Who Made ‘NCIS’ What It Is Today?

NCIS started out the door running and hasn’t slowed down a notch since its debut on September 23, 2003. The action-packed police show features an all-star cast doing everything they can to catch the perp in every episode. Despite the monotony involved in its episodic nature, fans just can’t get enough of watching the Washington D.C.-based Naval Criminal Investigative Service do its thing. 

While we all know NCIS has done fabulously on CBS, who do we have to thank for the show’s unbelievably successful run?

‘Quantum Leap’ creator Donald P. Bellisario 

NCIS
NCIS | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

Donald P. Bellisario is a triple threat creator with writing, production, and directing credits under his belt. He’s also made cameo appearances in several of the shows he helped bring to life! When it comes to NCIS, Bellisario is credited in all three sectors with the most being for his writing which comes in at 377 episodes. According to IMDb, he also produced 368 episodes and directed the episode Yankee White back in the show’s debut year.

One key thing Bellisario brought to the table is years of experience nailing the cop/military genre. He’s literally the king of cop shows! For example, NCIS’ main character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, is a retired Marine Corps member and actor Tom Selleck of Magnum P.I. is a United States Naval Academy graduate and former SEAL officer who served in Nam. By sticking to what he knows, Bellisario’s aptitude for the genre only got better with time.

Bellisario is no longer on the roster

Interestingly enough, despite him still receiving credits as recent as 2019, Bellisario hasn’t actually worked on the show in years. That raises the question, why did one of the founding fathers bow out?

The Emmy nominated creator was involved in a dispute that evolved into a lawsuit over a spinoff. Bellisario retired back in 2007 amidst tension with NCIS star, Mark Harmon. Things were quiet for a while until he sued CBS over the creation of NCIS: Los Angeles. According to him, his contract ensured that he would receive first rights to any spinoffs associated with NCIS. Of course, he was due profits as well. Ultimately the case was settled for an amount that we can only guess!

‘Numb3rs’ writer Don McGill

The other man that fans can thank for the NCIS they know and love is Don McGill. McGill doesn’t have as many credits to his name, but that doesn’t make him any less talented. The double threat touts writing and production credits for NCIS, CSI, Numbe3rs, JAG, and Bull. Seeing a trend yet? Both creators have focused their careers on shows that highlight the armed forces and criminal investigations making them experts in their field.

While his other shows have had their fair share of success, NCIS is the longest running with an impressive 350+ episodes. He wrote nine episodes for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, 12 episodes for the FBI drama Numb3rs, and 16 episodes for JAG. His resume only gets more impressive when you look at the numbers for his production credits! McGill even has the TV movie, CSI: Immortality, on his roster!

McGill doesn’t seem to have any projects coming up. Based on his filmography it’s easy to see that the writer-producer has poured his blood, sweat, and tears into NCIS. It’s his and Bellisario’s golden goose and hasn’t steered either of them wrong in the 16 seasons it’s been on the air. With the huge following, NCIS and other crime dramas have one can’t help but wonder if McGill will get to work on another top-notch action-packed series once NCIS inevitably comes to an end.