After months of uncertainty, Harmon and CBS have struck a deal to keep the procedural alive — yet key questions remain.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs will return.
After months of will-they-or-won’t-they uncertainty, CBS has decided to renew NCIS for a 19th season. Most crucially, the network also locked down star Mark Harmon to stay aboard the procedural, which continues to rank as TV’s most-watched drama series. CBS also renewed Magnum P.I., SWAT., Blue Bloods and Bull for additional seasons on Thursday.
In February, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that Harmon was ready to move on from the role he originated on the CBS drama JAG back in 2003. Then the actor and executive producer was informed that CBS would likely end NCIS if he retired from the show. The ultimatum prompted Harmon to enter negotiations to return.
What remains unclear is whether Harmon will be back on NCIS full time. One option that was being explored during negotiations was for Harmon to only appear in a limited number of episodes. What’s also uncertain is how many episodes season 19 will consist of — the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a shortened 17th and 18th season, and it’s unclear at this time if season 19 will be similarly affected. Whether this will be the show’s final season is likewise not yet known.
But the renewal edges NCIS closer to potentially becoming the longest-running U.S. primetime drama series of all time, with only Law & Order: SVU (22 seasons and counting), the original Law & Order (20 seasons) and Gunsmoke (20 seasons) having a more protracted run.
NCIS remains a ratings powerhouse, regularly drawing more than 12 million viewers per episode (even its reruns tend to rule the night among total viewers). Yet, at this point, the show’s talent and producer contracts make the drama CBS’ most expensive production and its renewal each year has become a tricky cost-benefit analysis.
The deal comes as NCIS: New Orleans prepares to conclude next month after seven seasons, NCIS: Los Angeles continues with its 12th season (and is still awaiting news on a renewal) and the prospect of yet another spinoff is heating up — NCIS: Hawaii, which sources say is eyeing casting the franchise’s first female lead.
As for the other renewals, Magnum P.I. will get a fourth season, SWAT. a fifth season, Blue Bloods a 12th season and Bull a sixth season.
Representatives for CBS and Harmon declined to comment.
For more, see THR‘s Broadcast Scorecard for what’s renewed, what’s canceled.