|Created by||Donald P. Bellisario|
|Opening theme||"Theme from JAG"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||227 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||42–47 minutes|
|Distributor||Paramount Domestic Television|
CBS Television Distribution
|Original network||NBC (season 1 except episode 22)|
USA Network (season 1 episode 22)
CBS (seasons 2-10)
|Original release||September 23, 1995 –|
April 29, 2005
|Related shows||NCIS franchise|
JAG (U.S. military acronym for Judge Advocate General) is an American legal drama television series with a U.S. Navy theme, created by Donald P. Bellisario, and produced by Belisarius Productions in association with Paramount Network Television (now CBS Studios). The series originally aired on NBC for one season from September 23, 1995, to May 22, 1996, and then on CBS for an additional nine seasons from January 3, 1997, to April 29, 2005. The first season was co-produced with NBC Productions (now Universal Television) and was originally perceived as a Top Gun meets A Few Good Men hybrid series.
In the spring of 1996, NBC canceled the series after it finished 79th in the ratings, leaving one episode unaired. In December 1996, the rival network CBS picked up the series as a mid-season replacement and aired 15 new episodes as its second season. For several seasons, JAG climbed in the ratings and ultimately ran for nine additional seasons. JAG furthermore spawned the hit series NCIS, which in turn led to spin-offs NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, NCIS: Hawaiʻi and NCIS: Sydney.
In total, 227 episodes were produced over 10 seasons. At the time of the original airing of its fifth season in the United States, JAG was seen in over 90 countries worldwide.
The series follows the exploits of the Washington metropolitan area–based "judge advocates" (i.e. uniformed lawyers) in the Department of the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General, who in the line of duty can prosecute and defend criminal cases under the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (arising from the global presence of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps), conduct informal and formal investigations, and advise on military operational law.
In the first season, the in-universe JAG headquarters was set in Washington, DC, while in later seasons it is located in Falls Church, Virginia. The exterior shot for the latter was of the Cravens Estate in Pasadena, which at the time was owned by the American Red Cross. The real-life Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) was and is based at the Washington Navy Yard.
Akin to Law & Order, the plots from many episodes were often "ripped from the headlines" with portions of the plot either resembling or referencing recognizable aspects of actual cases or incidents, such as the USS Cole bombing ("Act of Terror" and "Valor"), the rescue of downed pilot Scott O'Grady ("Defensive Action"), the Cavalese cable car disaster ("Clipped Wings"), the USS Iowa turret explosion ("Into the Breech"), and the Kelly Flinn incident ("The Court-Martial of Sandra Gilbert").
While not part of the mission of its real-world counterpart, some of the main characters are at times also involved, directly and indirectly, in various CIA intelligence operations, often revolving around the recurring character CIA officer Clayton Webb (played by Steven Culp).
Main article: List of JAG episodes
|First aired||Last aired||Network|
|1||22||September 23, 1995||July 15, 1996||NBC|
|2||15||January 3, 1997||April 18, 1997||CBS|
|3||24||September 23, 1997||May 19, 1998|
|4||24||September 22, 1998||May 25, 1999|
|5||25||September 21, 1999||May 23, 2000|
|6||24||October 3, 2000||May 22, 2001|
|7||24||September 25, 2001||May 21, 2002|
|8||24||September 24, 2002||May 20, 2003|
|9||23||September 26, 2003||May 21, 2004|
|10||22||September 24, 2004||April 29, 2005|
Main article: List of JAG characters
"Dramatic, action adventure programming has all but disappeared from the airwaves. I don't do sitcoms; I don't do urban neurotic dramas. I created JAG because it's the kind of television I like to watch. Besides that, I served four years in the Marine Corps and remain fascinated by the military's code of ethics—God, duty, honor, country—and how, in these rapidly changing times, it still survives. That's what Harm and Mac, and JAG as a whole, represent."
