Does the powerful NCIS franchise of shows still have its significant oomph when it comes to drawing an audience?
Yes and no. The shows still appeal to millions, but the audience, particularly for OG NCIS, is down. And the audience started shrinking even before Mark Harmon exited the show last month.
The show premiered on Sept. 20 in its new Monday night time slot. Before this season, NCIS spent 18 seasons dominating Tuesdays. Gibbs and company never had to worry about going head-to-head against Monday Night Football.
The audience for the first NCIS episode totaled 8.45 million. The last new episode aired Nov. 8. And it drew 7.32 million. It bumped up slightly from the previous new episode. Maybe it was because Patricia Richardson, a star of the 1990s comedy hit Home Improvement, made an appearance as McGee’s mother-in-law.
Harmon left during the Oct. 11 episode called Great Wide Open. That night drew 7.65 million.
Now, contract those numbers with the 2020-21 TV season. NCIS was the top-scripted drama on network television, averaging 12.73 million. Monday Night Football probably is playing more havoc with the NCIS audience than the absence of Gibbs. The Monday night game this week drew 12.3 million.
That brings us to NCIS: Los Angeles. It also competes head to head with the most popular programming of the entire week, NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The show started its 13th season, Oct. 10 in front of an audience of 5.8 million. Chris O’Donnell’s Callen was trying to figure out whether Linda Hunt’s Hetty had been training him for spy work since he was a kid.
The last new episode of NCIS: Los Angeles aired Nov. 7. It was a fascinating study in flashbacks as an outside investigator tried to figure out how a CIA operative was killed while in NCIS custody. Gerald McRaney’s Kilbride shot her after finding out the operative was a double agent. The episode totaled 5.37 million. Each episode in season 12 averaged about 7.8 million.
The new kid on the block is NCIS: Hawai’i. It has a different feel to it with Vanessa Lachey playing Jane Tennant. It’s the first NCIS franchise to feature a woman as the special agent in charge. The show is averaging 5.5 million. That ranks second overall for any first-year show. FBI: International, which also is on CBS, tops all the rookie shows with 5.9 million. NBC’s La Brea is No. 3 on the drama list at roughly 5 million per episode.
Earlier this month, CBS tried to quantify just how popular NCIS and all its spinoffs have been since 2003. The network said that viewers have watched more than 3.8 trillion minutes of the shows. And yes, that’s trillion with a T.
NCIS: Los Angeles is new Sunday night. The other two return with current episodes, Nov. 29.