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NCIS is the show that just keeps on showing, and as of the end of the 2019-2020 TV season, it will have outlasted two of the other longest-running shows on television. So, why is NCIS still so popular with fans now that it's in Season 17? Cote de Pablo, who returned in Season 17 after making a shocking Season 16 cameo, weighed in on what she believes are the reasons NCIS remains a favorite for many fans:
I think people fell in love with the show from the early years. And, I think once you fall in love with a format, a level of structure, characters...The changes didn’t come all together. Some characters started leaving and then [new ones came in]. So, fans have gotten a chance to fall in love with new characters, and I think that’s been great. People love the character of Gibbs, and so I think they like the characters. I think they like the dynamic.
NCIS has had a surprising lack of star turnover over the 17 years of the series so far. While there have been some major departures -- including Cote de Pablo's herself, when she exited as a regular back in Season 11 -- NCIS still has four major members of the cast who have been on board from the very first season, including leading man Mark Harmon.
Admittedly, game-changing departures like those of Pauley Perrette (who is very unlikely to reprise her role as Abby) and Michael Weatherly (whose odds of returning are much better) rocked NCIS, but the procedural has just kept proceeding, and new characters fit into the vacant slots with ease. In fact, the latest episode even suggested that two agents could be Tiva 2.0, even if their relationship is more complicated than ever.
As Cote de Pablo said to KTLA 5 Morning News, the format has largely remained the same even as the years passed and the dynamics within the unit shifted. The static nature of the format is part of what has allowed de Pablo to step right back into Ziva's shoes for Season 17 despite being absent since Season 11 and presumed dead from Season 13 until the clues of her survival started dropping in Season 16.
If Michael Weatherly takes a break from Bull (which was not cancelled despite allegations against him) if only for a cameo to give some closure to Tony/Ziva, fans presumably wouldn't have a hard time accepting him back into the fold despite the years since his left. In fact, NCIS' audience -- which already destroys the competition -- would almost certainly get a boost. Ziva episodes have definitely provided big numbers in viewership!
That said, NCIS is far from primetime's big winner in the ratings, and I've regularly ranked CBS' NCIS franchise (comprised of NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Las Angeles as well as the original NCIS) behind One Chicago on NBC when it comes to ratings and viewership in general.
To keep up on the latest NCIS cases, be sure to tune in to CBS on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.