Donald P. Bellisario on creating JAG
The creator of JAG, Donald P. Bellisario, served for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and after having worked his way up through advertising jobs, he landed his first network television job as a story editor for the World War II–era series Baa Baa Black Sheep, where he got a habit of promoting a consistent promilitary stance in a business where he got the perception that "antiwar" and "antisoldier" mentality were the commonplace. The stereotype in the post–Vietnam war era of "crazed Vietnam veterans" was notably subverted, by not just one, but three of the main characters, in Magnum P.I., of which Bellisario was the co-creator. Following the cancellation of his series Quantum Leap, Bellisario moved his production deal from Universal to Paramount (headed by former Universal executive Kerry McCluggage), and began working on a one-shot screenplay of a murder mystery aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, where the victim was a woman and naval aviator, inspired by the then-current introduction of female fighter pilots onboard aircraft carriers and in the wake of fallout of the Tailhook scandal.
While doing research on which organizational entities would partake in investigative efforts of crimes committed aboard Naval vessels, Bellisario learned that the special agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service filled the police role, and the uniformed lawyers, in the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps, could alternate between the role of defense attorney, prosecutor, and field investigator. Bellisario chose to go ahead with the lawyers and remarked the unique advantages it brought from a story-telling point of view: "Unlike most law shows, I've got a detective, a prosecutor, and a defender."
With the cancellation on NBC and the immediate pick-up by CBS, showrunner Donald P. Bellisario was allowed greater creative freedom in terms in story and casting. While over on NBC, its West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer wanted more action rather than legal drama and imposed a new female lead, Tracey Needham, rather than continuing with Andrea Parker as in the pilot movie. The move over to CBS, with its older skewing audience and its president Les Moonves giving freer reins, this allowed Bellisario to retool JAG from an emphasis on action stories to character driven stories and building an ensemble cast.
At the start of the third season, JAG moved its production base from the Paramount lot at Melrose Avenue in Hollywood out to Valencia Studios in Santa Clarita in order to save costs and putting more of the budget on screen rather than spending on soundstage rentals. The spin-off series NCIS has remained on the same studio facility for its entire duration and was filmed side-by-side with JAG for the ninth and tenth season of the latter and the first and second season of the former.
While the scope of the in-universe settings of JAG were global, the show was with, only a few exceptions, entirely filmed on location in southern California and mostly within Greater Los Angeles and the studio zone in which unionized film crews can commute without receiving additional remuneration. JAG had around the dawn of millennium two location managers for this task alternating between episodes, Paul F. Brinkman, Jr and Marvin Bernstein. A few examples of buildings acting as stand-in on location shooting are:
The advance of computer-generated imagery (CGI) made the process of removing palm trees and California license plates simpler still. As to how effectively the deception worked according to the showrunner when JAG started to air overseas, "we started to get letters from England, from Germany, from the Middle Eastern companies. A lot of these viewers wanted to know: When were we going to shoot in their city?"
Initially, the producers of JAG did not receive any co-operation from the U.S. Department of Defense entertainment media liaison offices, due to sensitivity in light of all the accumulative negative publicity that had been generated from the Tailhook scandal and its aftermath. However, the lack of co-operation from the military was not a show-stopper, as the JAG production team, by virtue of being a Paramount Pictures production, had access to the abundant stock footage from the studio's motion pictures, which included many films with military content, such as Top Gun, The Final Countdown, and The Hunt for Red October (and the two other Tom Clancy movie adaptations).
In 1997, though, the naval services had begun to change their minds, and began to render support to the production team on a script-by-script basis with the United States Marine Corps more eager than the United States Navy to render production assistance. A primetime network series about Navy lawyers bringing out controversial subjects in a very public arena was during the third season apparently no longer an issue in itself, but as noted by Commander Bob Anderson of the Navy Office of Information West in Los Angeles in a TV Guide interview: "We're fine with that as long as the bad guys are caught and punished, and the institution of the Navy is not the bad guy". The Headquarters Marine Corps Entertainment Liaison Office lists JAG on their website in its portfolio of collaborations.
The production filmed on regular basis at nearby installations, primarily at Naval Base Ventura County and its two component parts: Naval Air Station Point Mugu and Naval Construction Battalion Center Port Hueneme. Between 12–14 July 1999, three of the lead actors (Elliott, Bell, and Labyorteaux) and crew filmed aboard the nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) off the coast of southern California for scenes for the first three episodes of the 5th season.
