GothWatch: Abby Sciuto

[Contains a potentially lethal intake of energy drinks and SPOILERS!!!]

Pauley Perrette as ‘Abby Sciuto’ in “NCIS” (S1)Considering my abiding obsession with Gothiness, and my professional interest in police procedurals, it’s kinda sad that it’s taken me this long to watch a full season of N.C.I.S. (Naval Criminal Investigative Service). I have seen bits-and-pieces of various episodes in the past while idly flicking through the channels, but something about the obnoxious banter between the main characters always put me off, and made me wonder why the show had become such a huge success in the first place. Now that I’ve worked my way through the entire first season (2003), I have a better sense of how comforting the show can be, as a way of winding-down from more serious or involving tasks… but still don’t really *like* any of the main agents, or the needling way they provoke each other. And that whole “geeky-type starts rambling/digressing, then gets cut short by gruff-authority-type” thing got very old, very fast… I wouldn’t even call it a “running gag” as such, it’s just something that happened in almost every scene involving any medical/scientific/tech-y exposition, and it made me (metaphorically) grind my teeth every damn time. Gah!

Pauley Perrette as ‘Abby Sciuto’ in “NCIS” (S1)Of course, Pauley Perrette is absolutely adorable as ‘Abby Sciuto’, the team’s perky Forensic Specialist… and top marks to the producers for casting an actress who was at least familiar with goth-y/punk-y culture, even if she doesn’t identify herself as such. Apparently a lot of Abby’s tattoos are genuine, although the spider’s web on her neck is added in make-up, so that there’s always some ink showing even when she’s wearing a lab-coat! The music they have her listening to in the lab is a little bland for my tastes, but I assume that’s a budgetary issue, rather than a reflection of what she’d genuinely listen to if she existed in real life… it would be way too pricey to licence headline bands every week, just to provide some background music for them to gab over. It would also be pretty distracting, now I come to think about it… so fair enough. Since it’s a work-based show, and Abby is a serious professional (most of the time), she didn’t do anything overtly “spooky” on-screen… though there was one episode (#1.13) where a sniper’s bullet came to rest in a crate of boxed-up baby-dolls, and she chose to strip them all naked and separate their heads from their bodies during the course of her examination, despite it being blatantly obvious which one contained the actual evidence (‘cuz of the large entry “wound” and rattling sound). Her confused and discomfited colleagues noted that it “must be a goth thing”, as they surveyed the table of dismembered/disgraced plastic corpses.

Pauley Perrette as ‘Abby Sciuto’ in “NCIS” (S1)Curiously, Abby seems to be the only team-member that their hard-nosed, ex-Marine boss ‘Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) treats with any consistent warmth and good-humour. Generally speaking, he keeps most people (including the other main characters) at a distance with spiky disdain and glowering cynicism, but he usually has a cheery smile on his face when he’s talking with Abby, and jokes with her (rather than *at* her) when he’s in a more relaxed mood. He even let her skip out to a party during an investigation in ep #1.20, simply because she asked him nicely! It probably helps that she’s such a reliable clue-cracker, and conduit for damning evidence… though I was very disappointed with her in ep #1.4 when she inexplicably confused the words “parley” and “melee” while discussing an online RPG, and displayed some truly atrocious computer-acting in the scenes where they had her supposedly navigating the game for herself. She was just madly mashing random keys, as fast as she could, like she was playing some old-timey “button-basher” on the ZX Spectrum, rather than holding down a small number of specific keys (and/or mouse buttons), as you do with more sophisticated, modern-day dungeon-crawlers, like the one that was depicted on her monitor. So that seriously undercut the character’s geek credibility, despite all the jargon she dropped in her other dialogue-heavy scenes (by a wacky co-inky-dink, Samantha Bee used a clip of Abby frantically bashing away at her keyboard to stop some sort of hack-attack, for a recent episode of Full Frontal, and also mocked how ridiculous and ineffective she looked).

Pauley Perrette as ‘Abby Sciuto’ in “NCIS” (S1)According to EW, as of August 2011, Perrette had the highest Q Score (a measurement of familiarity and appeal) of any actor on a U.S. primetime show, which presumably also makes Abby the most famous fictional Goth in America? In that case, I guess we should be grateful that she’s presented as such a sweet-natured, intelligent, and functional member of an elite crime-fighting force, rather than some sewer-dwelling, self-harming ghoul… I just wish she weren’t trapped in such a square-toed show, surrounded by snide-y jag-offs. Feh!

P.S. I was watching this as a palate-cleanser after Twin Peaks, to help me come back down to earth… so it was a little jarring when Sherilyn Fenn guest-starred in one episode (#1.10) as an amnesiac who awakens in a shallow grave, with a vague memory of helping to plant a bomb on an unknown naval vessel! Her character went on a pretty intense journey,  but it’s still kinda sad seeing the once-and-future “Audrey Horne” reduced to playing a victim/villain-of-the-week… and I suspect that Fenn would agree with me, if asked!

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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