NCIS (TV series)

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The series' opening logo
Created by
Theme music composer Numeriklab
Opening theme "NCIS Theme"
Ending theme "NCIS Theme"
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 13
No. of episodes 306 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
  • David Bellisario
  • Avery C. Drewe
Cinematography Billy Webb
Running time 42–44 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Original network CBS
Picture format
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1 stereo with DVS on SAP channel
Original release September 23, 2003 (2003-09-23) – present
Related shows

NCIS is an American dramatic police procedural television series, revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates crimes involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

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 thirteen full seasons and has gone into broadcast syndication on the USA Network and Cloo. Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill are co-creators and executive producers of the premiere member of the NCIS franchise. It is the second longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime TV series currently airing, surpassed only by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present), and is the 15th longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series overall.

NCIS was originally referred to as Navy NCIS during season one; "Navy" was later dropped from the title as it was redundant (the "N" in "NCIS" stands for "Naval"). In season 6, a two-part episode led to a spin-off series, NCIS: Los Angeles. A two-part episode in season 11 led to a second spin-off series, NCIS: New Orleans.

While initially slow in the ratings, barely cracking the Top 30 in the first four seasons, by season 6 it became a Top 5 hit and has been in the Top 5 since. In 2011, NCIS was voted America's favorite television show.[3] The series finished its tenth season as the most-watched television series in the U.S. during the 2012–13 TV season.[4] NCIS was renewed for a thirteenth season by CBS on May 11, 2015,[5] and premiered September 22, 2015.[6][7] On February 29, 2016, the series was renewed for two additional seasons.[8][9]


NCIS follows a fictional team of Naval Criminal Investigative Service Major Case Response Team (MCRT)[10] special agents based at the Washington, D.C. field office in Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.[11] In real life, the field office is based at the nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling[12] while the Navy Yard is home to the museum and several military commands within the Department of the Navy. 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. The 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) – for example, 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's military 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.


The Major Case Response Team is led by Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), and was originally composed of Special Agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander), a former Secret Service agent recruited by Gibbs after a cooperative homicide investigation onboard Air Force One, and Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), a former Baltimore Homicide Detective and shrewd film-buff. The team was joined by M.I.T. graduate and Norfolk agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) during the show's second season. In season two, Caitlin was assassinated by a rogue Mossad agent, and ultimately replaced by Ziva David (Coté de Pablo, until her departure in season eleven), and Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham, from season eleven). Bishop is a former NSA analyst while David was a member of Mossad prior to joining NCIS as a liaison officer to Mossad (in subsequent seasons she worked to become an NCIS agent). The team is assisted by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Donald Mallard (David McCallum), nicknamed "Ducky", his assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), and forensic scientist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette). Like their MCRT counterparts, Abby, Ducky, and Jimmy work under the watchful eye of NCIS Director, Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll, since season five), a former Naval officer who was named to the post upon the death of Director Jennifer Shepard (Lauren Holly, seasons three to five).

Cast and characters[edit]

Mark Harmon stars as Leroy Jethro Gibbs.


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,[13] 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).[14]


From the season two episode "Lt. Jane Doe" onwards, the series began showing two-second long black-and-white clips. These clips are shown at the beginning of every segment depicting the last two seconds of that segment, a segment being the 5–6 portions of the show meant to be separated by commercials. In the season three premiere, "Kill Ari (Part I)", a freeze-frame shot was also used with the very end of most episodes turned into a freeze frame as well.

Crew changes[edit]

It was reported in May 2007 that Donald Bellisario would be stepping down from the show.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17]

On April 5, 2016, long-time director Dennis Smith announced he had completed his final episode as part of the NCIS crew, though it is not specified which episode he is referring to.[18]


Main article: List of NCIS episodes

On February 29, 2016, the series was renewed for a fourteenth and fifteenth season.[19][20]

As of May 17, 2016, 306 episodes of NCIS have aired, concluding the thirteenth season.[2]

Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
Intro 2 April 22, 2003 (2003-04-22) April 29, 2003 (2003-04-29)
1 23 September 23, 2003 (2003-09-23) May 25, 2004 (2004-05-25)
2 23 September 28, 2004 (2004-09-28) May 24, 2005 (2005-05-24)
3 24 September 20, 2005 (2005-09-20) May 16, 2006 (2006-05-16)
4 24 September 19, 2006 (2006-09-19) May 22, 2007 (2007-05-22)
5 19 September 25, 2007 (2007-09-25) May 20, 2008 (2008-05-20)
6 25 September 23, 2008 (2008-09-23) May 19, 2009 (2009-05-19)
7 24 September 22, 2009 (2009-09-22) May 25, 2010 (2010-05-25)
8 24 September 21, 2010 (2010-09-21) May 17, 2011 (2011-05-17)
9 24 September 20, 2011 (2011-09-20) May 15, 2012 (2012-05-15)
10 24 September 25, 2012 (2012-09-25) May 14, 2013 (2013-05-14)
11 24 September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13)
12 24 September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23) May 12, 2015 (2015-05-12)
13 24 September 22, 2015 (2015-09-22) May 17, 2016 (2016-05-17)

Backdoor pilots[edit]

Crossover with NCIS: New Orleans[edit]

In "Sister City", the D.C. team works with the New Orleans team on a case involving Abby's brother.[21] Gibbs, Abby, Ducky, Ellie and Jimmy appear in part two.[22]



NCIS airs on Network Ten and TV Hits (formerly TV1)[23] in Australia,[24][25][26][27][28][29][30] Global (syndicated on Showcase & Lifetime) in Canada, TV3 and The Box in New Zealand, and Fox, CBS Action, Universal Channel, Channel 5 and 5USA in the United Kingdom.

Home video releases[edit]

The first eleven 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.

Other releases[edit]

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.[31]

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.[32]

TV movies[edit]

In the UK, certain NCIS multi-part episodes were edited together to make a combined feature and shown on Channel 5, 5USA, CBS Action and Fox UK. These include:

Title Episodes edited together Air date Runtime Source
The NCIS Movie: Enemies "Enemies Foreign" / "Enemies Domestic" May 20, 2013 1 hr, 20 mins [33][34]
The NCIS Movie: Judgement Day "Judgment Day (Part I)" / "Judgment Day (Part II)" June 10, 2013 1 hr, 40 mins [35]
The NCIS Movie: Legend
(Legend Compilation)
"Legend (Part I)" / "Legend (Part II)" June 10, 2013 1 hr, 45 mins [36][37]
The NCIS Movie: Kill Ari "Kill Ari (Part I)" / "Kill Ari (Part II)" August 22, 2013 2 hr [38][39]
The NCIS Movie: War on Terror "Engaged (Part I)" / "Engaged (Part II)" February 1, 2014 1 hr, 20 mins [40]
The NCIS Movie: Payback "Borderland" / "Patriot Down" / "Rule Fifty-One" March 1, 2014 2 hr, 35 mins [41]
The NCIS Movie: Shell Shock "Shell Shock (Part I)" / "Shell Shock (Part II)" April 11, 2014 1 hr, 30 mins [42]
Death Wish (Part I & II) "Shabbat Shalom" / "Shiva" April 16, 2014 (1)
April 18, 2014 (2)
1 hr, 40 mins [43][44]


Main article: NCIS (soundtrack)

CBS Records released the show's first soundtrack on February 10, 2009.[45] 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[46] (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 Coté 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.


Broadcast ratings[edit]