David James Elliott left the show at the end of the 10th season; the show was subsequently not renewed for an 11th season by the network. The show also introduced new younger characters, including former As the World Turns star Chris Beetem, and Jordana Spiro from The Huntress.
The producers also considered relocating the fictional setting of the show, from Falls Church to Naval Base San Diego. An episode of the final season, "JAG: San Diego" had the main cast, excluding Harm, going to the San Diego naval base and working with the local JAG office there. Though it was reportedly considered as a pilot episode, as a reformat of the show aiming for a younger audience, CBS ultimately decided not to pursue a new series.
Nevertheless, CBS canceled the show on April 4, 2005, after 10 seasons. The final episode, "Fair Winds and Following Seas", aired on April 29, 2005, and in which Harm and Mac are assigned different stations: Harm in London, Mac in San Diego. They finally confront their feelings and decide to get married. The episode ends with Bud tossing a challenge coin to decide which one would give up his or her military career to be with the other. However, in keeping with JAG tradition, the outcome of the toss is never seen, as the screen fades to black, showing only the coin, which bears the inscription "1995 – 2005", the years the series spanned.
The result of the coin toss was eventually revealed in the 2019 finale of the tenth season of NCIS: Los Angeles, "False Flag", in which David James Elliott and Catherine Bell both appeared. Mac won the coin toss and Harm resigned his commission and moved with her to San Diego, but later they mutually ended their relationship and Harm rejoined the Navy and is currently serving as the XO of the (fictional) aircraft carrier, USS Allegiance. Mac left the Marines to serve as the USMC liaison to the secretary of state, a civilian position at the U.S. Department of State. Harm and Mac had not seen each other in 9 years until video conferencing with each other in their new roles. In the eleventh season premiere, Harm and Mac reunite in person, share an embrace, and later renew a discussion of their relationship, once again without reaching any conclusions.
The pilot movie received a moderately positive review in Variety which noted that it "borrows from recent features Crimson Tide and Apollo 13 in being jargon-heavy to help generate atmosphere but as Rabb’s character is allowed to develop, JAG could become one of the season’s highlights." Entertainment Weekly was less impressed by the first episodes of the first season and noted that there is, "...nothing new about JAG‘s plots; they’re the sort of good-guy-against-the-establishment stuff you’d expect, with the scripts (including a recent one cowritten by the mystery novelist Robert Crais) a slight cut above most hour-long dramas."
During its run, JAG and its two lead actors (Elliott as "Harm" and Bell as "Mac") featured on the cover of TV Guide on two occasions: July 6, 2002 ("ON THE WINGS OF AMERICAN PRIDE, THE NAVY DRAMA FLIES HIGH"), and on May 3, 2003 ("JAG SOARS! Tough Timely Stories And a Likely Spin-off"). Virginia Heffernan wrote a scathing critique of JAG in the liberal progressive online magazine Slate that "As right-wing military propaganda JAG operates like socialist realist novels and the barking radio of G. Gordon Liddy: It pounds home its message at deafening volume, razing nuance and stranding viewers with nothing else to think." Furthermore, that in many episodes it "...typically opens with the suggestion that the military has done something terrible—and the officers in question do show signs of guilt (reticence). But in the end they reveal their absolute innocence and their higher purpose—and both the military and its reticence are exonerated."
