A great thing about long-running TV shows is they give a chance for viewers to make the characters a major part of our pop culture lives. Maybe not everyone has watched NCIS religiously all through its 16 (so far) seasons. It still has enough fans where they can probably list their favorite characters in a Top Five.
One of them might become one of the longest-running roles for an already acting legend.
1. Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Placing Gibbs at #1 was basically set in stone. Nevertheless, LJB (played by the ageless Mark Harmon) is the true anchor of NCIS. Had he left the show years ago, the entire series would have shut down without his leadership.
What fans appreciate about Gibbs is his strong discipline and demanding nature. Those who’ve had military experience like Gibbs also appreciate this sensibility, but he simply denotes being a worthy leader.
Interestingly enough, several CBS cop dramas are about superior leadership, especially Blue Bloods. Perhaps this attracts an older audience, yet it’s a worthy archetype to maintain on television.
While Gibbs has had problems with women in his life, he has a strong sympathetic streak due to his first wife being killed and having a bad relationship with his father (latter repaired later).
2. Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard
Played by the legendary David McCallum, Dr. Mallard is a true fan favorite. As the chief medical examiner at NCIS, he isn’t quite as commanding as Gibbs, despite both being close friends.
Dr. Mallard has an eccentric streak to him, making him very entertaining to watch. Arguably, McCallum provides a small slice of comedic relief to the NCIS drama. This is a bit ironic considering he played the overly staid Russian spy Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. during the late 1960s.
In fact, in one episode, Gibbs mentions Mallard looked like Kuryakin when younger, giving a nice meta spin.
3. Abby Sciuto
Pauley Perrette managed to create a compelling character in Abby Sciuto, even though she’s left the show last year. She was clearly one of the most popular women characters on the show.
Her Goth look added a unique angle to the otherwise traditional and conservative characters. Sciuto proves appearances are deceiving considering she was a razor sharp forensic scientist with expertise in various specialized areas.
Of course, Perrette is just as much of a standout as the character she played. Her fan base is huge, which is likely why CBS will bring her back in another show on CBS soon.
4. Caitlin Todd/Ziva David
Consider this a tie since Ziva replaced Caitlin as the role of the lead female NCIS special agent. Caitlin Todd (played by Sasha Alexander) still has a lingering presence on the show after being assassinated at the end of the second season. Todd has appeared in flashbacks, including in just the last few years.
Ziva David (played by Chilean actress Cote de Pablo) was essentially her replacement. With Ziva bringing the same strong/badass qualities as a special agent, many fans were irked when she left the show as well.
One reason we tied these characters is because of their equal popularity. Plus, Alexander and de Pablo left the show for unspecified reasons. We have to wonder what they experienced to make them want to quit, other than just being tired and wanting to move on.
5. Anthony DiNozzo
NCIS had Michael Weatherly portray Anthony DiNozzo for 13 years before leaving for the series Bull. Other than some controversies over Weatherly’s behavior on set, the DiNozzo character is still well-remembered.
If Dr. Mallard still provides a little comic relief, DiNozzo did much more all along with his acerbic comments and expert spouting of movie trivia.
He also had a relationship with Ziva David, including finding out she had his daughter. This connection precipitated both characters leaving the show, including Zita dying in a terrorist attack in Israel off-camera.
Let’s not forget the runners-up, including more recent characters Nicholas Torres and Alexandra Quinn (played by Wilmer Valderrama and Jennifer Esposito, respectively). As special agents, they’ll keep NCIS interesting if the show manages to go on past 20 years.