout the program, with one of the most prominent being the fictional USS Seahawk.
    • They also filmed aboard the frigate USS John A. Moore (FFG-19) for the season 3 episode "Tiger, Tiger", aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) off the coast of California for the first episodes of season 5, and aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA-5) for season 6 episodes.
  • Cool Car: Harm owns a '70s Chevy Corvette. It gets stolen and stripped for parts, but he eventually builds a new one. Mac buys herself a more modern Corvette at one point. Something of a Kick the Dog moment, however, as this was in the same episode that Harm's Corvette was stolen and stripped.
  • Cool Plane: Harm more than once climbs into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and also flies F-18s, C-130s, a stolen Mig 29, a Boeing 747 airliner, and the Aurora spy plane by the time the series ends. Not to mention his very own Stearman biplane "Sarah". (named after his grandmother and not his co-worker).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: used often as defense contracters will sell faulty equipment. Any military officer who aids them is always a junior officer.
  • Courtroom Antics: Frequently. Disregard That Statement and That Was Objectionable in particular occur innumerable times.
  • Cunning Linguist: Mac, as she speaks Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Farsi and German.
  • Dad the Veteran: Harm's deceased father obviously. Admiral Chegwidden, the the Father to His Men would also qualify.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Just about every supporting character on the show got an episode an season when they were the lead.
    • Or an episode when they were put on trial (the "People v. X" episodes, among others). Harm got two.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The main characters, with the exceptions of Bud and Harriet, are prone to this. Chedgwidden is the king of this trope though.
  • Die Hard on an X: One episode in the show's third season had Hamas terrorists take over a hospital where an Israeli official was receiving treatment. Unfortunately for them, Harm was there doing the same thing. A few Shout Outs and an Incredibly Lame Pun ensues, along with hilarity.
  • Dirty Harriet: Mac goes undercover in season 5 as a Chief Petty Officer trying infiltrate a Wicca group, including getting herself sky-clad.
  • Disappeared Dad: Harm's father was shot down over Vietnam on Christmas when he was a kid, and Harm's attempts to find him were a recurring subplot for the first three seasons.
    • Admiral Chegwidden, while a part of his daughter Francesca's life, wishes that he was there for her more than he was. His daughter loves him, however.
  • Dr. Jerk: Bud (or "not Bud" so to speak) in Each Of Us Angels
  • Donald P. Bellisario: Creator and Executive Producer
  • Drives Like Crazy: One episode a young ensign from Jersey played by Sarah Silverman, who absolutely tears across base in a Humvee, hardly ever looking at the road, rambling on about whatever comes to mind, and generally terrifying poor Bud and even making Harm nervous. Bud is forced to have her drive him somewhere on the other side of base because he's in a hurry, and finds her driving much less terrifying if he takes his contacts out first.
  • Ejection Seat: Played straight, averted, subverted, and discussed in various different episodes. Also part of the backstory for both how Harm became a lawyer and how his dad ended up Missing In Action.
  • Ensign Newbie: Both Bud and Harriet literally starts out as this.
  • Episode on a Plane: An Oceanic Airlines (how typical) flight to Seoul gets hijacked by South Korean radicals in season 5's "The Bridge at Kang So Ri". Luckily enough our heroes take care of the situation.
  • Fake Russian:
    • Harmon Rabb's half brother Sergei Zhukov is played by Canadian Jade Carter. Evidently he won the part over several Russian actors.
    • A disgruntled Russian submarine captain hired by Al Qaeda is played by Swedish actor Bo Svenson.
    • American actor Rex Linn plays a Russian KGB officer who speaks English like a native Texan. The in-universe explanation for this is that he grew up in Texas where his parents spied on the U.S. space program.
  • Faking the Dead: Clayton Webb does this, twice, with Harm and Mac unintentionally doing likewise on one occasion.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Mac had an abusive husband who refused to sign the divorce papers. And then he wound up dead and Mac was tried for murder.
  • The General's Daughter: Bud's brother Mikey ends up briefly dating the daughter of the series' last JAG, Maj. Gen. Gordon Cresswell.
  • Generation Xerox: Harm’s dad just so happened to look in his prime exactly like his son latter does in his prime (except for the moustache and the deeper voice)…
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: The season 5 episode "Ghosts of Christmas Past", dedicated to Bob Hope and USO, casts Catherine Bell as one back in 1969.
