The Real Drop in NCIS Viewership Post-Mark Harmon’s Departure

Over the years, the unwavering loyalty of viewers has elevated CBS’s “NCIS” to a crown jewel within the network’s primetime lineup. Since its inception in 2003, the series has undergone several transformations, mirroring the evolving tastes of its audience. Yet, perhaps no event within the show’s timeline has stirred as much conversation as the departure of Mark Harmon, whose exit during the 19th season marked a pivotal moment in “NCIS” history.

Harmon, who portrayed the iconic Leroy Jethro Gibbs, was more than just another cast member; he was the backbone of the show, guiding the naval crime investigation team through its most challenging cases from the very first episode. His departure in October 2021, leaving behind the role that had become synonymous with his name, was a significant turning point.

The talented Gary Cole stepped into the breach as Supervisory Special Agent Alden Parker, maintaining the series’ momentum through the rest of Season 19. Despite this major change, the show’s ratings remained surprisingly stable, though the premiere of Season 20 saw a dip, marking the series’ lowest viewership to date.

This drop, however, wasn’t solely an “NCIS” issue. The season opened with a crossover event with “Hawaii 5-0,” spreading the responsibility for the initial falter. Nonetheless, “NCIS” quickly regained its stride, proving its resilience and enduring appeal as Season 20 progressed.

“NCIS” not only reclaimed its throne on Monday nights but continued to dominate, a testament to its lasting impact and the network’s confidence, underscored by the renewal for a 21st season. The transition from Harmon to Cole was seamlessly executed, with the narrative thoughtfully acknowledging Gibbs’s suspension before transitioning leadership to Parker. The torch was passed in a manner that respected the characters’ legacies, culminating in a heartfelt farewell between Gibbs and his protégé Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), symbolizing a new chapter for the show while honoring its past.

These moments of change and continuity highlight the series’ ability to adapt and evolve, ensuring “NCIS” remains a beloved staple of television drama, cherished by fans for its dynamic storytelling and memorable characters.