Why Did It Take 11 Months To Remove Mark Harmon’S Ncis Opening Credits?

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Mark Harmon’s decision to leave “NCIS” after 18 seasons as Leroy Jethro Gibbs was undoubtedly one of the most significant and unexpected series exits of the contemporary period. Fans were understandably perplexed by Harmon’s self-engineered resignation, given his reputation as series star and the fact that “NCIS” was frequently topping Monday night ratings at the time of his leave. The choice to keep Harmon’s name and image in the series’ opening credits for the duration of Season 19 further added to the uncertainty.

The decision was particularly perplexing considering Harmon’s final appearance as Gibbs occurred during the fourth episode, leaving the credit prominently displayed for the next 17 episodes even in his absence. Given how important Harmon and Gibbs were to the series’ success, the choice might easily be interpreted as a love tribute, with veteran producer Steven D. Binder telling TV Insider that such a presence will continue even in the absence of his actual presence. “I wouldn’t want [Gibbs’ presence] to fade,” Binder explained, “because even if I can’t have Gibbs, I still love having his presence in there.”

Binder later added there was likely also a more practical reason Harmon’s credit remained. As the producer noted, such issues aren’t usually addressed until a new season of “NCIS” approaches, claiming, “I’ll have a more definitive answer for [the plan] once we actually have to build the [Season 20] title sequence, because that’s really our deadline.” True to his word, “NCIS” bosses waited almost a full year to remove Harmon’s credit from the mix.

NCIS creatives were likely also holding out to see if Harmon might return

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The words “a more definitive answer” stand out in Seven D. Binder’s comments regarding Mark Harmon remaining in the “NCIS” credit sequence after his departure. And as the longtime “NCIS” producer noted, the fact that Leroy Jethro Gibbs wasn’t killed off the show may have played into Harmon remaining in the credits, if only because it left open the possibility that Gibbs might return to action. “There’s always head space for him to come back,” Binder told TV Insider. “It just has to be the right story, I think, to get him excited about it and to get us excited about it.”

During a 2022 interview with TV Line, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl reiterated that opinion, saying, “Everyone is aware that the door is open if [Harmon] ever wants to pop in for an episode, or multiple episodes.” Harmon has yet to make his way back into the “NCIS” fold. And it appears Harmon’s continuous absence was ultimately convincing enough for Binder and “NCIS” to remove him from the credits sequence ahead of Season 20’s launch.

Despite some legitimate anticipation that Harmon’s replacement, Gary Cole, would take the top spot in Season 20’s opening credits sequence, Sean Murray finally filled the void. That pick seems particularly appropriate given that his character, Timothy McGee, was Gibbs’ protege for the most of Harmon’s tenure. And we can only assume Murray will have that position for as long as “NCIS” is on the air.

 

 

 

 

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