‘NCIS’: Why Mark Harmon Almost Quit Very Early on in Show’s Run

by Michael Freeman

Though Mark Harmon is no longer on NCIS, a considerable void has been left in his wake. It’s still difficult to think about the show going on without him, but in a way, we should consider ourselves lucky. Apparently, Harmon almost left the show much earlier, meaning the show could have been very different compared to what it is today.

Screen Rant states tensions on the set between Harmon and the original showrunner, Donald Bellisario almost led to Harmon’s departure early on in the show’s lifespan. The two reportedly butted heads often over deadlines and hours on the set. Things got so bad the network had to choose between them. CBS opted for Harmon, so the NCIS creator left.

Harmon left the show during season 19, but the mentioned feud came to a head after only four years. Specifically, it seems Bellisario turned in scripts late, making it difficult to meet deadlines. Because of this, Harmon worked long hours and it affected his home life. Additionally, TV Guide stated Harmon felt like Bellisario micromanaged him. According to Harmon, he disliked his “chaotic management style.” It’s rather unanimous from interviews with his co-stars and peers Harmon is professional and great to work with, so it’s telling he was actually tempted to quit after a few seasons.

Regardless, it just goes to show how much CBS valued Mark Harmon. For reference, Bellisario not only created NCIS, but also produced hits like Magnum P.I.

Overall, had the network not chosen Harmon, we could have a very different NCIS right now. Though the show is by no means dead, it’ll be interesting to see how well it does without the legendary actor.

CBS President Discusses Replacing ‘Major Characters’ Such as Gibbs on ‘NCIS’

Mark Harmon’s presence on and off-screen in NCIS is practically palpable. Having him leave NCIS was a decision I’m sure most fans were not happy with. According to the CBS president, it’s not something that’s easy for them to do either.

TV Line spoke to CBS president Kelly Kahl spoke about the network’s other shows in an interview, as well as Gary Cole replacing Harmon on NCIS. “Gary Cole is amazing,” Kahl began. “You don’t replace a Mark Harmon, but I really can’t think of any show that has done as great a job replacing really major characters over the years, and really staying top of mind for viewers. You talk about somebody stepping up almost seamlessly into a role, and Gary Cole is the best.”

TV Line also provided viewership details since Harmon departed and the show is admittedly still doing well. According to the outlet, it regularly draws in about 12 million viewers per episode. Harmon may not be on the NCIS team, but he is working behind the scenes as an executive producer.