The US loves a long-running police procedural – and NCIS is a prime example, with the JAG spin-off now heading into an incredible 19th(!) season.
However, the series is hitting a bit of a snag for its latest instalment, as there were rumblings that after 18 years and over 400 episodes long-time star Mark Harmon was eyeing a departure from his iconic role of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
This followed the exit of Emily Wickersham’s Ellie Bishop and Maria Bello’s Jack Sloane during the show’s latest run, meaning the NCIS Major Case Response Team could have a very different line-up when we next see them.
Here’s everything we know about NCIS season 19, which is set to feature some of the biggest shake-ups since the series began.
Will there be a season 19 for NCIS?
With leading man Mark Harmon’s involvement up in the air for some time – not to mention the end of spin-off NCIS: New Orleans – there were fears that NCIS would be closing the case file for good.
However, to the relief of fans everywhere, NCIS was indeed renewed for a season 19 in April 2021, continuing its reign as one of the longest-running scripted shows on television.
A cancellation for the CBS network’s flagship series would be a surprise, especially with the news that third spin-off NCIS: Hawaii was in the works to join the returning NCIS: Los Angeles.
NCIS season 19 release date
There currently is no release date for NCIS season 19, but we expect the NCIS Major Case Response Team to return to UK screens in January 2022.
The show usually premieres a new season every September in keeping with the annual US network television season, but NCIS season 18 was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The delayed season eventually began in November 2020 in the US, and January 2021 in the UK. However, with the show now adapted to filming during a pandemic and restrictions lifting in the filming location of Los Angeles, the show may start closer to its usual late September premiere date.
Either way this is unlikely to impact UK fans, with the show not airing on Fox until the following January for the last 10 seasons.
Is Mark Harmon leaving NCIS?
After prolonged negotiations and rampant fan speculation, it has been confirmed that the show’s star Mark Harmon will return as Leroy Jethro Gibbs – but there’s a catch.
For the first time leading man Harmon will only be taking a limited role in the series, with TV veteran Gary Cole joining the cast to fill the Harmon-sized hole left behind.
CBS are yet to explain the specifics of how Harmon’s limited commitment will work, but an insider has told TV Line that his episode count is “going to be in the low single digits”.
A Hollywood Reporter article previously claimed that Harmon was ready to walk away from the role he has played since 2003, but stayed on to stop CBS cancelling the show altogether.
Season 18 of NCIS ended with – spoiler alert – Gibbs faking his own death, with the boat he was on exploding only for the character to be seen swimming away in the closing moments.
It was this ending that prompted speculation Harmon was leaving, though it seems the storyline will explain the limited involvement of Gibbs as everyone believes him to be dead.
NCIS season 19 cast
As well as Harmon, most of the NCIS Major Case Response Team will be back full-time for more criminal cases.
This includes Sean Murray as Senior Field Agent Timothy McGee, Wilmer Valderrama as Nick Torres, Brian Dietzen as Dr. Jimmy Palmer, Diona Reasonover as Kasie Hines, Rocky Carroll as Leon Vance and David McCallum as Dr. Donald Mallard.
With Harmon mostly out, new cast members are in – The Good Wife’s Gary Cole will play FBI Special Agent Alden Park, while Arrow’s Katrina Law will become a series regular after her character Special Agent Jessica Knight was introduced at the end of season 18.
As the season 18 finale hinted, Ellie Bishop will no longer be in the show after actress Emily Wickersham confirmed on social media that she would be leaving after eight years. This follows the departure of Maria Bello also, after her character Jack Sloane left mid-way through the last season to volunteer in Afghanistan.
NCIS episodes 2021: How many season 19 episodes?
NCIS regularly receives a full 24 episode order, but seasons 17 and 18 were shortened by the coronavirus pandemic to 20 episodes and 16 episodes respectively.
It is yet to be announced whether NCIS season 19 will return to its traditional 24-episode length, or once again have to contend with a shortened run.