‘NCIS’ Begins Legendary Run with Series Premiere on This Day in 2003

by John Jamison
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Where were you when Mark Harmon first appeared on screen as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs? The memory is probably a little hazy, considering that happened nearly 20 years ago. On September 23, 2003, “NCIS” started its legendary run with the show’s first episode, titled “Yankee White.”

And if your memory serves, you may recall just how intense that first episode was. It followed a series of mysterious deaths among military personnel who ate meals aboard Air Force One. The first “NCIS” episode of all time saw Harmon’s Leroy Gibbs unraveling an assassination attempt against the president of the United States. A pretty impressive way to kick off a series.

More impressive is how “NCIS” was able to follow that action up. In a space where most programs are lucky to make it to a second season, “NCIS” just started its 19th this week.

The series was the brainchild of famed showrunner Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill. Bellisario was also the mind behind the popular series “JAG,” which is often overlooked as the direct predecessor of “NCIS.” You can watch one of the original intros for the long-running series below.

Fast forward to today. “NCIS” has over 415 episodes to its name. It’s fast approaching the territory we expect to see from decades-long soap operas. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the show is the same as when it started all those years ago.

There have been some significant losses and additions to the cast over the years. Perhaps the most prominent differences these days are the absence of original characters Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette, and Sasha Alexander’s Caitlin Todd.

And wouldn’t you believe it? Mark Harmon doesn’t even have the most episodes to his name. David McCallum has 416 to Harmon’s 415, at least per IMDB.

‘NCIS’ Season 19 Addition Katrina Law Talks About How She Earns Place on Team

19 seasons are going to bring with them plenty of changes. One of the most significant heading into the bulk of the current “NCIS” action is the addition of Katrina Law to the cast. She’s playing the role of Special Agent Jessica Knight. Fans will remember her from the conclusion of Season 18 when she guest-starred on the show.

But just like she had to earn her role as an actor, her character will have to earn her spot as part of the team.

“You’re going to see Jessica Knight come in, and she’s going to struggle a little bit trying to figure out how to step in with the team because she is an experienced agent and she has had her own history outside of the team,” Law told The Talk earlier this week.

“NCIS” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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