This is the 1 Way ‘NCIS’ Crosses Over With Real Life

You know your TV show is popular when big-time, bankable Hollywood stars make guest appearances. The CBS drama NCIS is so marketable that several huge celebrities acted on the show over the years. Mark Harmon’s net worth is off the charts thanks to his starring role, and it doesn’t seem like it shows any signs of slowing down soon. Even though it’s a TV drama, NCIS crosses over with real life in one surprising way. But first, let’s explore what real agents think of the show.

NCIS is just like real life, according to agents

Real NCIS agents walking to a court room
Some of what you see on NCIS is what real life agents do. | John Althouse/AFP/Getty Images

As with any TV show, NCIS spices things up in the name of drama and entertainment. However, a lot of the nitty-gritty on the show hews pretty close to what agents do in real life.

“Agents with NCIS will work counter-terrorism, protective operations, general crimes, economic crimes, fraud,” special agent Kevin Dodds tells Pittsburgh CBS affiliate KDKA.

“NCIS LA is very realistic of what we do,” special agent Bob Milie says.

All the various iterations of NCIS you see on TV hit the bullseye when it comes to portraying agents’ dedication to the job. The passion for the job and the way agents carefully investigate crimes are the same on TV as they are in real life.

The surprising way NCIS crosses over with real life

The most wanted board on the TV show NCIS
The most wanted board on NCIS sometimes features real criminals.| Cliff Lipson/CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

As fans of the show know, a most-wanted board appears in the background of some episodes. While a few of the bad guys’ faces are those of producers or crew members, real-life bad guys show up there, too.

Osama bin Laden’s face appeared on the most-wanted wall from the NCIS debut in 2003 up until Navy SEALs hunted him down in 2011. The show digitally inserted a red line through his face after production wrapped for that season, according to Vulture.

Where does the show get it wrong?

NCIS
Mark Harmon’s Gibbs might get fired if he was a real NCIS agent. | CBS

NCIS strives for authenticity, but there are a few big differences between TV and real life.

For one thing, there aren’t a ton of struggles over jurisdiction. Real-life NCIS agents know their boundaries, and they work with other agencies if they need to cross those boundaries during an investigation.

Also, there isn’t an Abby, the character Pauley Perrette played before she dramatically left the show, waiting in a lab to analyze forensic evidence.

The same goes for the show’s medical examiner, Donald “Ducky” Mallard. There were real-world agents doing forensics analysis when the show started, but an Army lab takes care of those duties now. Some agents do handle dead bodies, but the real agency never had a medical examiner dedicated to doing autopsies.

Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs character enjoys affectionately slapping fellow agents on the back of the head, but that never happens in real life. If a real agent did that, it would lead to disciplinary, according to NCIS communications director MaryAnn Cummings.

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