‘NCIS:’ Why a Movie Adaptation Minus Mark Harmon Is Inevitable

Mark Harmon may be the face of NCIS and the actor intimately tied to the show’s success; however, when the inevitable cinematic reimagining makes its way to the big screen, Harmon is unlikely to portray Agent Gibbs.

'NCIS' Cast
(L-R) Actors Brian Dietzen, David McCallum, Pauley Perrette, Mark Harmon, Sean Murray (backrow)Cote de Pablo and Michael Weatherly | Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images

Mark Harmon is now 67 years old and, though showing no signs of slowing down, he cannot play the charming and quick-thinking man, resilient in the face of adversity, until death do them part (he and his character that is) forever. While fans may fail to imagine anyone else in the title role, admirers of previous hit television shows – ones that stand the test of time as cultural phenomenons – said the same thing.

Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your outlook), NCIS – as yet another crime investigation series featuring quirky characters with typifying tendencies –  is movie makeover bait.

When it comes to Hollywood these days, reboots, remakes, and revivals are all the rage, and turning television shows into Hollywood pictures is a practice as old as the industry itself.

‘NCIS’ will follow in the footsteps of other crime show hits, including ‘Miami Vice,’ ‘Starsky & Hutch, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and more

Starsky & Hutch – the 1970s TV classic following a streetwise detective and his more intellectual partner – starred David Soul as Hutch and Paul Michael Glaser as Starsky. When this show was on the air, no one could have ever imagined different actors taking on these iconic characters; however, in 2004, the TV show became a comedic crime thriller starring Owen Wilson as Hutch and Ben Stiller as Starsky.

The movie remake opened to mixed critical reviews and currently boasts a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many skeptics admitted that while the movie often felt aimless, the chemistry between the leads and the solid script made for an enjoyable film, one that adequately paid homage to the original series. Similar to ‘NCIS,’ Starsky & Hutch boasted actors that quickly grew one with their characters; however, this didn’t prevent film executives from taking a shot at the movie over 40 years later. So, why should NCIS be any different?

In a similar fashion, Miami Vice was a 1980s series transformed into a 2007 film; however, the movie opened to negative critical and audience reviews. Thus, it failed to live up to its television predecessor.

Charlie’s Angels, originally airing in 1976 and starring the incomparable Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson was left alone for quite some time. However, the first movie (in a two-film series starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz) hit silver screens in 2000. So, what exactly does all of this have to do with NCIS?

Why are these other past shows relevant to ‘NCIS?’

The point of all this: no matter how much you think a different actor can’t portray the characters you know and love, as time passes, people grow to accept the possibility of change.

To take this one step further, the show becomes a misty memory, and the idea of seeing the characters once again catalyzes a surge of nostalgia. Thus, you remember their dynamics and grow anxious to see them played out on screen once more. And since the original stars will be too old or no longer with us, you accept replacements as “second best” from the get-go and expect alterations and adaptations to the source material on the grounds that times have changed and a contemporary spin will be necessary.

There’s a reason so many years exist between these shows and their respective movies: film creators give you time to move on from the mourning and prepare for the reinvention.

Crime shows make the perfect source material, for its easy to focus on building the characters and their interrelationships first. Then, those working on the production can simply choose the most intense crime from the original series or create a new one; however, that aspect of the narrative is secondary, for those behind the film know the crime at hand is not drawing people in. Instead, it’s the familiarity of the characters and the curiosity regarding the approach to a series that was once close to their hearts.