‘NCIS’ Had To Make Strategic Move To Avoid Annoying of ‘CSI’ Creators


To avoid confusion with another CBS program about forensic investigators, ‘NCIS’ was saddled with an uncomfortable, repetitive name for its first few seasons.

Who would have guessed that a JAG spinoff about investigating naval cr1mes would become one of CBS’s most popular and longest-running shows?

NCIS debuted in September 2003 and has been running ever since. However, the show has gone through some significant changes over the years, including multiple high-profile cast exits and a minor name change.

To avoid confusion with another popular show on the network, NCIS was given a slightly different title early on.

‘NCIS’ was ‘pitched in the Navy as ‘Law & Order’

JAG, a legal drama about the navy’s judge advocates, was created by CBS in the early 2000s as a spinoff to the show.

The original plan was to use a format similar to NBC’s Law & Order. Each episode’s first half would be devoted to the investigation of a cr1me. The legal resolution would be covered in the second half.

“The show was originally pitched as Law & Order in the Navy,” JAG director and NCIS executive producer Mark Horowitz said in a recent oral history of the show to The Hollywood Reporter. “First, there’d be a cr1me, and the NCIS agents – the Navy cops – would investigate it, and then the JAG people would come in and try the case.”

The show’s creators experimented with that idea for a while. However, they and the network eventually decided to focus on the first half of the equation. They deleted the JAG part and created a show about the officers of the Naval Cr1minal Investigative Service.

‘NCIS’ was previously known as ‘Navy NCIS’

Given that the show was about NCIS officers, the name NCIS felt like an easy choice. But there was one minor issue. CSI: Cr1me Scene Investigation, another program with a similar name, was already airing on CBS. (The two series shared more than just their names. An insider informed The Hollywood Reporter that Greg Sanders from CSI influenced Pauley Perrette’s wacky Abby Sciuoto persona.


To minimize misunderstanding – and to avoid trampling on CSI’s toes – the new show was given the unwieldy title Navy NCIS: Naval Cr1minal Investigative Service.

“The CSI folks were understandably upset in that first year about us bringing out a show called NCIS – a cr1me show with forensics,” JAG producer and NCIS co-creator Don McGill remembered. “So, to differentiate, it was decided that, at least for the first year, it would be called Navy NCIS, which is a little redundant.” But it allayed the CSI employees’ fears.”

CBS aimed to attract JAG viewers interested in more military-focused episodes with the Navy NCIS brand, creator Don Bellisario told The New York Times in 2005. But he didn’t like the name.

“I fought that idea all the way,” he explained, adding that he “didn’t want the show to be just a stopgap for CBS.” I anticipated CBS responding, “This is good for now, but we’re always looking for something better.”

Fortunately, the awful name didn’t stick around for long. By the second season, it had been abbreviated to NCIS: Naval Cr1minal Investigative Service. The show eventually became recognized merely by the acronym NCIS.

NCIS is available on Paramount+ and Netflix.

Related News – Be sure to get some more news when it comes to NCIS.

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