The concept and characters were initially introduced in two episodes of the CBS series JAG (season eight episodes "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown"). The show, a spin-off from JAG, premiered on September 23, 2003, on CBS. To date it has aired for ten full seasons and has gone into broadcast syndication on USA Network. Donald P. Bellisario is co-creator, along with Don McGill, as well as executive producer.
NCIS follows a fictional team of Naval Criminal Investigative Service Major Case Response Team (MCRT) special agents headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. It is described by the actors and producers (on special features on DVD releases in the United States) as being distinguished by its comedic elements, ensemble acting, and character-driven plots.
NCIS is the primary law enforcement and counterintelligence arm of the United States Department of the Navy, which includes the United States Marine Corps. NCIS investigates all major criminal offenses (felonies)—i.e., crimes punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice by confinement of more than one year—within the Department of the Navy. The MCRT is frequently assigned to high-profile cases such as the death of the U.S. president'smilitary aide, a bomb situation on a U.S. Navy warship, the death of a celebrity on a reality show set on a U.S. Marine Corps base, terrorist threats involving U.S Naval and Marine Corps weapons, personnel and/or installations, and kidnappings of Navy and Marine Corps personnel and/or their dependents.
It is revealed, through flashbacks, that the head of the MCRT before Gibbs was Special Agent Mike Franks (Muse Watson), who led the unit when it was part of the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), the predecessor agency of the NCIS. Franks recruited Gibbs shortly after Gibbs' retirement from the Marine Corps, eventually retiring himself some years later. After Franks' departure, Gibbs recruited DiNozzo from the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Section. The two were briefly joined by Vivian Blackadder (Robyn Lively), whom Gibbs recruited from the FBI. In the second part of the NCIS pilot, Blackadder allowed her emotions to nearly derail an anti-terror operation in Spain. Gibbs is noticeably disappointed; Blackadder is not present in the series' first regular episode, replaced by Caitlin Todd, a Secret Service agent who joins Gibbs' team after resigning from the Secret Service. Todd is eventually killed in the line of duty in the season two finale, and is ultimately replaced by Ziva David, who from season three to season seven is the Mossadliaison officer, and eventually gains American citizenship to become a full agent. McGee first appears as a Field Agent assigned to the Norfolk Field Office. He uses his computer skills to aid the MCRT in subsequent investigations through the rest of season one, until he is officially promoted with his own desk at the Navy Yard in the beginning of season two.
NCIS is led by Director Leon Vance. The first director seen in the series, Thomas Morrow (Alan Dale), left after being promoted to Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security. Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) was appointed director after Morrow in the first episode of season three, the first NCIS director to be in the regular series cast list. After Shepard was killed in a shootout at the end of season five, Vance—who was assistant director of NCIS before her death—was seen as acting director after her death and was promoted to take her place.
^Sasha Alexander appeared in "A Man Walks Into a Bar..." via deleted scenes from earlier seasons; she also recorded a voice-over specifically for this episode.
^Sasha Alexander appeared in "Life Before His Eyes" using digitally manipulated CGI footage from the season 2 episode "SWAK".
^Cote de Pablo only appeared in the first two episodes of the eleventh season.
^Lauren Holly appeared in "Life Before His Eyes" using digitally manipulated CGI footage from the season 5 episode "Judgement Day".
^Although credited as "Also Starring" in seasons 6–9, Brian Dietzen was treated as guest cast by CBS.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is Special Agent in Charge of the Major Case Response Team (MCRT). He was a sniper in the United States Marine Corps, achieving the rank of gunnery sergeant, until 1991 when his first wife Shannon and daughter Kelly were killed by a Mexican drug dealer. Gibbs killed the drug dealer in Mexico, after being told by Special Agent Mike Franks where to find him, and joined NIS, later renamed NCIS, initially training under Franks. After Franks' retirement, Gibbs became the agent in charge of the MCRT. He has been married four times, but is currently single, which is often referred to on the show. He also has a difficult relationship with his father. Gibbs and Director Jenny Shepard had a romantic relationship in the past, shown through the use of flashbacks, and he has had several romantic relationships with various recurring female characters throughout the show. He is seen as somewhat of a fatherly figure to Abby, Kate, and later to Ziva. Due to his senior status at NCIS, he has also carried out tasks at a higher level, such as becoming a temporary acting director for the entire agency.
Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) is the Senior Special Agent of the Major Case Response Team at NCIS. He is a former Peoria, Philadelphia, and Baltimore police officer and detective. After working on a case with Gibbs while he was a detective with Baltimore PD, he discovered his best friend and partner was a dirty cop and quit from the police and joined NCIS in 2001. Ducky considers DiNozzo to be a younger version of Gibbs, using his "gut" to solve cases (e.g., in the episode "Collateral Damage"). Considered a notorious womanizer, his behavior even irritates the females he works with, although his behavior has been shown to change as the character developed. DiNozzo is a movie enthusiast and often uses movie references when discussing a case, which annoys and irritates his coworkers.
Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is a forensics specialist working with the Major Case Response Team. She has an affinity for goth fashion and a passion for Caf-Pow, a fictional high caffeine beverage. She has a close friendship with McGee, and claims to be Gibbs' favorite.
Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) is a Special Agent on the Major Case Response Team. He has a degree in computer forensics from MIT and a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins, and, along with Abby Sciuto (with whom he was briefly intimate and remains close friends), acts as the team's technology specialist. McGee was originally assigned to the Norfolk Naval Base, but became a permanent team member at the end of the season two opening episode, "See No Evil". Often called "Probie" by DiNozzo, despite no longer being a probationary. Under the pseudonym Thom E. Gemcity he is also the author of a best-selling book using characters based on members of the team.
Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) is the assistant to Dr. Mallard. He is his second assistant in the series. Originally credited in a recurring role, Dietzen has been credited as "Also Starring" since season six. He is promoted to series regular in season ten.
Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) became Director of NCIS following Jenny Shepard's death at the end of the season five. He was formerly NCIS Assistant Director.
Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) is Chief Medical Examiner assigned working at the NCIS headquarters. He spent some time as a medical examiner in Vietnam, Bosnia, and Afghanistan with the Royal Army Medical Corps before working for NCIS. One of the longest-serving members of the team, he was close friends with Jenny Shepard and is best friends with Gibbs.
Caitlin "Kate" Todd (Sasha Alexander) is a Junior Special Agent of the Major Case Response Team for seasons one and two. Initially working as a United States Secret Service agent, she resigned and was offered a job at NCIS by Gibbs. She is killed in the season two finale, "Twilight", after being shot in the head by double agent Ari Haswari (Ziva David's half-brother).
Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) is director of NCIS for seasons three to five and formerly Gibbs' partner (and lover). She is killed in the season five finale, "Judgment Day", at a deserted restaurant in the middle of a desert.
Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is a Junior Special Agent on the Major Case Response Team from season seven to eleven. For her first four years in the show, she is a part of the NCIS team as a Mossad Liaison Officer. David replaces Special Agent Kate Todd, who is killed by David's half-brother, Ari. She later kills Ari to save Gibbs' life; by doing so she earns Gibbs' trust. In the season seven premiere, "Truth or Consequences", David is rescued from Somalia by Gibbs, DiNozzo, and McGee, where she had been held captive during a mission for Mossad. David eventually returns to the U.S. and resigns from Mossad, subsequently becoming a probationary NCIS agent and a U.S citizen, and then a full-fledged agent. In the season eleven episode, "Past, Present, Future", David makes her final appearance as a main cast member.
Tobias C. Fornell, portrayed by Joe Spano, is a senior FBI Special Agent. He has a daughter with his ex-wife, who was previously married to Gibbs. Gibbs and Fornell have a spiky camaraderie and frequently have meetings in a stopped elevator while pretending to their respective staffs they are furiously arguing. In fact, after sharing a somewhat adversarial relationship early on, the two now share a close friendship.
Mike Franks, portrayed by Muse Watson (season 3–), is a retired special agent with NIS and long-time mentor to Gibbs, whom he still calls Probie. He is also close friends with DiNozzo and Jenny Shepard. He loses his trigger finger in "Rule Fifty-one" but claims that he "can still pull the trigger with [his] thumb." In the season eight episode "Swan Song," he is murdered with a scalpel by Lt. Jonas Cobb, the "Port to Port Killer", though he appears in the episode as a ghost-like figure who interacts with Gibbs in Gibbs' memories as he recalls the events leading up to Franks' murder. In the season nine episode "Life Before His Eyes" and season ten episode "Damned If You Do" Franks appears in Gibbs' hallucination.
