‘NCIS’: Mark Harmon Revealed How ‘New Orleans’ Spin-Off Came to Be in 2014 Interview

by Josh Lanier

Mark Harmon said the NCIS spin-off in New Orleans came from a natural place and felt like the right decision.

Larry King asked NCIS star Mark Harmon in 2014 what made producers want to create a spin-off of the popular CBS show. Harmon, who was appearing on Larry King Live, said it grew from the germ of an idea for the main series.

“It came from a natural birth,” Harmon said. “It came from Gary Glasberg (the show’s late producer) talking about this New Orleans office. It’s something that we’ve known about for a long time. We discussed the right way to do it and came out of the meeting saying there’s more to this than just two episodes. And from that put together a pitch, went to the network, tried to make New Orleans a part of the show as much as any character, and got a green light to do a pilot on that.”

NCIS: New Orleans starred Scott Bakula and had what producers call a “backdoor pilot,” which means that the pilot was part of another show. In this case NCIS. It’s a common practice. NCIS itself was a backdoor pilot from the naval legal show JAG.

In the 2014 pilot, NCIS agents travel to New Orleans to investigate the murder of a US House of Representatives member who was also a U.S. Naval Reserve officer. The two-part episode introduced the characters that appeared in NCIS: New Orleans, which launched that fall.

NCIS: New Orleans was the second spin-off after the success of NCIS: Los Angeles.

‘NCIS’ Ends Its Time in New Orleans

Despite its relative popularity, CBS canceled NCIS: New Orleans at the end of its seventh season. The final episode aired on May 23. The show’s ratings have fallen every year during its seven-season run, Nielsen figures showed. The show saw a 21 percent drop from seasons 6 and the final season with only 4.9 million people tuning in each week. For comparison, the show averaged 15 million viewers in its first season.

CBS also wanted to move resources over to its next spin-off, NCIS: Hawaii. Jan and Chris Silber — who worked on NCIS: New Orleans — will executive produce and write the new series, Variety said. Vanessa Lachey will star in the new show that reaches TV later this year.

Bakula said he would miss his time in the Big Easy.

“It’s hard to leave. We kind of had the key to the city; everybody knew me and I appreciated being able to pat every cop I walked by on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, how you doing?’” Bakula told TVInsider. Though he will not be working in the city any longer, Bakula said he plans to continue to spend time in New Orleans.