NCIS follows a fictional team of Naval Criminal Investigative Service Major Case Response Team (MCRT) special agents based at the Washington, D.C. field office in Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C. In real life, the field office is based at the nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling 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.
Whenever a crime is committed involving Navy or Marine personnel, the Washington-based Major Case Response Team - an elite arm of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service - spearheads the investigation. Led by laconic investigator Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), the team has included former Secret Service agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander); Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), a senior NCIS field agent; M.I.T. graduate Timothy McGee (Sean Murray); former deep-cover operative Nicholas Torres (Wilmer Valderrama); NSA analyst turned NCIS operative Eleanor Bishop (Emily Wickersham); and ex-training agent Alexandra Quinn (Jennifer Esposito), who recruited many of Gibbs' investigators.
Over the course of the series, the team is assisted by allies both foreign and domestic, including Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Donald Mallard (David McCallum) and his assistant Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen); forensic specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette); Special Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), a former Mossad assassin; and British intelligence officer Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry), assigned to NCIS to liaise during these troubled times. Together, they work under the NCIS Director, former career agent Jennifer Shepard (Lauren Holly), who was murdered during an off-the-book investigation, and later her replacement Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll).Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS Supervisory Special Agent
Sasha Alexander as Caitlin Todd, Secret Service Agent, NCIS Special Agent (seasons 1-2; guest seasons 3, 8, 9 & 12)
Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS Senior Special Agent (seasons 1-13)
Pauley Perrette as Abby Sciuto, NCIS Forensic Specialist
David McCallum as Dr Donald "Ducky" Mallard, NCIS Chief Medical Examiner
Sean Murray as Timothy McGee, NCIS Senior Special Agent (seasons 2-; recurring: 1)
Cote de Pablo as Ziva David, Mossad Officer, NCIS Special Agent (seasons 3-11; guest season 12)
Lauren Holly as Jenny Shepard, NCIS Director (seasons 3-5; guest seasons 8, 9 & 12)
Rocky Carroll as Leon Vance, NCIS Director (seasons 6-; recurring: 5)
Brian Dietzen as Dr Jimmy Palmer, NCIS Assistant Medical Examiner (seasons 10-; recurring seasons 1-9)
Emily Wickersham as Eleanor Bishop, NSA Analyst, NCIS Special Agent (seasons 11-)
Wilmer Valderrama as Nicholas Torres, NCIS Special Agent (seasons 14-)
Jennifer Esposito as Alexandra Quinn, NCIS Special Agent (seasons 14-)
Duane Henry as Clayton Reeves, Secret Intelligence Service Officer (seasons 14-; guest season 13)
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 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.
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 given 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, 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. On September 28, 2016, Glasberg died in his sleep at the age of 50.
On April 5, 2016, long-time director Dennis Smith announced he had completed his final episode as part of the NCIS crew, though to which episode he is referring is not specified.
On February 29, 2016, the series was renewed for a fourteenth and fifteenth season. As of March 14, 2017, 324 episodes of NCIS have aired.
Two episodes of JAG season 8, "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown", serve as the back-door pilot of NCIS itself.
These JAG episodes introduced Mark Harmon as Gibbs, Michael Weatherly as Tony, Robyn Lively as Vivian Blackadder, Pauley Perrette as Abby, and David McCallum as Ducky.
Patrick Labyorteaux appears on NCIS reprising his JAG role as Lt. Bud Roberts in the first-season episode "Hung Out to Dry", and in the fourteenth-season episode "Rogue"; Alicia Coppola returned as Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman in "UnSEALed", "Call of Silence", and "Hometown Hero", while Adam Baldwin returned as Cmdr. Michael Rainer in "A Weak Link", and John M. Jackson appeared as retired Rear Admiral A. J. Chegwidden in the season-10 episode "Damned If You Do".
The two-part NCIS episode "Legend" serves as the back-door pilot of NCIS: Los Angeles.
