Why ‘NCIS’ Will Be Just Fine Without Mark Harmon’s Agent Gibbs

NCIS is one of the most popular police procedural dramas of all time, a show that has captivated several generations of fans. The characters, the intense situations, the riveting storylines, and the sheer commitment to detail have all kept NCIS at the top of the ratings for 19 incredible seasons.

Now, as the show rounds a new turn, fans are adjusting to how the series will proceed without one of the show’s longest-running stars. Mark Harmon, who played Gibbs on NCIS, recently stepped down from his role as a series regular. And many have been wondering if the show will manage to survive without his invaluable contributions. 

Mark Harmon has been a mainstay on ‘NCIS’ since the beginning

Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, in 'NCIS' Season 19. Mark Harmon leaves 'NCIS' in season 19
Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, in ‘NCIS’ Season 19 | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Harmon was already an established actor when he joined the cast of the brand-new show NCIS in 2003. Harmon, an industry veteran, had earned a reputation for playing tough, no-nonsense authority figures—and the character of Leroy Jethro Gibbs was no exception. Harmon made a splash early on as Gibbs, with fans responding well to his easy charm and commanding air. 

Although Harmon has been joined, over the years, by many different high-profile actors, he has been the mainstay on NCIS, and the character that fans could always rely on to offer advice and reassurance, his presence a constant reminder of the team’s mission.

In recent years, however, there was a persistent rumor that Harmon was ready to move on. The rumor was confirmed in late 2021, when showrunners revealed that Harmon would, in fact, be departing from his role as a series regular on NCIS

Mark Harmon’s ‘NCIS’ transition

In mid-October, Harmon officially stepped down as an NCIS lead after more than 18 seasons. In a statement, showrunners Steve Binder revealed that while Harmon wouldn’t be on the show as a main character anymore, fans would likely see more of Gibbs in the future.

“As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show,” Binder said, as reported by the New York Post. “Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years … never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”

Over the years, other stars of the show have praised Harmon and his contributions, with Pam Dawber, Harmon’s wife in real life and his co-star onscreen revealing in 2021 that “Mark is for the best of everybody and everything. His ego does not extend. He just wants it all to work.” As reported by TV Insider, Michael Weatherly, who played Tony DiNozzo, had this to say about Harmon: “(Harmon is) a very rare person in this business because there’s no assistant, no entourage. Mark is largely just a very straight-forward, approachable, calm, assertive guy.”

Will ‘NCIS’ survive without the contributions of Mark Harmon?

Many fans might be wondering how NCIS will survive without Harmon as a leading man. After all, he’s been the face of the series since 2003.

Still, there are several examples of procedural dramas that went through big cast shakeups and managed to emerge unscathed. Most notably, Law & Order: SVU, one of the most popular and long-running police procedurals, lost leading man Christopher Meloni, who played Elliot Stabler, in Season 12, when the character abruptly retired. By shifting the show’s focus to Benson and giving several other established characters more screentime, fans were able to move past the loss of Meloni without too much grief. Eventually, in 2020, the franchise reintroduced Stabler in a main role once again.

Similarly, Grey’s Anatomy saw the departure of Derek Shepherd. His character was seen as a main character and his love story with Meredith Grey kept fans captivated. After the character’s death, the show continued to have a cult following.

NCIS even saw a glimpse of its popularity when Cote de Pablo (who played Ziva) and Weatherly (who played Tony) left the series. Fans were obsessed with the two characters and their tension, but the show persevered without the two stars.

It seems as though NCIS showrunners have a blueprint to follow for handling a post-Gibbs NCIS, and that, by following the desires of their fanbase, they will be able to carry on successfully. 

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