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.
Broadcast ratings
Season Episodes Timeslot (EST) Original airing Live television ratings
Season premiere Season finale TV season Viewers
(in millions)
Key demographics
1st 23 Tuesday 8:00 PM September 23, 2003 May 25, 2004 2003–04 11.84[47] 26th N/A
2nd 23 September 28, 2004 May 24, 2005 2004–05 13.57[48] 22nd N/A
3rd 24 September 20, 2005 May 16, 2006 2005–06 15.27[49] 16th N/A
4th 24 September 19, 2006 May 22, 2007 2006–07 14.54[50] 20th N/A
5th 19 September 25, 2007 May 20, 2008 2007–08 14.41[51] 14th N/A
6th 25 September 23, 2008 May 19, 2009 2008–09 17.77[52] 5th N/A
7th 24 September 22, 2009 May 25, 2010 2009–10 19.33[53] 4th 4.1[53]
8th 24 September 21, 2010 May 17, 2011 2010–11 19.46[54] 5th 4.1[55]
9th 24 September 20, 2011 May 15, 2012 2011–12 19.49[56] 3rd 4.01[57]
10th 24 September 25, 2012 May 14, 2013 2012–13 21.34[4] 1st 4.0[4]
11th 24 September 24, 2013 May 13, 2014 2013–14 19.77[58] 3rd 3.3[59]
12th 24 September 23, 2014 May 12, 2015 2014–15 18.25[60] 3rd TBA
13th 24 September 22, 2015 May 17, 2016 2015–16 20.18[61] 3rd TBA
  • Ever since season 7, NCIS has been the most watched scripted show on American television, but it was only in the 2012–13 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.[62]



  • 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.[66]
  • 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.[67]
  • 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.[68]
  • 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.[69]
  • 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.[70]


Main article: NCIS (franchise)

NCIS has produced two spin-offs: NCIS: Los Angeles (2009–) and NCIS: New Orleans (2014–).

NCIS: Los Angeles[edit]

Main article: NCIS: Los Angeles

In 2009, CBS picked up an NCIS spin-off series with the title NCIS: Los Angeles,[71][72][73][74] with the backdoor pilot, "Legend", airing on April 28, 2009 and May 5, 2009.[72] The backdoor pilot introduced Chris O'Donnell as Special Agent G. Callen, LL Cool J as Special Agent Sam Hanna, Louise Lombard as Special Agent Lara Macy, Peter Cambor as Operational Psychologist Nate Getz: and Daniela Ruah as Special Agent Kensi Blye.[75] The crew for the series includes Michael B. Kaplan, Lev L. Spiro, Jerry London, Sheldon Epps, and Mark Saraceni.[76]

Following the show's official pick-up by CBS, it was confirmed that Louise Lombard had not been signed to continue her role as Special Agent Lara Macy. Linda Hunt and Adam Jamal Craig were confirmed to replace her in starring roles, playing OSP Manager Henrietta Lange and Special Agent Dom Vail respectively. Craig, who left the series in episode 21 of season 1, was replaced by Eric Christian Olsen playing Marty Deeks.[77]

Characters from NCIS have appeared in the spin-off. Rocky Carroll portrayed Leon Vance in a recurring role,[78][79] while Pauley Perrette portrayed Abby Sciuto and appeared in the season 1 episodes "Killshot"[78] and "Random on Purpose".[79]

NCIS: Los Angeles was created by Shane Brennan. In April 2011, NCIS creator Donald Bellisario sued CBS over NCIS: Los Angeles because of his contract which gave him "first opportunity" to develop a spin-off or sequel,[80] the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge in June 2012.[81] However discussions continued between CBS and Bellisario and in January 2013 the dispute was settled outside of court a week before it was set to go to trial, however the terms of the agreement were not disclosed but were described as being amicable.[82][83][84]

NCIS: New Orleans[edit]

Main article: NCIS: New Orleans

In September 2013 CBS announced a planned second spin-off series set in New Orleans that would be introduced via a planted two-part backdoor pilot NCIS episode. The episodes were filmed in February 2014 and aired on March 25, 2014 and April 1, 2014. NCIS star Mark Harmon and showrunner Gary Glasberg are the executive producers, and CBS Studios produces the series.[85] "Crescent City", 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 a[n] [...] episode".[86] 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".[87]

The series stars Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride, Paige Turco as Pride's wife Linda,[88] Lucas Black as Special Agent Christopher Lasalle, Zoe McLellan as Special Agent Meredith "Merri" Brody, and C. C. H. Pounder as Dr. Loretta Wade.[89][90][91]

On May 9, 2014, NCIS: New Orleans was picked up by CBS.[92] and was renewed for a second season on January 12, 2015.[93]

Awards and nominations[edit]

NCIS has received many awards and nominations since it premiered on September 23, 2003 including the ALMA Awards, ASCAP Awards, BMI Film & TV Awards, Emmy Awards, and People's Choice Awards.


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