It’s been nine years, 200 episodes, 512 suspects and 738 head slaps for “NCIS,” which was the subject of a celebratory panel at CBS’ press day. While Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette and the rest of the cast talked about feeling the love and their sense of gratitude, what they didn’t talk about was seeing an end date to the show (ranked #1 in scripted programs) or what we might expect in future episodes. Luckily, executive producer Gary Glasberg showed a piece of raw footage to wrap up the panel — and give the audience an inkling of what they can expect from the 200th episode.
As to the secret of the show’s success, Harmon said, “I think from the very beginning, we were a show that wasn’t good enough to get all that noticed and not bad enough to get canceled, and we shot in Santa Clarita and no one wanted to drive out there. We had a lot of time to get to know one another… and we’ve had changes along the way that greatly influenced us,” he said, noting the additions of Cote de Pablo, Rocky Carroll and Sean Murray to the cast. “These were all big changes, and changes for the better.”
Asked how he kept his gleefully superficial character Tony DiNozzo fresh, Michael Weatherly said, “When you have a character who seems to have as limited a range as Tony DiNozzo, and I’m kidding, because in just one episode I get to do crazy physical humor, an interrogation scene, kiss the girl and then have my pants fall down to my ankles. I’m constantly discovering new things on the set, because the writers keep creating these fantastic scenarios, I can never get ahead of it. Mark [Harmon] is a fantastic leader in how he leads us to that freedom. Some shows, you hit your mark and bark… and this show is always growing and searching.”
Repeatedly pressured to answer a question about whether “NCIS” might last as long as the classic Western “Gunsmoke” (which aired for 20 years), Harmon joked, “I like the idea of riding a horse if we’re gonna do that. I think the way you do this is you go to work tomorrow and do the work. That’s what you concern yourself with. We’re all happy.”
But what’s next? Ultimately, Glasberg admitted, “There are mysteries to ‘NCIS’… which we will spoon feed you.” Giving his take on what viewers can expect from the 200th episode (which airs Tues. Feb. 7 at 8 p.m.), he said, “There’s a certain element to the season that’s been about decisions our characters have faced, looking forward and looking back. As far back as last summer I had kind of a sense of what I wanted the episode to be. It’s very much about a pivotal moment for Gibbs that he faces. The episode is called ‘Life Before His Eyes.’ It looks back at key moments in nine years of ‘NCIS’ when decisions had to be made, and how the world would have ended up if [different decisions were made]. You’re going to see old faces, familiar faces, faces people maybe never expected to see again. It was a lot of fun.”
The hint as to how the show will stop the crime-solving action to flash back was revealed when Glasberg asked that a piece of footage (still bearing a time code stamp) be aired for the audience. In it, Gibbs walks into a diner, chats with the waitress, and notices a man, his face obscured by a hoodie, approaching him with a gun. Gibbs raises his own and the scene fades to white with the sound of a blast. It seems like bad news for Gibbs, but don’t be too worried — Harmon, who described the set as a “gracious place to work,” doesn’t seem interested in moving on anytime soon.