From NCIS to FBI, Why Are Procedurals’ Main Characters Always Divorced?
With the COVID-19 pandemic all but over, most movie theaters are back in business. Without a doubt, seeing new releases on the big screen is the best way to enjoy movies, so crowds are flocking back. For instance, Netflix’s Glass Onion is expected to gross $15 million in only 600 theaters. However, it’s worth noting that streaming services are also doing extremely well. Despite the turmoil at Disney, Andor was incredibly well-received among Star Wars fans, and so was Season 4 of Stranger Things, which dropped a few months back on Netflix.
With the return of theaters and the rise of streamers, cable networks have had to work extra hard to keep people tuning into their tried-and-true television programs. To gain viewers, CBS has all but turned Young Sheldon into a family drama. Meanwhile, following in the footsteps of the One Chicago franchise, most procedurals now have full-on, crossover-filled universes. While that can be fun, it can also be taxing to keep up with multiple spinoffs. Unfortunately, making viewers keep up with multiple spinoffs isn’t the worst thing that modern procedurals are doing.
Lead Characters Are Almost Never Married
Procedurals have all kinds of characters with all kinds of interests and all kinds of backgrounds. Yet, there’s a troubling trend. While there’s a good bit of character diversity and variety, it’s almost a rule that the lead character can’t be married. While that might sound like an exaggeration, it’s actually not. Here are some examples.
The best example is Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS. His wife and daughter were murd.3r3d, and after that, Gibbs remarried three times (and was engaged a fourth time). All of that happened before the series started, so Gibbs spent the entirety of his 19-season run without a significant other. For that matter, Gibbs’ replacement, Alden Parker is also divorced. Dwayne Pride was the same way on NCIS: NOLA. He was married before the series, but he was divorced for the show’s whole run (until the finale when he married his childhood crush). NCIS: Hawai’i is no different. This time, the leading character isn’t a man; it’s Jane Tennant. But the story is the same. Tennant was divorced before the series started.
Over in the FBI universe, the trend is no different. Jubal Valentine (who is the assistant SAC) is divorced. On FBI: Most Wanted, Jess Lacroix’s wife was dead before the series started. When Jess was k1ll3d (as part of the series’ revolving cast), Remy Scott moved in as the team leader, and he was single to start. He soon started a relationship with a local judge, but now they’ve broken up. Likewise, Scott Forester was a romantic item with Jamie Kellett when FBI: International started, but that quickly fell apart.
Having All Divorced Lead Characters Is a Problem
Of course, it’s not just the NCIS and FBI franchises. John Nolan is divorced on The Rookie, and Frank Reagan’s wife is dead on Blue Bloods. But all this raises the simple question: Why? Is there a reason that a procedural’s main character has to be divorced, have a dead spouse or be unable to maintain a relationship? There are various story reasons why each character is in the situation that he or she is in, but it’s a troubling trend that writers keep using the divorced characterization.
The main problem with this trend is that it shows that people can’t have a career and a family at the same time. While the junior agents normally have families, the lead agents don’t — it’s like they are married to their jobs. As pithy as that sounds, it gives the message that people can’t work and cultivate a family at the same time. The truth is, divorce is an unfortunate part of life and it should be portrayed on television. However, there’s no reason that it (and the trauma that often comes with it) should be the hard and fast rule.