‘NCIS’: Why the Show’s Original Creator Was Fired After Several Seasons

by John Jamison

You create “NCIS,” one of the most successful shows of all time. You put all of your time and energy into it, but after a few years, the network fires you. It turns out the show’s star was responsible for getting you kicked from your position. If this has happened to you, then you are most likely Donald Bellisario.

Donald Bellisario is the creator and former showrunner of “NCIS.” He ran the show for the first five years of its existence. But after a while, Leroy Gibbs actor Mark Harmon got tired of working for him. Apparently, the two didn’t get along very well.

Eventually, CBS got to the point where they had to make a decision. It was either Mark Harmon or Bellisario. And based on the 18 seasons of “NCIS” we’ve seen with Harmon front and center, the decision they made is abundantly clear.

But Bellisario contributed a lot to CBS over the years. In collaboration with one other, Bellisario was responsible for “Magnum P.I.” in the 1980s. The show delivered CBS a massive hit, and it only ended by choice. So after creating “JAG,” then “NCIS,” it’s safe to say he felt betrayed when the network sided with Mark Harmon after he complained about the way he worked.

Long story short, after being kicked to the curb and subsequently subjected to a blatant breach of contract, Bellisario understandably sued. His deal with CBS included his right to have the final say on the first separate project that originated from “NCIS.”

When “NCIS: Los Angeles” came along, Bellisario had a case. According to The Hollywood Reporter, however, it never made it to court. Instead, CBS and the “NCIS” creator settled for an undisclosed amount of money.

What was the ‘NCIS’ Creator Doing Wrong?

Based on their history, it doesn’t make sense for CBS to get rid of Bellisario solely because Mark Harmon complained.

By some accounts, it was a completely justified move that represented the wishes of most of the cast and crew. Donald Mallard actor David McCallum explained the situation in a 2014 interview with DigitalSpy.

“Don Bellisario worked as an advertising executive, even when he was writing scripts, and he loved to work to a deadline. After a couple of years, we got to the point where we were getting scripts late from him,” McCallum said in the interview. ‘There was a little problem between Mark Harmon – who was representing the cast and crew – and Don, so CBS decided that Don would leave us.”

So it wasn’t Mark Harmon being a diva or having words with the network for his own sake. By McCallum’s account, he was stepping up on behalf of the cast, who was getting tired of Bellisario’s working habits.