The long-running drama has always been a major player for the CBS network, consistently airing to millions of viewers tuning in each week across the United States. However, future seasons of NCIS could be due another major haul after this week’s opener to the series’ 20th instalment drew in its worst figures yet.
This week’s episode of NCIS, A Family Matter, drew just 5.82 million viewers despite opening the drama’s milestone 20th season.
The show’s same-day viewers were down 31 percent compared to last year, the smallest audience in NCIS history.
NCIS’s previous outing regularly drew in between seven and eight million viewers, while its most popular seasons attracted up to 20 million fans.
However, the first full season since the departure of team leader Leroy Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) has taken a considerable hit in the ratings.
The premiere also failed to receive a boost from its crossover with the CBS drama’s latest spin-off, NCIS: Hawaii.
Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) and her team have returned for a second season after their 2021 debut proved a moderate hit for the network.
Monday’s conclusion to the NCIS two-parter, Prisoners’ Dilemma, opened Hawaii’s follow-up instalment to 5.31, on-track with its figures for season one.
Unfortunately, this week’s middling start to the 2022-23 season could eventually lead to a major overhaul for the franchise.
The series has already made some huge changes in recent years in addition to Gibbs’ exit near the start of season 19.
Fan-favourite agents Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham) and Jack Sloane (Maria Bello) both left the series to be replaced by newcomer Jessica Knight (Katrina Law).
Plus, after nearly two decades leading the team, Gibbs has been replaced by a new Special Agent in Charge, Alden Parker (Gary Cole).
Alden has a long road ahead if he’s to become as iconic as Gibbs, and the latest figures could be cause for concern for the next era of NCIS.
Thankfully, there is still a chance for Gibbs to make a comeback somewhere down the line after he moved to Alaska.
Actor Mark told Entertainment Weekly: “What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging.
“Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with … I’m not retired. The character is living in Alaska as far as I know.”
While showrunner Steven D Binder said on Instagram: “As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show.”
“Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go.
“So regarding the future of Gibbs, as longtime fans of the show may have noticed over the years … never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
For now, though, NCIS fans are feeling the loss of Gibbs after he was removed from the opening titles for the new season.
NCIS season 20 continues Mondays on CBS in the US. A UK release date has yet to be announced.