‘NCIS’: CBS Executive Responds to Rumors of Mark Harmon’s Exit

by Suzanne Halliburton

There will be another season for NCIS. This we know — season 19 is a go. However, there’s one big detail that’s yet to be nailed down.

How big of an impact will Mark Harmon, as special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, have on the NCIS offices in Washington, D.C.?

Although CBS announced Wednesday that NCIS, the original, will move to Monday nights, the network didn’t reveal much about Harmon, its star. The switch to Mondays was significant. The show spent its first 18 seasons on Tuesdays. But CBS flipped the nights to be able to rebrand Tuesdays for its FBI franchise of shows.

CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl wouldn’t say much about Harmon when he answered questions for Deadline.com.

 “We take it year by year with Mark,” Kahl said. “We’d love to have him as long as he’d like to be here. Even in this past season, he might have been light in a couple of [episodes], so we’re happy to work around his schedule.”

CBS ordered 24 episodes for the 2021-22 season. But the rumors about Harmon won’t go away. There were reports that Harmon wanted off the show. But CBS executives told him that if he left, NCIS wouldn’t continue without Gibbs. So there was no writing away his character.

CBS doesn’t want to lose NCIS. It’s the highest-rated scripted drama on network television. It drew 8.3 million viewers Tuesday night. Obviously, the big draw is Mark Harmon as Gibbs. The character has been on television since 2003 when Harmon originated the role on JAG. Harmon has been a fixture on network television since the 1980s when he played Dr. Caldwell on the hospital drama, St. Elsewhere.

But Harmon is 69 now. The former Sexiest Man Alive, according to People, might not want to do the grind of a full network show like NCIS. He and his wife, Pam Dawber, keep a low profile in Hollywood. She is finishing off a four-episode arc on NCIS. She plays a journalist, helping Harmon find a murderer.

In 2019, Harmon told People magazine he’d stay on NCIS as long as the show stayed interesting.

“I’ve always thought,” Harmon said, “if there’s ever a time where the writers are walking into the room and going ‘I don’t know what to do,’ then I think we all have to look at each other and call it a day. But we’re not there yet.”

Harmon also said: “I’ve been around long enough to know what this is. That commitment is part of what I signed up for; I know when this show ends, there won’t be anything else like this for me.”