Without Mark Harmon’s Agent Gibbs, NCIS Doesn’t Stand a Chance

NCIS has been one of primetime television’s most popular police procedural series for nearly two decades. The show began as a backdoor pilot episode of JAG and debuted in 2003.

Fans have been intrigued by the ups and downs of Washington D.C.’s major case unit, led by Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, ever then (portrayed by Mark Harmon). In fact, the series has been so successful that it has spawned its own spinoff series.

What happens now that Harmon’s exit from the long-running program has been confirmed? Can it survive without its leader? The prognosis is bleak.

‘NCIS’ is a well-known police procedural.

Following a police force through its dramatic day-to-day investigations and cases is not a new cliché. In reality, police procedural series are among the longest-running and most-watched shows on television. From Dragnet to Law & Order, the premise has been a television fixture.

The fact that NCIS has a definite target audience has helped it stand out from the throng. Because the show has a decidedly conservative mentality, it has long been more popular in conservative circles. This, of course, made it even more of a target during the recent backlash against television series that praise police service while also criticizing police power in real life. NCIS has been labeled “propaganda” by campaigners seeking police reform, and Agent Gibbs’ specific brand of justice has done little to dispel the harsh criticism.

Despite this, the series has managed to survive this wave of criticism and remains a popular show even as it enters its 19th season.

Agent Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, is a fan favorite.

A large part of NCIS’s success may be attributed to Agent Gibbs and the way he is portrayed by actor Mark Harmon. On the program, Gibbs has been involved in a number of fiery (and sometimes contentious) scenes.

When reports began to circulate that Harmon would be playing a smaller part in Season 19, viewers fretted that the show was coming to an end. After all, the group centers around Gibbs, and Harmon’s face has become synonymous with the series. Harmon’s appearance in the Season 19 premiere seemed to allay some of the worst anxieties, but Harmon left the series after only four episodes, taking the lead character with him.

Harmon’s co-stars have gone out to sing his praises and honor the contributions he made to the series, according to TV Insider. “Mark was essential in getting our house in order—I truly thank him for that,” David McCallum said of Harmon, who was a calming figure both on and off the screen.

Could ‘NCIS’, like other shows, withstand the loss of its lead?

Some fans are asking what will happen to NCIS now that Harmon’s departure is official. Optimists believe the show will continue without Agent Gibbs. Many other primetime shows have withstood losing their lead. Dr. McDreamy himself was k1ll3d off in Grey’s Anatomy. For years, Law & Order: SVU struggled with the loss of Detective Stabler. NCIS, surely, can do the same, right?

Notably, all of these other examples featured a strong co-lead to fill the void left by the previous leader. Meredith Grey was able to thrive as Grey’s Anatomy’s principal star without her rival. Detective Benson’s strong independence filled the void created by Stabler’s departure from SVU.

There is no such character on the horizon for NCIS. Harmon’s role as Agent Gibbs was so important and essential to the dynamics of the other characters that they’ll all likely fall flatter and less capable without him to anchor their parts. As heartbreaking as it is for longstanding fans, NCIS is likely to go downhill now that its star has left.

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