The August 2009 issue of ABA Journal ranked the "25 greatest legal TV shows of all time" and JAG came in at number 13. JAG was on spot 10 out of 20 on a 2018 Wonderwall.com list over "Best TV shows about the military"
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of JAG on NBC (first season) and CBS (other seasons).
|Season||Season premiere||Season finale||Time slot||Network||TV season||Rank||Viewers|
|1||September 23, 1995||May 22, 1996||Saturday at 8:00 pm (EST) (September 23, 1995 – February 3, 1996)
Wednesday at 8:00 pm (EST) (March 13 – May 22, 1996)
|2||January 3, 1997||April 18, 1997||Friday at 9:00 pm (EST) (January 3 – March 7, 1997)
Friday at 8:00 pm (EST) (March 28 – April 18, 1997)
|3||September 23, 1997||May 19, 1998||Tuesday at 8:00 pm (EST)||1997–1998||36||12.90|
|4||September 22, 1998||May 25, 1999||1998–1999||17||14.20|
|5||September 21, 1999||May 23, 2000||1999–2000||25||14.07|
|6||October 3, 2000||May 22, 2001||2000–2001||31||13.00|
|7||September 25, 2001||May 21, 2002||2001–2002||15||14.80|
|8||September 24, 2002||May 20, 2003||2002–2003||26||12.97|
|9||September 26, 2003||May 21, 2004||Friday at 9:00 pm (EST)||2003–2004||37||10.80|
|10||September 24, 2004||April 29, 2005||2004–2005||50||9.66|
It was noted in 1998 that the largest segment of the audience was those over the age of 55. JAG had its highest ratings ever in the fall of season 7, beating episodes of The Practice on ABC and in symbiosis with the other CBS law dramas on Tuesdays, Judging Amy and The Guardian. In 2003, the median age audience for JAG (along with the other CBS series' The Guardian and Becker) was 58 years, the second highest median in primetime network television, with only CBS 60 Minutes higher up.
|1996||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Series – Single Camera Production||Jon Koslowsky||Pilot Episode||Won|
|1996||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costuming for a Series||L. Paul Dafelmair||"Smoked"||Nominated|
|1996||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music||Bruce Broughton||N/A||Nominated|
|1997||Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costuming for a Series||L. Paul Dafelmair||"Cowboys and Cossacks"||Won|
|1998||Outstanding Cinematography for a Series||Hugo Cortina||"The Good of the Service"||Nominated|
|1999||Hugo Cortina||"Gypsy Eyes"||Nominated|
|1999||Outstanding Costuming for a Series||L. Paul Dafelmair||"Gypsy Eyes"||Won|
|2000||Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series||Hugo Cortina||"Boomerang, part II"||Nominated|
|2001||Hugo Cortina||"Adrift, part I"||Nominated|
|2002||Outstanding Music Composition for a Series (Dramatic Underscore)||Steven Bramson||"Adrift, part 2"||Nominated|
|2003||Steven Bramson||"Need to Know"||Nominated|
|1999||Humanitas Prize||60 Minute Category||—||Angels 30||Nominated|
|2000||ASCAP Awards||Top TV Series (x2)||Bruce Broughton
|TV Guide Awards||Favorite Actor in a Drama||David James Elliott||—||Won|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Performance in a TV Drama Series – Guest Starring Young Actress||Aysia Polk||—||Nominated|
|2001||Imagen Foundation Awards||Primetime Television Series||—||Retreat Hell||Won|
|2003||ASCAP Awards||Top TV Series||Bruce Broughton
|2004||Top TV Series (x2)||Bruce Broughton
|Young Artist Awards||Best Performance in a TV Series – Recurring Young Actress||Hallee Hirsh||—||Nominated|
Main article: NCIS (TV series)
In January 2003, Donald P. Bellisario was developing a JAG spin-off, around the work of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. It was aired in April 2003 in a two-part backdoor pilot in which Commander Rabb is arrested, but later vindicated as innocent, for the murder of Lieutenant Singer. The two episodes, titled "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown", focused on the NCIS team, with most of the JAG regulars as supporting characters. Whereas the episodes of JAG are primarily oriented on a mixture of courtroom drama and military activities in the field, NCIS episodes are more focused, as the meaning of the acronym suggests, on criminal investigations. NCIS also follows a different storytelling format from JAG, emphasizing character humor to a larger extent than its parent program. NCIS later produced its own spin-offs, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Hawaiʻi, which shows a further departure from the styles and themes of JAG.
The two episodes "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown" were edited down to a one-hour pilot film, which was then used to sell the idea of NCIS as a new series to CBS; the pilot used the title, "NCIS – The Beginning". It was later also used to introduce the show to CBS affiliates and advertisers. It was only broadcast once and is not available on home video.
