‘NCIS’ Season 19: CBS Proved Their Loyalty to Mark Harmon Years Ago

NCIS has been on the air since 2003, making it one of the longest-running dramas on television. Over 18 seasons, it’s also become one of the highest-rated TV shows in the world. Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs) has been there since the very beginning and is one of the biggest reasons for the show’s success.

Years ago, CBS proved just how loyal they were to the NCIS star and executive producer. Did he just return the favor?

Mark Harmon as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs in 2020
Mark Harmon on the set of ‘NCIS’ | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

The ‘NCIS’ star is reportedly ‘ready to leave’

In February 2021, reports surfaced that claimed Harmon was “ready to leave” NCIS after season 18. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 69-year-old’s contract is up after the current season. There’s a possibility this could be it for the flagship series.

An insider claims that when Harmon found out CBS would end NCIS if he left, he started having conversations about making cameos in a “handful of episodes” if they would renew the show for season 19.

But apparently, the idea of their star only coming back for a handful of episodes was not enough for CBS.

The network proved their loyalty to Harmon during the early years of ‘NCIS’

For more than a decade, NCIS has been one of the top three most-watched shows on TV. It’s seen in more than 200 countries and territories and has produced two spinoffs: NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. But the man who started it all hasn’t been part of NCIS for years.

NCIS showrunner and creator Donald Bellisario suddenly left the show in 2007, less than five seasons into its run. Why would someone leave such a successful TV series? The answer is that Harmon forced him out.

Harmon and Bellisario did not get along at all. According to Looper, they butted heads for months over Bellisario’s “chaotic management style” and the long hours it caused.

CBS sided with Mark Harmon

The behind-the-scenes drama between Harmon and Bellisario eventually came to an end when CBS stepped in. The network decided that Harmon and his star power was much more valuable to NCIS than Bellisario’s work. Because Harmon didn’t like Bellisario, the network gave the showrunner the ax.

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However, Bellisario was able to retain an executive producer title on the show. To this day, when fans watch episodes of NCIS they will see his name in the credits. The drama actually continued after the EP’s exit, though. Bellisario sued CBS after NCIS: Los Angeles went into production.

The ‘NCIS’ creator settled with the network

Bellisario sued CBS because he had a clause in his contract that gave him the right to create the first NCIS spinoff. After the network forced him out, they hired NCIS executive producer Shane Brennan to make NCIS: Los Angeles instead of Bellisario.

CBS and Bellisario did eventually reach a settlement for an undisclosed amount. He has now retired from television after a lengthy career that began in 1977. In addition to NCIS, Bellisario created Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, and JAG.

CBS finally confirms Mark Harmon will return for season 19

Harmon has said in the past that if there’s ever a time when the writers are questioning what to do, then it would be time to “call it a day.” As recently as 2019, the actor told People magazine that he’s been around long enough to know “what this is.”

“That commitment is part of what I signed up for; I know when this show ends that’s it — there won’t be anything else like this for me,” Harmon said.

Since the most recent rumors about Harmon’s possible exit surfaced, he hasn’t said a word publicly about his future on the series.

CBS had also remained silent until late last week when they confirmed the show and Harmon would return for season 19. Despite the news, Harmon remains silent.

NCIS airs Tuesday nights on CBS.