Jackson Gibbs, portrayed by Ralph Waite (season 6–) is the father of NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Anthony DiNozzo, Sr., portrayed by Robert Wagner (season 7–), is the father of NCIS agent Tony DiNozzo. He is depicted as something of a con artist who is perpetually short of funds; Sr and Jr are initially estranged but reestablish a relationship in season eight.
Ned Dorneget, portrayed by Matt L. Jones (season 9–), a young probationary agent who works with Gibbs' team. He is used by a home grown terrorist named Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff) who is getting revenge on NCIS. Dearing pays a dentist to place a listening device inside one of Dorneget's fillings.
Eli David, portrayed by Michael Nouri (seasons 6–10), is the director of the national intelligence agency of Israel, the Mossad. He is also father of both NCIS (and ex-Mossad) Agent Ziva David and rogue Mossad double agent Ari Haswari. Even though David does not support his daughter working at NCIS, he claims he nevertheless loves her. David is close friends with, and mentor to, Director Vance, during Vance's first assignment for what was then the NIS. Eli David and Jackie Vance were killed during rapid machine gun fire in the Director's home.
Dr. Samantha Ryan, portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis (season 9), is the head of DoD PsyOps Division and had a relationship with Gibbs in season nine.
E. J. Barrett, portrayed by Sarah Jane Morris (seasons 8–9), is a Special Agent with NCIS and formerly a team leader. She investigated the "Port to Port Killer" case in season eight, disappearing for a year after the conclusion of the case and the deaths of her team members. She reappeared after a year on the run from the "Phantom Eight". She is a love interest of DiNozzo's throughout season eight and part of season nine, and remains good friends with DiNozzo after her reappearance.
Ray Cruz, portrayed by Enrique Murciano (seasons 8–9) is Ziva's ex-boyfriend. He is mentioned frequently by her prior to his first appearance in "Two-Faced"; he works for the CIA, and is thus nicknamed "C-I-Ray" by DiNozzo. He is Special Agent Barrett's contact on the investigation into the Port-to-Port killer, something he withheld from Ziva, and which prompts her to leave him, albeit temporarily. In "Pyramid", he is seemingly targeted by the Port-to-Port killer, Lt. Jonas Cobb. After discovering he has killed Americans, Ziva ends their relationship , and he is arrested for murder soon after by NCIS agents.
Trent Kort, portrayed by David Dayan Fisher (seasons 4–8), is an undercover CIA special agent who always seems to have his own devious goals to pursue. Gibbs regards him as very dangerous and does not trust him. While trying to clean up the agency's mess involving the "Port-to-Port Killer ", Lt. Jonas Cobb, he loses his left eye in a fight with Cobb. After Cobb is taken care of, Ziva's boyfriend, CIA Agent Ray Cruz, is ordered to "handle" Kort in Tel Aviv.
M. Allison Hart, portrayed by Rena Sofer (season 7), is a hard-charging defense attorney and potential love interest for Gibbs.
Michelle Lee, portrayed by Liza Lapira (seasons 4–6), is an NCIS Special Agent assigned to DiNozzo's team at the start of season four, even though she is foremost a lawyer. She is reassigned to the Legal Department after Gibbs returns, and has recurring appearances throughout the season four. She and Jimmy Palmer have a relationship with the running gag in season four of them having sexual encounters in the morgue with Ducky just missing seeing them together. She then returns to assist Gibbs' team at the end of season five, in "Judgment Day (Part II)", after being suspected as a mole (due to her sister being held captive), and is shot to death by Gibbs in "Dagger" (Lee, being held as a human shield by the man responsible for making her a mole, gives Gibbs permission to do so in order to kill him too).
Hollis Mann, portrayed by Susanna Thompson (seasons 4 & 5), is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army assigned to the CID. She and Gibbs were in a relationship, but once she discovered how much he still mourned his wife and child, she decided to end it. In the episode "Ex-File", she retires to Hawaii.
