Is NCIS Struggling Without Gibbs? A Midseason Check-In

As one of the best and longest-running shows on television, NCIS has staked its claim on being the best series of all time. One of the reasons for NCIS‘ continued success has been its outstanding cast. Anytime that a series runs for nearly 450 episodes, there’s going to be turnover. But NCIS routinely replaced departing characters with more great characters, who only benefited the team and the series as a whole.

Agent Gibbs was the most recent example. At the end of Season 18, Mark Harmon decided to step away from acting. So, four episodes into Season 19, he bade McGee farewell and stayed in Alaska after solving a case. The rest of the season was dedicated to easing former FBI Agent Alden Parker into his role as team leader. After a while, it became clear that he was a perfect replacement for Gibbs, but the question was whether he could carry the series indefinitely.

NCIS Season 20 Viewership Numbers Are Slightly Down

NCIS McGee in Guardian

Because Gibbs left mid-season, Season 20 has been NCIS‘ first, real test without its star. To accommodate for that, much of the season has focused on family. Parker’s ex-wife was shot in the opener; Kasie, Knight and her sister were taken hostage, and Torres was also taken prisoner. In Season 20, Episode 9, “Higher Education,” McGee’s wife, Delilah, was heavily involved. She was teaching at a local university when one of her students is killed and later uncovered as a spy. Delilah showed her mettle by finding the student’s handler.

While some of the episodes have been pretty good, the question was always simple: Would fans tune in without Gibbs? There was a moderate uproar when the opening credits didn’t include Gibbs, which probably made executives nervous. However, the numbers from NCIS‘ Season 20 have been pretty good. According to TV Series Finale, an average of 7.57 million viewers (in the 18-49 demographic) tuned into Season 19. During Season 20, an average of 6.555 million viewers watched the series. Just from that raw data, it’s clear that Gibbs’ departure had a moderate effect because viewership is down slightly by a million. However, NCIS is still one of CBS’ best performers. So, the lost million shouldn’t affect its chances for renewal.

RELATED: NCIS: The Actress Behind Kasie Hines Is Not A Great TV Crime Fighter

NCIS Needs To Better Connect Its Stories

NCIS Vance

As far as the content, it has been pretty good, too. The family-centric episodes have given NCIS a chance to dive into some backstories and personal dilemmas. For the most part, fans have agreed. According to IMDb, each episode has averaged a 7.57 rating, which is only a bit down from the 7.7 average from Season 19.

However, there is one slight shortcoming, but it’s not numbers-driven. Season 20 of NCIS feels more like a sitcom than usual. It’s like every episode has to maintain a status quo, regardless of how dramatic and threatening it is. For example, Torres will supposedly have some trouble in Season 20 and is even seeing a counselor, but nothing has come of that. He was also kidnapped and shot, but by the next episode, he was back to normal. Knight was also taken captive, but nothing happened there either. It’s as if the season is struggling to connect its episodes, and there isn’t really a single, connective story arc. Given the numbers, it’s not too much of a problem, and it could still improve in the back half of the season. Either way, it’s clear that NCIS isn’t struggling too badly in its post-Gibbs era.

NCIS returns on Jan. 2, with an NCIS crossover event.

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