"Legend" introduces Chris O'Donnell as G. Callen, LL Cool J as Sam Hanna, Daniela Ruah as Kensi Blye, and Barrett Foa as Eric Beale.
Rocky Carroll recurs on NCIS: Los Angeles as his NCIS character Director Leon Vance, while Pauley Perrette has appeared twice as Abby, and Michael Weatherly has appeared once as Anthony DiNozzo. 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.
John M. Jackson has appeared on NCIS: Los Angeles' as his JAG character Admiral A. J. Chegwidden, while this series has also crossed over with Hawaii Five-0 and Scorpion.
The two-part NCIS episode "Crescent City" serves as the back-door pilot of NCIS: New Orleans.
"Crescent City" introduces Scott Bakula as Dwayne Pride, Lucas Black as Christopher LaSalle, Zoe McLellan as Meredith Brody, and CCH Pounder as Loretta Wade.
Rocky Carroll recurs as Director Leon Vance, while NCIS series regulars Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray, Emily Wickersham, Wilmer Valderrama, David McCallum and Brian Dietzen have all appeared as their NCIS characters. NCIS recurring cast members Meredith Eaton, Joe Spano, Diane Neal, and Leslie Hope have all guest-starred on NCIS: New Orleans.
NCIS airs on Network Ten and TV Hits (formerly TV1) in Australia, Global (syndicated on Showcase and Lifetime) in Canada, TV3 and The Box in New Zealand, Seriale+ (premieres), TVN (free-tv premieres), TVN7 (reruns), AXN (reruns) and TV Puls (reruns) in Poland, and Fox, CBS Action, Universal Channel, Channel 5 and 5USA in the United Kingdom.
The first 11 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 of the show by reviewers and players alike, and received a 2/10 rating on GameSpot.
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:
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 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.
In 2016, The New York Times reported that NCIS "is most popular in rural areas", especially in rural Maine and Pennsylvania.
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 2012–13 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, with the season ten episode "Shiva" attracting 22.86 million viewers.
The show ranked number four in DVR playback (2.714 million viewers), according to Nielsen prime DVR lift data from January 5–11, 2009.
The show ranked number thirteen in DVR playback (2.743 million viewers), according to Nielsen prime DVR lift data from February 9–15, 2009.
The show ranked number nine in DVR playback (3.007 million viewers), according to Nielsen prime DVR lift data from April 6–12, 2009.
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.
NCIS has produced two spin-offs: NCIS: Los Angeles (2009–) and NCIS: New Orleans (2014–).
In 2009, CBS picked up an NCIS spin-off series with the title NCIS: Los Angeles, with the backdoor pilot, "Legend", airing on April 28, 2009 and May 5, 2009. 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. The crew for the series includes Michael B. Kaplan, Lev L. Spiro, Jerry London, Sheldon Epps, and Mark Saraceni.
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.
Characters from NCIS have appeared in the spin-off. Rocky Carroll portrayed Leon Vance in a recurring role, while Pauley Perrette portrayed Abby Sciuto and appeared in the season 1 episodes "Killshot" and "Random on Purpose".
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, the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge in June 2012. 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.
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. "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". 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".
The series stars Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride, Lucas Black as Special Agent Christopher LaSalle, Zoe McLellan as Special Agent Meredith "Merri" Brody, Rob Kerkovich as Sebastian Lund, and C. C. H. Pounder as Dr. Loretta Wade. Daryl "Chill" Mitchell and Shalita Grant joined the main cast later.
On May 9, 2014, NCIS: New Orleans was picked up by CBS and was renewed for a second season on January 12, 2015.
NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans have had two crossovers."Sister City"—Abby's brother is suspected of poisoning the passengers and crew of a private plane flying from New Orleans to Washington, D.C.
"Pandora's Box"—A theoretical terror playbook is stolen and put up for auction on the black market when Abby's homeland security think tank is compromised.
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.