“JAG,” which is the U.S. military acronym for Judge Advocate General, was an American legal drama television series with a U.S. Navy theme, created by Donald P. Bellisario, and produced by Belisarius Productions in association with Paramount Network Television. The series originally aired on NBC for one season from September 23, 1995, to May 22, 1996, and then on CBS for an additional nine seasons from January 3, 1997, to April 29, 2005. The first season was co-produced with NBC Productions and was originally perceived as a “Top Gun” meets “A Few Good Men” hybrid series. In total, 227 episodes were produced over 10 seasons. At the time of the original airing of its fifth season in the United States, JAG was seen in over 90 countries worldwide.The series followed the exploits of the Washington metropolitan area–based uniformed lawyers in the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General, who, in the line of duty, can prosecute and defend criminal cases under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Almost all episodes of the series feature scenes filmed aboard real United States Navy ships.
Like “Law & Order,” the plots from many “JAG” episodes were often “ripped from the headlines,” with portions of the plot either resembling or referencing recognizable aspects of actual cases or incidents.
While there was an ensemble cast, the two main protagonists were USN Lt. Harmon Rabb, Jr. (David James Elliott) and USN Lt. JG Sarah “Mac” MacKenzie (Katherine Bell). Rabb and Mac’s obvious attraction to each other, which couldn’t be allowed to interfere with their professional relationship, was a long-running thematic element.
“JAG” creator Donald P. Bellisario was developing a spin-off in 2003. The spin-off was focused around the work of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). It was aired in April 2003 and focused on the NCIS team, with most of the JAG regulars as supporting characters. Whereas the episodes of “JAG” were primarily oriented on a mixture of courtroom drama and military activities in the field, “NCIS” episodes were more focused on criminal investigations. “NCIS” also followed a different storytelling format from “JAG,” emphasizing character humor to a larger extent than its parent program.
Since “JAG” first aired in 1995, it and its spin-offs, “NCIS,” “NCIS Los Angeles,” and “NCIS New Orleans,” these series have been powerhouse network shows for CBS.