NCIS update: Mark Harmon in, Michael Weatherly out

Agent Jethro Gibbs re-ups with CBS for two more years on popular, long-running military and spy TV series “NCIS.” Michael Weatherly out in amicable departure.

Mark Harmon stars as Special Agent Jethro Gibbs in CBS-TV's long running hit drama "NCIS." (Photo via Swedish Wikipedia entry for Mark Harmon, CC 3.0)

HOLLYWOOD, March 2, 2016 – Good news—and bad news—for fans of CBS TV’s long-running and still hugely popular military crime-drama series “NCIS.” The good news: Mark Harmon, aka NCIS Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, has inked a new two-year pact with the network to continue in his starring role.

Michael Weatherly (Special Agent Tony DiNozzo) will be leaving NCIS at the end of the 2015-2016 season. (Image via Wikipedia entry on Michael Weatherly)
Michael Weatherly (Special Agent Tony DiNozzo) will be leaving NCIS at the end of the 2015-2016 season. (Image via Wikipedia entry on Michael Weatherly)

The bad news: Michael Weatherly, nearly as popular as Harmon in his role as quirky Special Agent Tony DiNozzo and a series regular from the very beginning, will be leaving the show after this season. Weatherly’s imminent departure is apparently an amicable one, as the actor has said he’d like to pursue other opportunities, particularly ones that put him behind the camera.

Harmon himself has broadened his “NCIS” portfolio over the years, and now serves not only as the original series’ top star but also as its executive producer. He also serves in the latter capacity on the highly successful second spinoff from “NCIS,” “NCIS: New Orleans.” CBS also continues to air the initial spinoff series, NCIS: Los Angeles.

According to “Deadline,”

“In its 13th season, NCIS is still a ratings force to be reckoned with, drawing more than 20 million viewers in a fragmented environment where viewership of 10 million viewers is often considered a success. NCIS is averaging 20.47 million viewers this season, up +4% from Season 12 and on pace to finish the season as network television’s #1 drama for the seventh consecutive year. NCIS is older-skewing but still potent in the demos, ranking in the top 10 among adults 25-54 (4.6 rating) and in the top 15 in adults 18-49 (3.1). Also, NCIS is a Top 10 time-shifted program, gaining almost +4 million viewers in Live+7 playback.”

Not only has the original “NCIS” made plenty of money for host network CBS over many years. It’s also a global hit, and has been ranked as the “most watched” dramatic series in its markets for the past two years.

But perhaps most remarkable of all, the viewer demographic for “NCIS” skews a bit higher than the advertiser-desired 18-49 demographic that seems to be the sole force determining whether a series lives or dies in the current broadcast and cable TV game. Most critics, including this one, attribute this continuing popularity to the show’s arguably beloved and quirky characters, all of whom seem to get along together like a rambunctious and occasionally combative family, a bit like the first two TV “Star Trek” series.

Given this appeal, it should be interesting to see how the departure of Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo will affect the show’s balance. It might be just as interesting to see who, if anyone, will be able to replace Weatherly’s quirky, idiosyncratic and naturally funny character. No word yet, however, on the network’s plans.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17