7 Reasons Tracker Dethroned NCIS As CBS’ Most-Watched Tv Show


Key differences between Justin Hartley’s action drama and NCIS allowed Tracker to dethrone the police procedural as CBS’ most-watched television show. According to TV show ratings released by TVLine,NCIS had 9.7 million viewers tuning in each week for the 2023-2024 broadcast season, while Tracker topped that, garnering 10.8 million viewers per week in its first season. This achievement for Tracker is even more impressive when taking into consideration that it dethroned NCIS for the first time in five years.

While NCIS is one of the network’s most successful shows of all time, lone-wolf protagonist Colter Shaw had a successful first season on the network.Tracker scored an early renewal for Tracker season 2 after airing just four episodes. The reward-seeker offered something fresh to the network, with many of the things that worked for Tracker in its first season being things that NCIS cannot achieve as an aging series. The series has been renewed for NCIS season 22, but major differences between the dramas will make for worthy competition in the next TV season.

1.Tracker’s Single Season Makes It Easy To Get Into

It Pales In Comparison To NCIS’ 21 Seasons, But That’s A Good Thing

So far, Tracker comprises a single season, unlike the NCIS franchise’s legendary expanse of episodes and spinoff shows. To see the Colter Shaw drama in its entirety, watching all 13 episodes of its first season at just over 40 minutes per episode, it might take a day or two if watched vigorously. When looking for something new and exciting to watch, Tracker makes for a nice weekend binge. This simple starting point pales in comparison to the makeup of the shared NCIS universe, which includes five existing NCIS shows with more in the works.

With the franchise recently celebrating the 1000th NCIS episode, it would take quite a bit longer to get familiar with the legendary police procedural. NCIS has been on CBS since 2003, and it has four spinoff shows that have released a multitude of episodes each as well, including NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, NCIS: Hawai’i, and NCIS: Sydney. Getting to know the full story would require watching over 1000 episodes across five shows. If binge-watched, it would take about a month to cover the entire NCIS universe, even when watched back-to-back without taking any breaks [via CBS].

2.Colter’s Past Is Complicated, But His Present-Day Story Is Straightforward

Colter’s Lifestyle Makes Him A Character That Is Fun To Watch

Something that makes Justin Hartley’s character appealing is Colter Shaw’s duality of mystery and straightforwardness. While he has a complicated past that he will need to continue to resolve in Tracker season 2, Colter questions very little about how he should operate in the present. He is a man of percentages, using statistics and likelihoods to guide his decisions with logic above anything else. The ease with which Colter navigates harrowing circumstances has a calming effect when watching the show.

On NCIS, characters’ pasts and futures are more muddled and complicated, as are the difficult familial relationships that come with their demanding schedules as NCIS agents. Many of them don’t have a balance between their work and their family life, and it’s something that Colter Shaw does have. As hard as he works to return loved ones to their families, Colter is able to enjoy the adventure that comes with his lifestyle in the Tracker season 1 finale ending. The duality of Hartley’s character makes following the tracker a balanced and pleasurable experience.

3. Tracker Has A More Connected Storyline Than NCIS

Audiences Can Get To Know The Protagonist Sooner On Tracker

Tracker’s storyline offers a more connected narrative than NCIS and lends itself to the familiarity with characters that can make a television show successful. While a variety of cases keeps the show fresh, there is a central narrative to the show’s first season regarding Colter’s family that upholds interest in how he is navigating his personal life. What’s more, his family members are all featured on the show in some form in the first season, like a reunion with Colter’s sister, and it adds to the familiarity the audience is able to have with the characters.

Overall, Tracker’s story is more cohesive than the flagship NCIS series, and it’s natural that it lends itself to audience favorability, since viewers are able to develop a more immediate understanding of the characters. On NCIS, revealing the full mystery surrounding the central character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), took years. The show had to start its process of familiarizing audiences with the show’s main characters all over again after Mark Harmon exited NCIS, with audiences having to get to know a new team lead.