Jeanne Benoit, portrayed by Scottie Thompson (seasons 4 & 5), is a doctor at Monroe University Hospital and daughter of arms dealer René Benoit (also known as La Grenouille). She is used as part of an undercover operation and is the love interest of Special Agent DiNozzo in seasons four and five; her last appearance is in "Internal Affairs".
Paula Cassidy, portrayed by Jessica Steen (seasons 1–4), is a special agent with NCIS and is temporarily assigned to Gibbs' team following the death of Kate Todd, before getting her own team based in the Pentagon. She is killed by a suicide bomber in "Grace Period".
Gerald Jackson, portrayed by Pancho Demmings (seasons 1 & 3), is the assistant medical examiner to Dr. Mallard during season one, until he is shot by Ari Haswari in "Bête Noire". He was Dr. Mallard's assistant two years prior to this, and went into rehab after the incidents in "Kill Ari (Part II)". He was replaced by Jimmy Palmer.
The filming crew in 2009
Prior to the launch of the first season, advertisements on CBS identified the show as "Naval CIS". By the time of the launch of the first episode, NCIS was airing under the name Navy NCIS, the name it held for the entire first season. Since the "N" in NCIS stands for "Naval", the name "Navy NCIS" was redundant. The decision to use this name was reportedly made by CBS, over the objections of Bellisario, in order to:
Attract new viewers (particularly those of JAG), who might not know the NCIS abbreviation.
Disambiguate between NCIS and the similarly themed and similarly spelled CBS series CSI and its spinoffs. (The original title, for instance, was often misquoted and parodied as "Navy CSI", something the show itself referenced in the first episode).
From the season two episode, "Lt. Jane Doe" onwards, the series began using what fans of the show have named 'foofs' – black-and-white 'teases' of something to occur later in the episode. In the season three premiere, "Kill Ari (Part I)", the foofs had the freeze-frame shot added as well.
It was reported in May 2007 that Donald Bellisario would be stepping down from the show. Due to a disagreement with series star Mark Harmon, Bellisario's duties as showrunner/head writer were to be tasked to long-time show collaborators, including co-executive producer Chas. Floyd Johnson and Shane Brennan, with Bellisario retaining his title as executive producer. In fall 2009,[clarification needed] Gary Glasberg joined the crew and became the new "day-to-day" runner of NCIS, as Shane Brennan had to focus on his new show, the spin-off NCIS: Los Angeles.
NCIS: Los Angeles: The two-part NCIS episode "Legend" serves as the back-door pilot of NCIS: Los Angeles. Rocky Carroll appears on NCIS: Los Angeles as his NCIS character Director Leon Vance, while Pauley Perrette has appeared twice as Abby. NCIS guest stars reprising roles between series include: David Dayan Fisher as CIA Officer Trent Kort, in the season one finale of NCIS: Los Angeles; Kelly Hu as Lee Wuan Kai in NCIS: Los Angeles and later in an episode of NCIS.
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of NCIS.
Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.
Ever since season 7, NCIS has been the most watched scripted show on American television, but it was only in the 2012-2013 season that it ranked number 1 as the most watched program of the past year, surpassing both American Idol and NBC Sunday Night Football that had ranked above it the past three seasons.
On January 15, 2013, NCIS surpassed its previous series high in viewers from Season 8 episode "Freedom". The Season 10 episode "Shiva" attracted 22.86 million viewers, making it a new series high.
The show ranked number eighteen (4.793 million viewers) in the list of Nielsen ratings top twenty most-watched cable shows for the week ending January 25, 2009.
The show ranked number ten (4.535 million viewers), twelve (4.264 million viewers), thirteen (4.221 million viewers), fifteen (4,161 million viewers), seventeen (4.132 million viewers), and twenty (4.081 million viewers) in the list of Nielsen ratings top twenty most-watched cable shows for the week ending March 1, 2009.
The show ranked sixteen (4.091 million viewers), seventeen (4.084 million viewers), eighteen (4.072 million viewers), and twenty (4.006 million viewers) in the list of Nielsen ratings top twenty most-watched cable shows for the week ending March 29, 2009.
The show ranked number five (4.492 million viewers), six (4.467 million viewers), eight (4.394 million viewers), nine (4.214 million viewers), fifteen (3.962 million viewers), and seventeen (3.8.58 million viewers) in the list of Nielsen ratings top twenty most-watched cable shows for the week ending May 3, 2009.
