During my pre-teen and teen years, Tuesday nights were paramount in my family. I can remember racing through homework so that when 7:00 PM rolled around I had no obligations hanging over my head. Before I became a “cool” teenager who had no time for her parents, Tuesday nights were the time when we plopped down on the couch together in expectation of something great. At that time, live T.V. still reigned supreme in most homes across the country and ours was no exception. Adolescent Andrea couldn’t bear the thought of missing NCIS and having to wait another hour for the re-run to air or worse, wait for the following Tuesday night when an encore would air at 6:00 PM.
Ah…it was a much simpler time. The long running drama (16 seasons and counting) centers around a team of federal agents who investigate crimes related to both the Navy and Marines. Their fearless leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), an ex-Marine, has the reputation for being tough, but always fair. Every week fans tune in to watch Gibbs and his dedicated special agents solve murders and hunt down terrorists.
In its heyday (which I consider seasons 5-10 and maybe half of 11), the best episodes involved the close-knit team thwarting a terrorist attack or banding together like a family to solve a major problem. It really was special because NCIS had a personality that wasn’t common in a lot of other series at the time. It wasn’t as dark as Law & Order, or as light-hearted as Psych and Monk. The writing was humorous, but not silly; characters were allowed to behave frivolously one moment and earnest the next, and above all the main cast gelled beautifully.
NCIS has gone off the rails a bit in its later seasons (seasons 14-present more specifically), and the revolving door of new characters has made it difficult to keep up with emerging story lines. In fact, if you haven’t recently watched the show and happen to land on CBS on a Tuesday night, the line-up might even be unrecognizable.
Harmon still carries top billing and stars alongside veterans Sean Murray (Tim McGee) and Brian Dietzen (Jimmy Palmer), but beloved characters like Tony (Michael Weatherly), Ziva (Cote de Pablo), and Abby (Pauley Perrette) have exited for various reasons. Newer faces like Emily Wickersham turned up in season 11 as former NSA agent Ellie Bishop and Wilmer Valderrama joined the series at the top of season 14 as Nick Torres. It’s hard not to compare them to their much more interesting predecessors.
Fan favorite Ducky (David McCallum) has spent time away on his own smaller story lines and even Rocky Carroll‘s Director Vance has stepped away for prolonged amounts of time (although Carroll has still been present on set wearing a director’s hat for a handful of episodes).
NCIS doesn’t even seem to be able to keep all of its new characters around. Both Jennifer Esposito and Duane Henry disappeared after brief stints on the show. Just when I was starting to feel like I knew them, they were gone. And with every season comes the rumors that Harmon is ready to retire from the procedural drama. So why does the show continue? Why is CBS so hesitant to call it quits?
I think that the answer to that is probably complicated. Many fans are still tuning in, although it’s unclear if out of loyalty and tradition or genuine interest. It’s also possible that a new crop of fans have sprung up in recent years. Fans who don’t know about the glory days when the individual team members were unique and exciting. According to recent numbers, NCIS is still killing it as the top series on Tuesday nights.*
Having a series like this one run for sixteen seasons is a marvel in this day and age. Why not go out with a bang? I’d hate for such a great series to end on a sour note or worse, with an unfulfilled and rushed ending. Game of Thrones is the perfect example. After the 80 minute series finale aired, dissatisfied fans lambasted the writers, producers and anyone else within throwing distance. For days after it aired, there was a firestorm of angry tweets and snarky memes, decrying what felt like a hasty thrown-together finale. While NCIS’ audiences has probably never been as large (or vocal) as the HBO juggernaut, the fact still remains that we deserve a great ending to a great series.
I don’t mean to come off as negative or bitter, but it’s tough to see something I enjoyed for so long basically fall a part. I recently realized that the entire series is on Netflix, which means I can binge and re-watch my fave episodes of old. Because even if NCIS goes another five seasons without improving, I can always remember it fondly for what it once was. And isn’t that what it’s all about? I’d like to think so.
*During the writing of this post, CBS announced that the series has been renewed for another season, airing Fall 2019.
Will you be tuning in for season 17 or have you given up on NCIS? If you are a fan, let’s also talk about that crazy character return in the season 16 finale. Drop me something in the comments down below!