Excluding the backdoor pilot, few major characters from JAG have appeared in the NCIS series. Patrick Labyorteaux appeared briefly as Lieutenant Bud Roberts in the NCIS first-season episode "Hung Out to Dry", and again – now with the rank of captain – in the season fourteen episode "Rogue," advising the NCIS team on a legal issue. John M. Jackson returned in May 2013 as retired Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, now a civilian attorney in the private sector hired by Director Vance to provide legal representation for Special Agent Gibbs, in the season ten NCIS finale, "Damned If You Do". Jackson has recurred as A.J. Chegwidden since the eighth season of NCIS: Los Angeles. Chegwidden is a Vietnam-era compatriot of series regulars Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) and Owen Granger (Miguel Ferrer). David James Elliot and Catherine Bell returned to their roles as Harmon Rabb and Sarah MacKenzie for the first time since JAG ended in the last two episodes of the tenth season of NCIS: Los Angeles.
While several other actors who played major roles on JAG have also appeared on NCIS, such as Scott Lawrence (Sturgis Turner on JAG), Steven Culp (Clayton Webb on JAG), Randy Vazquez (Victor Galindez on JAG), and Michael Bellisario (Mikey Roberts on JAG); they played completely different characters when appearing on NCIS. Similarly, after Sean Murray (Donald Bellisario's stepson) played a one-off Ensign character in JAG season 4, and the recurring character of Danny Walden in season 6, he joined the core cast of NCIS during the first season as Tim McGee, and is still on the show as of 2022.
First introduced in the NCIS back-door pilot, Alicia Coppola appeared as Navy judge advocate Lieutenant Commander Faith Coleman in several episodes of NCIS. Adam Baldwin played the same guest role, Navy SEAL Commander Michael Rainer, in one episode of each show.
First Monday was a short-lived series co-created by Bellisario and Paul Levine about fictional U.S. Supreme Court justices and their clerks, which aired in 2002 and starred James Garner and Joe Mantegna. The character of U.S. Senator Edward Sheffield (Dean Stockwell), who appeared in three episodes of that show, later became a recurring character on JAG as the new Secretary of the Navy, starting in season eight.
The sitcom Yes, Dear did an episode called "Let's Get Jaggy With It" where Greg's father Tom (Tim Conway) wins a walk-on role on JAG. Catherine Bell guest-starred as herself while David James Elliott, Patrick Labyorteaux, and Scott Lawrence guest-starred as their respective JAG characters.
The second episode of Bette Midler's short-lived sitcom Bette, titled "And the Winner Is," had a storyline where her title character wins an award for guest starring in an episode of JAG. The award-winning scene shows Bette playing a character who interrogates Harmon Rabb after comedically checking out his posterior. David James Elliott guest stars in this episode-within-an-episode. The episode aired on CBS on October 18, 2000.
On September 1, 1998, the pilot episode of JAG was released on VHS cassette in the U.S. by Paramount Home Entertainment. However, no further episodes of the series proper were released on any home entertainment media while the show was still in production, allegedly due to syndication deals made with several broadcasters.
Beginning in 2006, CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) has released all 10 seasons on DVD in regions 1, 2 and 4. Seasons 1 to 4 are released with a 4:3 aspect ratio, while seasons 5 to 10 have a 16:9 aspect ratio. The region-2 and −4 editions do not have the bonus features (audio commentaries and retrospective interviews) included on the region-1 editions of seasons one and two.
On December 11, 2012, CBS released JAG: The Complete Series – Collector's Edition on DVD in region 1. This collection contains, other than all 227 episodes of the series and the bonus features of the previously released individual season packs, one disc with new bonus features and a booklet with production notes.
