Michael Weatherly: ‘NCIS’ Fails to Attract This Demographic

NCIS has been on the air since 2003, and initially existing and marketed as a simple spin-off to Jag, the series took off to quite the bumpy start. While those behind the production never expected the show to become the network’s lynchpin, NCIS now brings in some of the highest ratings CBS has ever seen and will be entering its seventeenth season come this fall. Remember: M*A*S*H – often considered the most famous television show in history– only made it 11 seasons. 

Michael Weatherly
Michael Weatherly | Photo by CBS via Getty Images

Michael Weatherly starred as Tony DiNozzo – the quick-tongued agent with an adolescent disposition and a romantic pull towards Agent Ziva David – in the hit show.

After starring in the series for 13 seasons, Michael Weatherly left NCIS in 2016 to explore opportunities outside the comfort of the phenomenon he had grown a little too cozy in (as an actor not yet familiar with the greater Hollywood landscape at large).

Though Michael Weatherly now leads his own CBS show, Bull, he will always be remembered as Tony DiNozzo. And, the actor, as he has stated in the past, will always be grateful for the doors the role opened, and the comedic side of his personality it allowed to thrive.

During an interview with The Futon Critic, Michael Weatherly discussed NCIS, the show’s status as a cultural phenomenon, the widespread audience it attracts, and the one demographic that has proved the “hardest one to crack.

Michael Weatherly talks NCIS and its relationship with women between 18 and 34 years old

During his interview with The Futon Critic, Michael Weatherly explained that, despite the show’s widespread success, it has yet to conquer all demographics. He stated:

“And then the last one that we’ll get is women between the ages of 18-34, that will be the very last, that’s the hardest one to crack. And I don’t know how we’re going to do it. I think we have to wait for “American Idol” to go off the air before that actually happens. Oh, and we’ll also have to hire an incredibly attractive 23-year-old like Wentworth Miller-type guy. And have him in jeopardy each week with his shirt off. [Laughs.] I’ll be 45 or something, I dunno at that point and we’ll be in the squad room going, “Is that guy naked and chained to a serial killer again!” [Laughs.] “Not another babe in jeopardy!”

The Futon Critic

Always making room for a joke, Weatherly insinuates that American Idol – and a lack of hot shirtless men – is responsible for this demographic’s lack of viewership. However, attracting women between 18 and 34 has proved difficult across time for several network cop and crime-oriented shows.

While this interview occurred a few years back, recent data suggests that NCIS viewership is still the lowest among viewers 18 – 34, while viewers aged 55+ comprise most of the show’s audience.

Why do women between 18 and 34 skip out on ‘NCIS?’ 

Are the character dynamics lacking an integral quality that would attract younger audiences? Could it simply be that the cast members do not reflect this demographic? 

Remember: everyone likes to watch characters who act and look like them on TV; most characters in NCIS are in their mid-30s or older. Not to mention, the lead is now 67 years old, and male.

As for the gender differences in viewership, when the series was taking off, the male characters were responsible for making most of the pivotal decisions and taking charge, which could have led to the gender discrepancy.

It’s highly possible that the internal conflicts, relationship dynamics, and character disagreements are not representative of the turmoil millennials face; thus, they are not attracted to the series. 

Since NCIS was initially seen as a Jag spin-off, which boasted an older viewing demographic, younger audiences may have assumed it wasn’t for them (never giving the show a chance to intrigue). And now, it’s simply “too late” to join the party; with sixteen season’s of history, new viewers would not even understand the context of Ziva’s recent return.