I’ve started re-watching NCIS Season One on Netflix, and I have to admit, the characters in Season One are so much more appealing than they turned out to become in later seasons. Gibbs has a wry whit that just isn’t present in later seasons, and Tony and Kate are much more combative, and competitive. I’m not sure exactly when the tone of the show changed, but I suspect they became much more conservative around season three, when they became more protective of their characters, to ensure a longer term tv show renewal.
Abby is so edgy in S1, she’s the entire comic relief of the show, basically. McGee was only a minor player in S1, but he’s also a lot more mysterious, and much less fleshed out.
I think I much prefer my TV characters more mysterious, and less tightly defined. American TV shows that get picked up for more than 2-3 seasons, always seem to fall into the trap of trying to explore the depths of each of their characters. This only serves to remove the mystery, and make the characters much less interesting. Either they’re proved to be honest and boring, or corrupt and untrustworthy. I think I prefer my interesting characters to hold more than a few character traits back, and leave more to the imagination of the viewer. Think about Cheers. Sam was a playboy in the first season, and just became a sad loser in later ones.
The first few seasons of NCIS held Gibbs in the highest regard, as a sort of super hero that his younger team could barely understand. Later seasons only pigeon holed him into a “complicated character”, with more than a few flaws. Earlier seasons developed Gibbs’ rules, while later ones treated them as a standard training manual. I find well defined characters much less interesting overall. I prefer shows that ask me to use my imagination when trying to understand their characters.