‘NCIS’: What Does the Show Title Mean?

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

“NCIS” remains one of CBS’s popular brands, and we say brand because there’s more than one show on the network. What does it mean?

Well, the short answer is NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. That’s a real name of a portion of the United States Navy.

According to its website, within the Department of the Navy, “the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is the civilian federal law enforcement agency uniquely responsible for investigating felony crime, preventing terrorism, and protecting secrets for the Navy and Marine Corps.”

Fans of “NCIS” can see this play out before their TV screens in new episodes as well as reruns. Speaking of the TV show, it’ll be coming back in the fall for its 19th season. Mark Harmon, who has been with the show since its premiere in 2003, returns as Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Also expect to see David McCallum reappear in his role as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard. In addition, Sean Murray will be back as Special Agent Timothy McGee as well.

‘NCIS’ Has Been Through a Couple of Name Changes While on CBS

But the show hasn’t always been titled by that acronym alone. According to an article in Parade Magazine, at first, it was called “Navy NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.” The title was cut down to “NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.” Finally, show producers simply made it into the current title and that’s stuck around forever.

Obviously, “NCIS” is a brand that’s brought lots of eyeballs to CBS. In fact, it’s produced three spinoffs. “NCIS: Los Angeles” and a newcomer, “NCIS: Hawai’i,” will also occupy spots on the network. A third spinoff, “NCIS: New Orleans,” was not picked up for another season.

A show that has been around as long as this one goes through cast changes. Pauley Perrette, who played Abby, left a few seasons ago. Her character was quite popular with fans, but Perrette had some issues with Harmon and chose to leave the show. Current information about her states that she’s retired from acting.

Fans who watch the show in reruns can catch Perrette and others who left after being on it for a few seasons. Michael Weatherly, who now stars in the CBS show “Bull,” played Anthony DiNozzo through the 13th season. Maria Bello, who played Dr. Jacqueline Sloane, was on between seasons 15-18.

Another departure from “NCIS” that upset some fans was seeing Emily Wickersham exit stage left. She moved out of the show after last season.

A veteran actress, Wickersham is no stranger to appearing in TV dramas. She happened to play Ceci Madison on NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” in a 2009 episode called “Major Case.” Jeff Goldblum, who played Detective Zack Nichols for one season, is going after the crime lab’s chief in the show.

Wickersham, though, didn’t go right to the CBS hit drama immediately. But she did find her way there and made an impact.