Although it may not seem obvious at first, NCIS producers dedicate a lot of planning and research to the smallest details that most viewers wouldn’t think twice about. This includes the agents’ badges. If you watch closely, you’ll see that some agents have gold badges, while others wear silver. This is no mistake.
According to Little Things, the variation in badge metal simply distinguishes full-time agents from part-time ones. Full-time agents wear gold, and part-time agents wear silver. Obviously, this means that the starring cast of NCIS agents all wear gold.
While this may not be an accurate detail in real life, the important part is that the show sticks to what it establishes. Looper reported that the creators of the show try to keep authenticity in mind, but entertainment value comes first. Still, this leaves fans wondering just how accurate the series actually is.
How Does ‘NCIS’ Compare to the Real Thing?
As most fans know, NCIS is indeed based on a real-life civilian unit called the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. According to the USO, in the real-life department, retired army colonel MaryAnn Cummings acts as the communications director. And surprisingly, she frequently speaks with the NCIS series team.
“When we come into a situation and we say we’re NCIS, they’re immediately going to think of the television shows, so we have a vested interest in making sure the television shows maintains a certain credibility and a certain accuracy when we can,” Cummings said.
However, it’s not an inflexible relationship between the two crime-solving teams.
“The TV show … doesn’t have to listen to me when I call up and say, ‘That’s not helpful in terms of getting a message out about what we do,’” Cummings continued. The communications director also added that she believes the show listens to her suggestions because the producers “are committed to doing the right thing.”
In terms of differences, the show NCIS often depicts battles over jurisdiction. However, NCIS public affairs officer, Ed Buice, explains that in real life, it’s just the opposite. The unit actually has great relationships with other military and civilian departments.
Despite the literally dramatic difference between the real and fictitious Naval investigation teams, there was one crucial aspect that the show got right–the sense of family. Often on the show, when agents are either in physical or emotional distress, there’s always a colleague there to help them through the pain.
“Much like the military unit becomes a family … NCIS is a family,” Cummings shared.
That, paired with the need for comic relief, are the two most accurate depictions of the real NCIS.
“To a certain extent, you have to have a coping mechanism and that’s where the humor comes in. … That’s how you cope with it, because you don’t want to fall apart,” Cummings said.