  • Good Looking Privates: Of course. At one point, Mac is introduced to another lawyer who is a retired Marine. The lawyer remarks that he wished the Marines all looked like her when he was serving.
  • Government Conspiracy: the Defense Security Division and almost anything involving Clark Palmer.
  • Guy in Back: Skates, who was Harm's RIO when he went back to flying Tomcats. Various other characters fill this role in episodes featuring the Tomcat, including the pilot episode, where one such GIB was murdered.
  • Happily Married: Bud and Harriet.
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: The first Secretary of the Navy in the series, Alexander Nelson, gets called before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to answer for his unauthorized intelligence activities carried out by JAG lawyers. Ironically enough, the Chairman of the Committee, Edward Sheffield, ends up becoming his successor.
  • Heads or Tails: The series finale ends with Harm and Mac (who finally tied the knot) flipping a Challenge Coin to decide which of them will leave the military and live with the other so they don't have to be stationed apart from each other.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Mac and Harm, combined with Good Looking Privates above.
  • The Hero (and every other derivative of that): Harm.
  • Hollywood Healing: Subverted. If a main character is injured, they will remain so for a few episodes. Then there's Lt. Bud Roberts who never gets his leg back and we see him working with a prosthetic for the rest of the series.
  • Hollywood Nerd:
    • Subverted in places, particularly less than five minutes in the pilot episode, where one of the aviators and air crew of the USS Seahawk (one of the series fictional Aircraft Carriers) banter about what taking out Klingons and Romulans would mean when painting on kill symbols onto the F-14.
    • After getting Harm out of a minefield in Afghanistan (season 7, episode 23 "In Country"), Mac acknowledges that she only learned how to do it by watching movies.
    • Played almost straight in other places, like with Bud and his various "nerdy" interests.
  • How Unscientific: The show usually kept itself grounded in something resembling reality... except for the episodes involving Mac's psychic powers and Bud's near-death experience. And then there was that one time a villainous plan involving a fake ghostly vision was foiled by the appearance of a real ghost.
  • Identical Grandson: Harmon Rabb Jr. is identical to Harmon Rabb Sr. (save for the latter's mustache).
  • In Memoriam: When Trevor Goddard, actor who played Mic Brumby, died in June 2003 the season 9 premiere episode "A Tangled Webb" part 2 ended with one of these showing a clip from "Life or Death" (5.13) of the JAG family singing Mic "Waltzing Matilda" as he left to return to Australia.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • One episode in the first season has Harm point out that the Air Force has pilots while the Navy has aviators.
    • Another episode (the one with the submachine gun in the courtroom), Mac claims that Marines never hide. Harm asks her what she called it when she dove under the table in the courtroom, to which she replied "Taking cover.".
    • Constant references to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and upon occasion the Manual for Courts-Martial) terminology and articles: particularly articles 31 and 32, the first is the equivalent of Miranda Rights and the latter is the pre-trial invesigation. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Interservice Rivalry: Harm occasionally indulges in good-natured smack talk with Air Force pilots, and once got into a Bar Brawl with Army Rangers while disguised as a Marine (It Makes Sense in Context). And the Navy/Marine rivalry is occasionally touched on, between Harm and Mac's constant bickering and the short-lived rivalry between Gunnery Sergeant Galindez and Petty Officer Tiner.
    • Yet another episode had a far more specific example: Harm (a Tomcat driver) gets into a game of pool against a pair of Hornet drivers (in the military, the pilots understandably take a lot of pride in the aircraft they fly). One discretion cut later, and we discover that Harm and his pool partner evidently won their opponents pants in the game when he holds them up as a trophy to show Mac.
  • I Will Find You: Harms quest to find his father.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • As crappy a dad as he is, Big Bud does find time to be with his sons at Christmas, attend his grandkids' christenings, help defend Mikey in court, and eventually find the guts to support Bud in rehab following his injury in Afghanistan.
    • Webb has some of that in him. Often other characters think him a jerk until the end of the episode.
      • Often that is because he is being The Spock and Harm is being The McCoy. However Webb has something of a cynical and smart alecky personality as well.