On April 14, 2015, CBS Home Entertainment released a repackaged version of the complete series set, at a lower price, in Region 1. It does not include the bonus disc that was part of the original complete series set.
|DVD name||No. of
|Release dates||Extra features|
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|The Complete First Season||22||July 25, 2006||October 16, 2006||October 16, 2006||Behind the Scenes Footage|
Making Of "Featurette"
Rare unaired episode "Skeleton Crew"
|The Complete Second Season||15||November 7, 2006||September 10, 2007||August 16, 2007||Behind the Scenes Footage|
Making Of "Featurette"
|The Third Season||24||March 20, 2007||June 24, 2008||June 5, 2008||—|
|The Fourth Season||24||August 21, 2007||October 22, 2008||October 2, 2008||Gag reel|
|The Fifth Season||25||January 29, 2008||May 7, 2009||May 7, 2009||Gag reel|
|The Sixth Season||24||May 20, 2008||September 14, 2009||September 3, 2009||—|
|The Seventh Season||24||November 4, 2008||March 22, 2010||March 4, 2010||—|
|The Eighth Season||24||March 17, 2009||June 21, 2010||August 5, 2010||Gag Reel|
NCIS Pilot episodes "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown"
|The Ninth Season||24||November 10, 2009||September 20, 2010||November 4, 2010||—|
|The Final Season||22||February 9, 2010||June 29, 2011||July 6, 2011||"JAG: The Final Goodbye"|
|The Complete Series||227||December 11, 2012||June 27, 2011||—||All bonus features of individual season packs|
One disc of new bonus features, including the documentary The JAGged Edge
|The Complete Series||227||April 14, 2015||—||—||All bonus features of individual season packs|
On April 26, 2010, Intrada released an album of music on compact disc from the series, featuring Bruce Broughton's theme and his pilot movie score (tracks 1–15) and weekly composer Steven Bramson's score from the second-season episode "Cowboys & Cossacks", including Broughton's format music (the main and end title theme and commercial bumper.)
All tracks are written by Bruce Broughton (track 1–15 & 18, including the "Theme from JAG" used in many of the Bramson tracks) and Steve Bramson (16–17 & 19–28).
|1.||"Engage and Destroy; Main Title"||4:42|
|2.||"Getting Some Air; Angela Overboard"||2:39|
|3.||"Harm and Kate Arrive"||2:21|
|4.||"Harm’s Past; Over Bosnia"||1:55|
|5.||"Gold Wings & Dress Whites; Wave Off"||1:31|
|8.||"Angela on a Slab"||1:34|
|11.||"To Hell and Back, Sir; Let'm Trap!"||6:05|
|12.||"Harm Does It"||3:25|
|14.||"Gold Wings, White Uniform"||1:56|
|18.||"Format Main Title"||0:47|
|19.||"Act One Playon; Exchange"||1:20|
|21.||"One Rule of War"||1:16|
|22.||"Jumping Ship; Convincing Yuri"||2:12|
|24.||"To the Brig; Boxing Petavitch"||1:41|
|26.||"This Is War"||3:05|
|28.||"A Sailor’s Death; Format End Credits"||1:44|
"We originally came up to Santa Clarita with the JAG show as an antidote to the high cost of studio rental in Hollywood. We wanted to put more of the money on the screen," [Mark Horowitz] adds. Because the JAG show lasted for ten years, there were standing warehouses that had been converted for studio use. "For two seasons, JAG filmed side-by-side with NCIS," he says.
Valencia Studios has been continuously occupied for the last 20+ years by CBS/Paramount
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The Craves Estate is a famous house, having been in more movies and TV shows than most actors. It was used as the White House in "Commander in Chief," Jag's headquarters in "JAG" was the law firm in "Enemy Of The State" and was used in so many films including "Swordfish," "Rush Hour 3," "Traffic" "Hail, Caesar" and even "Being There." Some of the TV shows that shot there: "Desperate Housewives," "Beverly Hills. 90210," "Mad Men," and "Ghost Whisperer."
The Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) includes the JAG, the Deputy Judge Advocate General (DJAG), and the Assistant Judge Advocates General (AJAGs), Headquarters Offices, Special Assistants and their staffs.
Main Office Mailing Address:
1322 Patterson Ave., Suite 3000
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5066
OUTSTANDING MAIN TITLE THEME MUSIC - 1996
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