‘NCIS’ Star Explained How the Show ‘Dethroned’ ‘American Idol’ with Television Ratings

by Suzanne Halliburton

NCIS is tackling a huge obstacle this season. And we’re not talking about the limited appearances by Mark Harmon.

Rather, the country’s top drama is moving from Tuesday, where it’s been since it’s debut season in 2003, to Monday. Will the audience follow?

Sean Murray, who plays McGee, discussed what the new night could mean for NCIS. And he chatted about the other show that the series slayed way back when.

Murray appeared on Entertainment Tonight in late May to preview the sizzling finale. But the host also asked him about the switch in nights. What could it mean? Murray was direct with his answer.

“I’m not exactly sure what this move means, to be honest with you,” the NCIS regular said. “We’ll try to conquer Monday night.”

Then he reflected on the TV dynamics 18 years ago. American Idol was the dynamic show that dominated back then, with its shows on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“Tuesday was kind of like where you did not want to be put,” Murray said. “Because American Idol was the juggernaut that destroyed everything in its wake.

“We got there,” he said. “We got there and dethroned them.”

It Took Awhile for NCIS to Get Its Footing

NCIS started off as a backdoor pilot on JAG in 2003. For its first season, it was a respectable 23rd in the national rankings and tied with The West Wing and the CBS Sunday Night Movie. American Idol was second, nationally behind CSI.

By season three, NCIS jumped to 12th. Then finally, in season six, the show leap vaulted into fifth. It’s stayed in the top five since then.

Coincidentally, Mark Harmon, who plays Gibbs, said season six into seven was when the show finally found its footing.

“And we’ve been there ever since,” Harmon told Parade in 2019. “That’s because of the fans.”

Harmon then said how much he appreciated the fans. “Thank you. I don’t ever take it for granted.”

As NCIS season six closed, Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) returned to work with Israeli Intelligence. But she was kidnapped so that the bad guys could gain info on NCIS. The seventh season saw Gibbs rescue Ziva, who then became a full-time agent.

CBS moved NCIS to Mondays to make room for FBI on Tuesdays. The network turned over Tuesday to Dick Wolf’s three shows — FBI, FBI: Most Wanted and the newest, FBI: International.

Meanwhile, Harmon and NCIS will anchor Mondays and serve as the lead-in to NCIS: Hawai’i. The premiere date is Sept. 20.

“I look at it as a forward-looking move,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told The Hollywood Reporter. “Putting franchises together as we’re doing with FBI is certainly one way people enjoy watching TV these days, especially linear TV. It works, and it’s not new to us because we’ve used our franchises to launch other franchises over the years.

“So, this move of NCIS to Monday lets us take a night that was doing OK, but now kind of supercharge it. Dropping the No. 1 scripted show on TV in the middle of a Monday night makes it an extremely strong night, and it gives us a chance to launch another piece of the franchise in NCIS: Hawai’i.”

But, the main competition will be Monday Night Football. And pro football is far more popular than a scripted drama.