    • Lt. Singer had signs of this. One instance is when Mac is about to lose a custody case to remove a child from her abusive, civilian, father. When he went to see his ex-wife and child on base where the mother was staying, he was told a blond JAG officer had taken them off base. He came charging into JAG Headquarters and nearly attacked Lt. Sims, believing she was said JAG. This provides more than enough evidence for Mac to win and when asked, Singer simply avoids a direct response.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Invoked on at least 3 different occasions when an aviator did something which was clearly the wrong thing to do (e.g. accidently killing Russian peacekeepers in Serbia, unilaterally destroying a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft captured by the Chinese, and intervening in civilian law enforcement in the U.S.), but got acquitted of all significant charges all thanks to having Harm as his defense counsel. After the trial, however, the CO informs the aviator that he’s permanently grounded and will undergo extensive medical evaluation. In any case Uncle Sam always wins.
    • Season 5’s “Rules of Engagement”: The Aviator acquitted is grounded and will likely never fly again.
    • Season 9’s “Posse Comitatus”: The helocopter pilot is grounded as well.
  • Kangaroo Court: An episode set in Iraq has an American judged for violating their territory. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Harm manages to prove that the Marine was on the Kuwait side of the border. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: After nine freakin' seasons of Will They or Won't They? UST, Mac and Harm get engaged in the last seven minutes of the series finale.
  • Latin Land: An 1st season episode takes place at the U.S. embassy in Peru.
    • Also the adventures in Paraguay in late season 8 & early season 9.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Averted mostly - most of the officers among the regular main cast and some of the recurring characters all get promoted at least once.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: While only four characters are in the opening credits for 8 seasons, it has a fairly expansive supporting cast.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Harm spends a substantial portion of the show searching for his father, who went MIA during the Vietnam War. His father escaped custody, and was later shot and killed, but not before meeting a Gypsy woman and fathering another son, Sergei.
  • Long Runner: Ran for ten years, on two separate networks.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the episode "True Callings" when Harm realizes he is a better at a lawyer, he saved a sailor from the brig by pointing out the prosecuting attorney filed the wrong charges, such as "False Imprisonment," which is applicable only to police officers and the like instead of "Kidnapping," and pointed out how the other charge actually invalidates the prosecution's main witness against the sailor by another technicality.
  • Lost Episode: Something of a unique example - the first season was to end with an episode called "Skeleton Crew", which ended with a Cliff Hanger of Harm being arrested for murder. It wasn't aired by NBC, but did air in reruns on USA and was included in the DVD release. While the original episode was never used, footage from it was later included in the third season's "Death Watch".
  • Loyal Servant: Petty Officer Jason Tiner (seasons 2-9) and Petty Officer Jennifer Coates (seasons 9-10) served as the yeoman/administrative assistent to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy.
  • The Mafiya: Pretty much every time a storyline involves either Russians or when the main characters go to Russia, this trope almost instantly comes into play.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Lt. Singer.
  • Married to the Job: All the main characters.
  • Mildly Military: Averted. For a staff corps office they take military protocol very seriously.
  • Military Academy: Bud's younger brother Mikey attends the United States Naval Academy in the later seasons.
  • Military Brat: Harmon Rabb is a Generation Xerox example (right down to his dad looking identical to him in flashbacks, plus a mustache). His dad being shot down during Vietnam and declared MIA forms a central part of Rabb's character arc as he tries to find out what happened to him.
    • Also the case with most of the rest of the cast - Mac's biggest influence was her Marine uncle, Bud's father was a Master Chief (and he himself fathers four kids of his own with Harriet), Sturgis' father is a Navy Chaplain, and Maj. Gen. Cresswell's daughter is attending the Academy by the time the series ends. Of the main cast members, Chegwidden is the only one who isn't stated to be a military brat or the parent of one.
    • In one episode, Rabb also had to locate a former soldier who apparently kidnapped his son. According to the son, the son was a military brat. It gets a bit convoluted when the ending heavily implies that the son was actually the reincarnation of his father's best friend who was killed in action back in the Vietnam War.
  • Military Salute: Seen plentiful times during the series. And done well too.
  • Misguided Missile: Done more than once on. Commander Rabb put himself in front of a "dirty nuke" missile aimed at a Carrier Group after it closed too close to be shot down to lead it away until it's fuel ran out. And in a separate instance: A similar trick was done with a torpedo, drawing it into one submarine to save another.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Mac's stalker kills off her ex-boyfriend.
  • Name's the Same: Harm's Boeing Steerman biplane is named "Sarah", named for his grandmother. This causes a bit of confusion for Major Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie when Harm is taking her for a ride and she thinks he has started calling her by her first name.
