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Suspension of “Dis”-Belief

on 01/08/2012

I will be the first to admit, I haven’t had anything published … traditional, INDIE or even “self-published”; unless you count my blogs. So I don’t consider myself a “real writer”, though my college instructors would argue that point, because anyone who creates a written work is a writer.

HOWEVER …. that isn’t what this blog is about, but sort of a “disclaimer”.

From what I have read, seen, and learned there are several guidelines to writing.

I think one of the rules of writing should be “continuity”. With that said, how can a successful writer of a book series (such as say John Sandford–“Prey” novels; Debbie Macomber and her “numerous” series), movie franchise or even a TV series expect continued success without continuity?

It has been the lack of continuity (written and visual) that has led to the decline of a series.

While I will admit that in the land of “fiction” there are certain creative licenses you can take to make the story, movie, or episode engaging and entertaining for the audience; when you start re-writing a history that you established (and not that long ago — less than 1 year), that takes the “suspension of belief” to a whole new level. It becomes almost “soap-operish”. I know, that isn’t a real word, but I will be honest and admit, that is the best I could come up with. It’s like those soap operas where the kid is born this year, and 2 years later, they’re adults with children.

There are certain cases where that level of story-telling should not be employed, explored or even thought.

To be honest, I enjoy “constructive criticism” — that is the type where someone says “hey, this is wrong — here is my suggestion to correct it or better it”. Constructive criticism lets a writer know that what they are writing is sub-par, but there is hope for it. I am open for that.

And, I can even ignore the “shifts” in certain things (such as James Bond going from Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Sean Connery to Roger Moore, etc) as long as there is a sound and sufficient reason (actor too old for role, no longer interested … ).

BUT, to alter an important aspect of an established character’s past (without  a complete “re-boot”) in a credible TV series, that is where I draw a line.

For example, in NCIS, we take the character of Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo, Jr (the first DiNozzo we were introduced to) …

In Season 1’s “One Shot, One Kill”, we learned Tony dated his “high school music teacher”. In Season 8’s “Baltimore”, we learn more about “Wendy” and that Tony had proposed to her.

For those who own the DVDs, I would go to approximately 11:58 when Danny shows Tony the fortune cookie. Danny mentions that Tony asking “his high school music teacher out” was brave, and Tony stated it was Wendy who asked him out.

About 14 minutes later (again, on the DVD version) at 25:08 Danny recovered the ring that fell out of Tony’s pocket and Tony states he asked Wendy, she said yes, but he had to take the ring back for re-sizing (too small).

So, let’s go with the established “canon”:

1. Wendy WAS at one point in her life Tony’s “high school music teacher” (that can cover grades 9-12)

2. Wendy had to be older than Tony (depending on what grade he was in, would determine the exact age difference)

3. Wendy asked Tony out, Tony subsequently asked Wendy to marry him

4. After joining NCIS Tony and Wendy did not get together

With the news breaking that Wendy is going to be on NCIS (perhaps a potentially re-occurring role), we find out she is now an investigative journalist and apparently closer to Tony’s age (at least in looks). In real life, the actual actress is 2.5 years younger than Weatherly.

Now, we already established that this is the “Wendy” who was the music teacher. So, how does a music teacher go from teaching music to being an investigative journalist?

I will explore that by saying she switched careers due to the widespread dissolution of the music programs in schools.


That doesn’t settle the age difference . As a teacher (and not knowing what grade DiNozzo was in when she was his teacher), she would have to be at least 22 when she taught school, if not say around 26. It would depend on the state she taught in, their requirements and how soon she started her “education”.

Let’s use this example:

DiNozzo 9th Grade (14-15)/Wendy (22; brand new teacher) (This is assuming he didn’t repeat a grade, and didn’t advance either). That is 7-8 years difference “minimum”. If she was his teacher in his senior year–12th grade (17-18) she would be a MINIMUM of 4-5 years older.

