‘NCIS’: What Else Have the Show’s Creators Worked On?
Some still find it amazing a show like NCIS could end up being one of the longest-running dramas in TV history. Now in its 16th season, there’s a good chance it could run a few more years, tying it with Gunsmoke, Law & Order, and Law & Order: SVU at 20 seasons.
While The Simpsons has already outlived everything else (at 30 seasons), the power of a good drama never wavers on mainstream networks.
The creators of NCIS are likely familiar names: Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill. Former has been a major presence in producing top TV shows for decades.
You might have forgotten some other shows both created that more or less give connective strings to the NCIS style.
Who is Donald P. Bellisario?
No doubt you’ve seen Bellisario’s name in TV credits for the last 43 years. His TV career began working as a writer for iconic TV producers Glen A. Larson and Stephen J. Cannell. They were more or less mentors for him, and Bellisario employed many of their production techniques.
One of those was creating iconic male characters with military backgrounds. These were rugged, alpha male characters guys liked to watch, though also had plenty of women viewers.
You could see Bellisario’s military aspect gel when producing one of his first shows: Black Sheep Squadron. There’s never been a show on network TV like it taking place directly during WWII.
These military themes didn’t stand alone, though. Bellisario also had a slight sci-fi sensibility.
A mix of military and cop shows
Bellisario worked as a writer on the original Battlestar Galactica, setting the stage for one iconic sci-fi show he produced in the late 1980s. Yet, before getting there, he created and wrote one of the most iconic cop shows: CBS’s Magnum P.I.
Thomas Magnum had a former Navy background and parlayed those skills into becoming a private investigator. While some considered it a bit of an offshoot of the original Hawaii Five-O, it was the perfect personification of what makes a Donald Bellisario TV product.
In-between producing Magnum, he produced another iconic show taking place directly in the Air Force: Airwolf. Starring the now late Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine, it set up a path of producing shows with tangential relation to almost every branch of military.
Returning to sci-fi with ‘Quantum Leap’
Those too young to remember Magnum P.I. may better remember Bellisario’s only other jump into sci-fi: NBC’s Quantum Leap (from 1989-1993). More than a few have considered this one of the best time-travel shows ever produced, at least for television.
Bellisario also had military themes running through this show from time to time. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) would sometimes leap into the body of someone who was in the military or a war. In one episode, this included leaping into the body of someone in Vietnam to try and save his own brother who died there.
Working with Don McGill
Two years after Quantum Leap ended, Bellisario created one show with a connective string to today’s NCIS. It was JAG, which stood for Judge Advocate General Corp. The U.S. Navy would become the branch of military Bellisario stuck with on television up to the present day.
Don McGill joined the show as an actor, writer, and eventual producer, but not until well into JAG’s sixth season.
McGill went on to become a producer of other popular crime-related shows like CSI and NUMB3RS. He and Bellisario teamed up in 2003 to produce NCIS, giving the former a new production partner.
Considering Bellisario was nearing 70 by then (and 83 now), the pressures of producing a TV show likely needed easing up. He’s no longer involved in directly producing the show due to not getting along well with Mark Harmon. Nonetheless, Bellisario is still listed as “Executive Producer.” We hope he’ll be around for a long time more to keep producing quality TV, even if “in-name-only” on NCIS.