  • New Job Episode: When Harm starts working for the CIA in season 9.
    • Also earlier in season 3 when Mac very briefly worked for a civilian law firm.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Brought up several times and deconstructed in one episode where going back was against orders and cost the life of another soldier to rescue the one who was left behind.
  • Not So Different:
    • Bud bonds with a suspected terrorist in a possible example of this trope. Both are fans of Star Trek, and Bud uses this to obtain information about an attack.
    • Later, when he's recovering from his leg injury he befriends the Admiral's current girlfriend, a professor of Shakespeare, by noting how several episodes of Star Trek borrow from some of Shakespeare's plays.
  • Opening Narration: Used for the second and third seasons (and provided by Don LaFontaine for good measure!), but not for the others.
  • Overranked Soldier: Averted mostly, even though the investigation's and field work done by Harm and Mac are borderline.
  • Paid-for Family: One episode has a marine refusing to testify in his own defense, because he believes it will dishonour the memory of a dead friend. Vic, his lawyer, brings in the dead friend's father, who reads a letter his son sent him about how the thing that killed him was an accident waiting to happen, which gives the marine courage to tell the truth about how his friend died. Both the father and the letter were fake— Vic hired an actor to encourage his client to take the stand. Of course, this action being morally suspect at best, the lawyer does get called on it by his superiors.
  • Pardo Push: During Harm's brief return to flying carrier operations, he found himself flying with another Tomcat during the Kosovo War. The other jet was damaged and losing fuel, and would not make it over a mountain range before they could leave Serbian territory [2]. Harm used his own jet to physically push the other plane to keep it in flight long enough to clear the mountains. This was based on a Real Life incident.[3]
  • Permission to Speak Freely?
  • Phony Veteran: In season 5's "Real Deal Seal", Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Seal team leader Lieutenant Curtis Rivers rips off the SEAL-trident of a congressional candidate falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam as a Navy Seal.
  • Playing Against Type: Faran Tahir initially plays to type when he appears as an Al Qaida-aligned terrorist in the NCIS pilot episodes, but makes a second appearance on the program as a different character, a CIA operative who Harm manages to smuggle out of Libya.
  • Plot Parallel
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Two episodes introduced most of the NCIS characters.
  • Post Nine Eleven Terrorism Movie: The first two episodes after September 11 included several references to the terrorist attack and subsequent conflict in Afghanistan. Plot A was Harm trying to work with a retired admiral (to resolve a problem in China, who America needed as an ally in the fight against terrorism), who was going to turn him down but agreed to help resolve a problem after 9/11. Plot B has Mac presiding over two soldiers who were dueling, and she is upset that they were being idiots when their brothers and sisters are fighting and dying in the war on terror. Gunny is recalled to active service and Chegwidden wishes he could go with him. Future promos would place the series during the war on terror. Osama Bin Laden made a case a woman facing legal action hard (American bases in the Middle East as cause for Jihad, and the Americans subjecting women to Middle Eastern standards that the defendant had issues with). Harm reunites with his co pilot to fly security over the Superbowl. And a Seebee who supposedly died on 9/11 tries to avoid media attention after he saves his team from a terrorist attack, as when his wife thought he was dead he had an affair.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Both Bud and Admiral Chegwidden did this at the start of Season 2. Turner and Coates did likewise in the final season.
  • Put on a Bus: Lt. JG Meg Austin was present for most of the first season, but disappeared with little explanation at the start of the second. Mostly averted with other characters, however.
    • Lt. JG Parker in the pilot episode was reassigned off-screen before the show proper started (the actress would go on to appear on The Pretender playing a character named Miss Parker). The Bus Came Back with her on a couple of occasions.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Catherine Bell's pregnancy in late season 8, as her character temporarily served as judge to hide the fact. And later that season she follwed Clayton Webb on a secret mission to Paraguay posing as his pregnant wife...
  • Recurring Character: Quite a few. No surprise with a show that was on for 10 years.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: in season 4’s "Rivers' Run" Harm and Mac defends Navy Seal Lt. Curtis Rivers in a kangaroo court under the “common law” held by anti-government separatists in West Virginia.
  • Rogue Agent: Clark Palmer, former DSD agent who has tried to either kill or frame on Harm several occasions.
