A few days ago Mark Harmon celebrated his 63rd birthday. My short birthday tribute on Facebook summed it up simply with “YUM.” What is it about this guy that keeps me glued to the television whenever NCIS airs? Is it about the man or the character? I’d say both – but mostly the character.
My daughters are nearing 20 and 26 years of age, my niece is 30, my sister is Harmon’s age and I am 9 years his junior. Each of us recognizes the undeniable appeal of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. To identify that appeal is something else entirely.
1) Gibbs is hot headed and stubborn and he constantly defies authority. In a normal, non-Hollywood scenario this would raise a red flag, but instead I find myself admiring him as he storms out of his boss’s office and makes some I-dare-you-to-fire-me move.
2) He has been married four times, three of which ended in divorce. Nobody could ever replace his first wife Kelly no matter how hard they tried. But even knowing he has failed miserably at being happy with anyone else, we’ve all had that taste of the impenetrable connection between Gibbs and his first bride. Six years after it initially aired I still cannot watch the last scene in the “Heartland” episode where Gibbs returns to his hometown and reminisces about the first time they ever spoke without tearing up.
3) His first name is Leroy. I’m sorry but there’s nothing sexy about that name. And all I hear in the middle name of Jethro is a sloppy southern drawl. Not much about the last name Gibbs sounds like a strong, manly name. But put them together and pair that with a grayed, handsome guy in a long coat. Now you’re catching on.
4) He’s the silent type when silence is the last thing you need. Seriously, trying to get Gibbs to open up about his feelings is like trying to hide out from your kids when you’re on the phone. Still, I’m willing to put up with it, as long as he flashes that sexy smile at me once in a while.
5) The hair cut. Who does that? It’s part military, part bowl, and parted in the wrong place. But it looks so darn soft… soft enough to run your fingers through it.
There was no better casting than that of Ralph Waite as Gibbs’ father. You would swear they really were related, felt the strength in their hugs. The only thing lacking was a head slap between father and son. It gave us something to look forward to, that preview of a senior Gibbs, all gruff on the outside and cotton candy in his baby blues. It is odd for me to react to the death of an actor, but with Waite’s passing gone were the scenes of their strained and loving relationship that felt so tangible.
I have looked forward to Tuesday evenings for quite a while, to Gibbs and his crew, and to weathering the storms through cast changes and story lines that sometimes baffle me. In the end, there might be dozens of reasons why we shouldn’t love Leroy Jethro Gibbs, but none of it matters - not the haircut, the silences or the odd name choice for his character. He’s got our attention.
No head slap needed.