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NCIS Creator Suing CBS After Not Being Paid For NCIS: Los Angeles

In case you thought NCIS creator Don Bellisario's abrupt ousting after disagreements with his star Mark Harmon was the last of it, here's a new litigious wrinkle to put to rest any swim into the sunset misnomers. Fired after the show's fourth season, the 2007 canning severed a more than two decade relationship between Bellisario and CBS, during which time he created Magnum PI, Jag and NCIS. His contract reportedly specifies he gets a first look and financial gains from any spin-offs, but he hasn't seen a dime from NCIS: Los Angeles. The two parties squabbled behind the scenes for awhile, but today, the first drastic action was taken by Bellisario by way of a lawsuit demanding payment. Case closed, right? CBS certainly doesn't think so.

Releasing a statement in response to the litigation, CBS said, "Don Bellisario has no rights to what he is claiming in this suit. The contract is clear, the facts are undeniable and the courts won't need Naval intelligence to conclude that the case has no merit. We continue to honor all of our obligations to Mr. Bellisario under the actual agreement." Notice that snark? “Courts won't need Naval intelligence to conclude…”. Those are some balls on the Tiffany Network.

According to Deadline, the actual wording of Bellisario's contact states he has rights to “any generic spinoff, television sequel, prequel or remake or television movie or miniseries” based off of any characters he created, provided he worked on the program for at least the first two seasons. How do you get a spinoff more generic than NCIS: LA? It even has the same title.

CBS is certainly playing hardball right now, but it seems hard to imagine this lawsuit won't end in their forking over a large check. You never know though. The definition of a spin-off and a sequel have changed drastically over the last few decades. Regardless of the outcome, the court's ruling will likely cement those rules for years to come.

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.