  • Romantic False Lead: So many.
  • Running Gag: Whenever a promotion is announced, there are accusations of the officer beeing "out of" or in "incorrect" uniform. Crosses into Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Admiral Chegwidden retires and promotes Bud beyond his "terminal" rank
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Female combat pilots in the Navy? The War On Terror? Issues with various aircraft? You pick 'em, this show has 'em.
  • Sacred Hospitality: A gypsy Brother-Sister Team that shelters Harm during his quest to find his father.
  • Semper Fi: Do or Die!
  • Sergeant Rock: Most NCO's in JAG seems to be this. Could be case of Author Speak.
  • Shout-Out: Bud being a sci-fi nut; he gives the occasional reference to Star Trek and Quantum Leap, even naming one of his kids after James T. Kirk. Don Bellisario even cameos as himself at a sci-fi convention, and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is featured in one episode. The Star Trek connection is interesting considering it has the same copyright holder as JAG (i.e. CBS/Paramount.) Cross-promotion anyone?
    • It is also interesting the first Scifi reference in the show - in the pilot, when Captain Boone (the CAG) and Lt Arrutti return from a flight, as Boone is about to get out of the cockpit, one of the yellow-shirt flight deck crew starts to paint on the F-14, and Boone comments, "Chief, if I bagged a Klingon, I believe you'd know what Flag to paint on her" - to which Chief Ned Bannon replies "Klingons are Easy, now a Romulan Warship now that might be a problem, they're invisible". So there's Trek fans among the fictional Seahawk crew aside from Bud, so an implied subversion of Hollywood Nerd.
    • In Season 2’s "Washington Holiday" (itself a take on Roman Holiday) when the Rumanian Princess has escaped from doing her duties and went to a night club instead: Harm, as her military escort dressed in whites, carries her back to the limousine causing a woman in the background to say: "This is so like An Officer and a Gentleman".
    • The Hunt for Red October is even namechecked late in Season 7, with Sturgis comparing himself and the Russian sub captain being chased to Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery respectively.
  • Show Within a Show: In season 4’s "War Stories", Admiral Chegwidden while on leave gets persuaded by a Hollywood producer to act as technical advisor on the movie “Fields of Gold” which is a navy-themed action adventure with a court-martial. Chegwidden is a Fish Out of Water as the Real Navy differs quite a lot from the Reel Navy, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • Shown Their Work: The research and accuracy became better through the years the show was running, though inaccuracies could always be found. Having a Marine Corps veteran as its creator, executive producer, and show runner probably helped. Being Backed by the Pentagon probably helped a great deal too.
    • It should be noted that none of the starring characters who are military lawyers became that without having prior military service: Harm started out as an aviator, Mac was an administrative officer, and Bud was from the beginning a public affairs officer. AJ started out as a Navy SEAL, served in The Vietnam War in that capacity, and was transferred later to surface warfare. Sturgis began his career as a submariner. This makes for interesting characters, as opposed to Mildly Military straight-out-of-law-school-graduates, as they can relate to and interact differently with the various communities in the Naval Services. This is not completely unrealistic as the Department of the Navy has a law degree program which allows officers in the Navy & Marine Corps to earn a law degree at an accredited law school on Uncle Sam’s dime, conditioned that they fulfill service obligation following graduation, which must be within three years. Suffice to say, this program is quite sought after and competitive to enter.
  • Sliding Scale of Like Reality Unless Noted: Semirealistic.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic Versus Fantastic: Unrealistic or Semirealistic, as opossed to mundane or unusual.
  • Smug Snake: The series' first Secretary of the Navy Alexander Nelson fits this trope.
  • Spin-Off: NCIS.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Frequently. One example is used as evidence against Harm in the investigation into Singers murder.
  • Stock Footage: A lot was reused from various films that were endorsed by the armed forces, particularly Top Gun and The Hunt for Red October before the show itself received support from the Navy. To the show's credit, however, they were able to do some clever things with that stock footage via computer technology, including have Harm interact with then-President Clinton and Bud do likewise with then-President Bush.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The "message being displayed in capital letters at the bottom of the screen" sound. JAG used it all the time.
  • Straw Civilian: Occurs often. In fact, the The War On Straw tropes applied heavily in the later seasons. The only exception was Straw Man Has a Point, the military was never portrayed as wrong. The corrupt members of the military were always the exception and lectured on their betrayal of the United States.