The show ranked number three (4.82 million viewers), six (4.38 million viewers), ten (3.82 million viewers), eleven (3.88 million viewers), and fourteen (3.87 million viewers) in the list of Nielsen ratings top fifteen most-watched cable shows for the week ending November 1, 2009.
The first nine seasons of NCIS have been released in Regions 1, 2 and 4. In Germany (Region 2), seasons 1–4 and 6–8 were released in two separate sets for each season. The first season DVD omits the two introductory episodes from season eight of JAG, though they are featured on the JAG season eight DVD.
In 2010, CBS Interactive and GameHouse released a mobile video game, NCIS: The Game for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and BREW/J2ME. The game features five different cases written by the show's writers.
On November 1, 2011, Ubisoft released a video game adaption of NCIS for the PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. A Nintendo 3DS version was released on March 6, 2012. The video game was deemed as a mockery to the show by reviewers and players alike, and received a 2/10 rating on GameSpot.
In the UK, three two-part episodes were edited together to make one whole feature.
CBS Records released the show's first soundtrack on February 10, 2009.The Official TV Soundtrack is a two-disc, 22-track set that includes brand new songs from top artists featured prominently in upcoming episodes of the series as well as the show’s original theme by Numeriklab (available commercially for the first time) and a remix of the theme by Ministry. The set also includes songs performed by series regulars Pauley Perrette and Cote de Pablo.
A sequel to the soundtrack was released on November 3, 2009. NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack; Vol. 2 is a single disc, 12 track set that covers songs (many previously unreleased) featured throughout the seventh season of the show, including one recording titled "Bitter and Blue" by Weatherly, as well as two songs used in previous seasons.
In 2009, CBS picked up an NCIS spin-off series with the title NCIS: Los Angeles. Filming began in February 2009, with the characters introduced in a two-part NCIS episode titled "Legend" which aired on April 28, 2009 and May 5, 2009. The characters listed were: G. Callen, Lara Macy, Nate "Doc" Getz, Kensi Blye, and Sam Hanna. Crew members include Michael B. Kaplan, Lev L. Spiro, Jerry London, Sheldon Epps, and Mark Saraceni.
Chris O'Donnell plays the lead character of G. Callen.LL Cool J, plays the role of Special Agent Sam Hanna, a former Navy SEAL, who works in the undercover unit of NCIS in Los Angeles, and is also fluent in Arabic and an expert on Middle Eastern culture."Peter Cambor and Daniela Ruah were confirmed to be cast as leads, playing a psychologist (called "Nate") and forensic investigator/undercover agent (called "Kensi") respectively.
Following the shows official pick up, Louise Lombard was not signed for the role of Special Agent Lara Macy, that she had played in the pilot. Linda Hunt and Adam Jamal Craig were confirmed to replace her, playing OSP Manager Henrietta Lange and Special Agent Dom Vail, both starring roles. Craig left the series in episode 21 of season 1, was replaced by Eric Christian Olsen playing Marty Deeks, the LAPD/NCIS Liaison and Kensi's partner.
Characters from NCIS have appeared in the spin-off; Leon Vance has a recurring role and Abby Sciuto appeared in the episodes "Random on Purpose" and "Killshot".
NCIS: Los Angeles is created by Shane Brennan. NCIS creator Donald Bellisario sued CBS over NCIS: Los Angeles in April 2011 because of his "first opportunity" to develop a spin-off, which according to the suit, Bellisario wasn't offered from CBS. In June 2012 a Court judge dismissed Bellisario's suit. In January 2013, CBS and Bellisario reached a settlement in the lawsuit. Although terms were not disclosed, they were described as being amicable.
In September 2013 CBS announced a planned second spin-off series set in New Orleans and introduced via a planted pilot two-part NCIS episode. The episodes are slated to shoot in February 2014 and air in the spring. NCIS star Mark Harmon and showrunner Gary Glasberg are the executive producers, and CBS Studios will produce the series. The two-part backdoor-pilot episode was initially "supposed to be just an idea for an episode". Glasberg discussed the idea of the episode with Harmon, who said "That's more than [an] [...] episode". The premise for the episodes are, according to Glasberg, "all about this tiny little NCIS office that’s down [in New Orleans], and the kind of cases that they come across".