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'JAG' takes off tonight with a jolt at sea


On a stormy night at sea, one of the few female combat pilots in the U.S. Navy nearly falls to her death when she slips from the deck of her aircraft carrier.

Using all the strength she can summon, she hangs over the tossing sea, struggling to regain her footing.

Then, when she finally scrambles to safety, a dark figure emerges from the shadows behind her -- and pushes her back over the side.

That horrifying incident opens tonight's two-hour premiere of NBC's new action drama "JAG" (8 p.m., WBAL, Channel 11), a fresh and stylish series that starts with a considerable bang as we're plunged into a difficult murder investigation by young Lt. Harmon Rabb Jr. (David James Elliott) of the Judge Advocate General's office, the legal branch known within the military simply as the JAG.

Not only does Lieutenant Rabb face the awesome task of sorting out a murder mystery aboard a ship of war, but he also must delicately pick his way through the complex relationships in a Navy beset with revolutionary changes.

Because the carrier is in the midst of a near-war crisis off the coast of the former Yugoslavia, the experimental use of combat-trained female pilots has provoked controversy aboard ship.

Before this episode of "JAG" is over, the series has given us an intense and exciting peek into the kinds of stressful situations that now may be quite common in a military establishment that has been backed to the wall by the forces of social change.

Tracey Needham and Andrea Parker join Mr. Elliott in playing naval lawyers in the series, which comes from the pen of Don Bellisario. He's a former Marine and professd "military junkie" who is one of TV's best producers of action shows.

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