  • Strawman News Media: All types were used. But, in the later seasons the storylines presented the United States military as an Eagleland with infinite Patriotic Fervor. [2]
  • Strawman Political: Roberta "Bobbie" Latham, democratic congresswoman from Michigan is an arch-typical leftist liberal advocating of the advancement of women in the military for the sake of just doing it, is critical of excessive defense spending, and a strong advocate of UN peacekeeping operations (even if the operation can't keep the peace in the first place.)
    • There are also several episodes where the political system, usually Congress, conducts an investigation that turns into a politically expedient Witch Hunt. Also, the evidence used to start the investigation is shown as weak.
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: Mac resigns to become a civilian lawyer, only to realize she was far happier in the Marines. Turns out, Admiral Chegwidden never actually processed her discharge papers, and she was allowed back on.
    • Harm had his vision impairment fixed and went back to flying Tomcats for a short while, before his new commanding officer convinced him that he was too old to be competitive as an aviator against all the younger pilots, despite his skill, and that he would do the most good as a judge advocate.
  • That's an Order
  • That Was Objectionable: Hard to avoid in court room scenes...
  • There Is No Higher Court: Averted, except for the military commission episode in season 8.
  • Third-Act Stupidity: Harm or Mack confronting the bad guy alone.
  • Token Minority: Sturgis Turner & Bobbie Latham (african-americans) and Victor Galindez (latino.)
  • Took a Level In Badass: Mikey, Bud's little brother, grows enough of a backbone to stand up to his father by the beginning of season eight.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The most incredible flying stunts on the show were reenactments of actual events.
    • Until it diverged with Cresswell becoming the JAG, in reality there has yet to be a Marine serving as Judge Advocate General of the Navy since Col. William Remey, the first Navy JAG.
      • Which simply makes a Marine serving as Navy JAG a distinct improbability, not an impossibility, considering that less than 500 of 1500 advocates in the Navy JAG are Marines.
  • Two Star Badass: Rear Admiral Chegwidden and his replacement Maj. Gen. Cresswell.
  • Un Cancelled: After the first season, the show was canceled by NBC. However, CBS picked it up immediately after NBC canceled it upon discovering that the show was absolutely huge in Australia and was slowly gaining a cult audience in the United States. CBS proceeded to turn it into the biggest hit on the network. NBC did keep a finger in the pie by securing exclusive cable syndication rights for its USA Network.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Mac and Harm.
  • Vacation Episode: the two-parter "Boomerang", filmed and set in Australia, could be seen as an example of this trope.
  • The Vietnam War: Many connections. AJ served in that war while in the Navy Seals. Harm's father was shot down over the skies of Vietnam and was declared MIA.
  • The War on Terror: From season 7 till the end.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Harm and Mac are the best example of the second kind of this trope.
  • With Due Respect
  • X Meets Y: This series is easily described as Top Gun meets A Few Good Men. The first season skews towards the former, while the remaining nine towards the latter.
    • Admiral Chegwidden himself uses those exact words in his very first line on the show - to describe Rabb's file.
  • You Look Familiar: Before playing Sarah Mackenzie, Catherine Bell played a Navy Lieutenant love interest of Harm's who died in the (intended) first season finale. Harm notices this, and is visibly stand-offish towards her at first because of it. In real life, Bell all but begged to be brought back on the show as another character, and the two characters looking identical was utilized.

 Mac: Sounds like I have a twin out there.

Flash Back of Mac's doppelganger being zipped up in a bodybag

Harm: Not anymore.

    • Another example is with Lt. Loren Singer, whose actress played an assassin in an earlier episode. This, along with Bellisario's kids showing up, suggests a little nepotism, as David James Elliot (Harm) and Nanci Chambers (Singer) are married in real life.
    • Also, Alexander Kuznetsov appears first in Cowboys and Cossacks" as Commander Kretchiak, and in later episodes as a different Russian officer named Captain Alex Volkonov (who becomes Harm's Russian analogue throughout the series).
  • The Yugoslav Wars: Many episodes in the early seasons, including the pilot, takes palce in the background of this conflict.

Notes

  1. not least in Britain - Channel Five dropped the parent show, but not the spinoff
  2. It is a general rule of thumb in air warfare to try and avoid bailing out over the area you just bombed
  3. Of course, the Air Force did it in real life.