So, the actress who is set to assume the role of “Wendy” would have to portray a character at least 4-8 years older than DiNozzo, as most high school teachers need a bachelor’s (4-year) degree to teach. That would put her in her mid 40’s and in some cases likely too old to have “little DiNozzos” (which is something Tony has expressed on countless occasions), unless the writers want to re-write that as well … again, anything is possible at this point.

While I don’t presume to tell writers of the #1 show in America how to do their jobs, there is only so much reality that they can ask us to suspend to believe a story. This is a series about a real agency after all. While the actors are just acting as though they are agents in this agency, this is where some shows start to go down hill–too much suspension of belief.

How the writers intend to tackle those issues remains to be seen, and I will remain open to the episode that airs. But, I am not the only one who seems perplexed by all this. Some people have taken to TV Guide’s article to voice their thoughts about it (some have expressed the fact she was 10-15 years older than him, so I might have further research to do).

I wanted to voice my concerns in a blog so readers could understand how I put everything together. Also, my thought was too long and complex for a comment box. As of right now, I am on word #1040-1041.

While I am a late-comer to NCIS, I did a lot of research. I had been watching it on USA since 2008-2009, and began watching the season 7 episodes online in May 2010. In June 2010, I purchased seasons 1-6 on DVD and literally watched EVERY single episode. When I learned there were two episodes of JAG that introduced the “team”, I purchased JAG season 8 and watched Ice Queen & Meltdown (have seen those 3x each, so far).

In August 2010, I got season 7 on DVD and was thoroughly acquainted by the time the 8th season aired. So I have seen EVERY single episode anywhere from 2 to 3x, perhaps more. In that respect, I know the series from the beginning episodes to the most current one.

While I can appreciate the writers efforts to put Tony in touch with his past, there needs to be a certain “realism” to it. Casting someone younger and who looks about the same age (of a former student) to play an OLDER role … that is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. If they are making Wendy near the same age, they will lose credibility and viewers. And, if the writers are not careful about the “job switch” and making it believable, that too will cause credibility issues. I don’t want that for NCIS. They have done an amazing job of gaining viewers and growing with the times to start losing the credibility they have so rightfully earned.

I’ve had a lot of favorite shows go downhill after a shorter period of time. NCIS is not only #1 every week, but replaced M*A*S*H as America’s #1 favorite series. I would honestly hate for it to lose its standings because of a slip … because once those slips start, they tend to snowball out of control.

Those are just my 1300+ words worth of thoughts 😉

For reference, here is the link to the article:


3 responses to “Suspension of “Dis”-Belief

  1. Joyce K. says:

    When I saw that Wendy is an investigative reporter, the first thing that hit my mind was “wait…. I thought she was a high school music teacher! They better have a good story for her career switch” Of course I don’t need a huge explanation, just a quick one would satisfy me. I can think of many acceptable explanations.
    Also the term ‘teacher’ could be losely used – she may have been a student teacher or an upperclassman helping a younger student, or even just an accomplished musician who was teaching Tony how to play an instrument outside of the traditional classroom.
    As long as there is some sort of attempt to maintain continuity, I’ll be satisfied.

    • I am the same way. As long as it is a good explanation as to how/why she switched careers and the age difference is settled, I will be fine with the story. I don’t need the first 10 minutes dedicated to it either, LOL 😉 just like “lost funding, program fell out of favor” … something about the switch.

      As far as the term of “teacher”, since it was said twice, and could have been inferred that she was his actual teacher, that will be a tough one to tackle, just my thoughts. Although you could be right on the use of the term “teacher” … it could mean anything.

      Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if NCIS did re-write that history as well.

      But, it is a slip, and at this point, they do need to be careful about those slips in the continuity. This is the second slip this season with continuity issues (and over all, they have had too many).

      The first slip this season was about Abby’s mom. In (I believe) seasons 1-4 she was alive, and all of a sudden both Abby’s parents are deceased and there was no mention to Gibbs, Tony or the team, not even McGee about their deaths, or even her mom’s death?

      I would just hate to see NCIS lose viewers because of continuity issues 😦

    • By the way, thank you for the comment 🙂

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