4. Tracker Has One Deep Mystery, As Well As A Series Of Them

The Show Has Multiple Levels Of Mystery Available To Explore

Tracker is an appealing watch, and that’s in part due to the multiple levels of mysteries and narratives stacked within the show’s story. While Colter investigates as a reward seeker in a case-of-the-week format that is nearly identical to NCIS, there is the underlying mystery of who killed Colter’s father, which serves as a deeper mystery within the show that connects the episodes and keeps one big question central to the show’s progression throughout its first season. The show has maintained a good balance by revealing small clues to the mystery surrounding Colter’s family over time.


While it has a series of biting mysteries, NCIS doesn’t have an over-arching mystery that keeps viewers tuning in week after week to see the layers of it peeled away. The closest thing NCIS had was the mystery surrounding Jethro Gibbs, and even then, the whole point of Harmon’s character is that he remained mysterious. The show also had antagonists who had continuing narratives, such as Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin) from NCIS seasons 1 and 2, but it isn’t essential to enjoying NCIS to know about that storyline, whereas the mystery surrounding Colter’s father is ingrained

5. Tracker Has A Diverse Cast Of Characters

Colter Shaw’s Series Introduced A Diverse Cast In Its Onset

While the cast of NCIS has diversified over the years, diverse representation on-screen is something that the Tracker characters delivered at its onset. Colter’s skeleton team of investigators consists of cast members who bring exciting representation to CBS. Abby McEnany and Robin Weigert portray Velma and Teddi Bruin, two women who are married and act as Colter’s handlers. The first season sees Velma and Teddi suggest new cases for Colter, as well as provide the right connections to get him out of bad situations he gets himself into.

Colter’s team also features Eric Graise as Bobby Exley, a tech genius and the reward-seeker’s main source of advanced intel. Graise is a dancer and performer who had both his legs amputated when he was a child due to missing fibula bones, and the actor is an advocate for including people who experience physical barriers in all forms of media. In an interview with Today, Graise said: “When you look out into the world and don’t see people who reflect your life and your abilities, it’s tough.” Graise is part of building that representation that people benefit from seeing on-screen.

6. Tracker Maintains Its Lead Character, Colter Shaw

NCIS Can Never Replace Leroy Jethro Gibbs

A key difference between Tracker heading into its second season and NCIS heading into season 22 is that the former maintains its lead characters, whereas the lead on NCIS is long gone. The D.C.-based police procedural hasn’t had its main character since Mark Harmon departed the franchise in season 19. While Harmon’s character will return in a new NCIS spinoff show called NCIS: Origins. The show will take place in the past, and Gibbs has been recast with a younger actor.

As such, Tracker has an invaluable element that NCIS can never get back: the face of the series. Colter Shaw has proved to be a powerful and commanding lead, and the show will presumably center around Hartley’s character until the end of its run. The show is based on a series of books by Jeffery Deaver called the Colter Shaw series, meaning that there isn’t much use having the show without Colter. It stands to reason then that if Justin Hartley departed the show, which feels unlikely at this point, his character wouldn’t be replaced, such as when Parker took over for Gibbs.

7. As A Reward-Seeker, Colter Shaw Saves Victims

Colter Is In The Business Of Happy Endings, Not Murder Investigation

One of the most important differences separating Tracker from NCIS is that Colter Shaw has the honor of returning the victims of the crimes he is investigating home to their families and friends. While the team has helped a lot of people over the years on NCIS, many of the people they helped lost loved ones to murder or were otherwise wrapped up in fatal crimes. While NCIS isn’t strictly comprised of murder cases, it makes up most of the show’s investigations. Death is a prevalent theme, with many dead bodies on the NCIS autopsy table.

loved ones being returned to their families, rather than killed in malicious and gruesome ways, is what people need to see right now.

Hartley’s drama manages to balance the complexity of an investigative procedural with a happy ending: always returning victims to their loved ones. Perhaps Tracker takes the cake this season because loved ones being returned to their families, rather than killed in malicious and gruesome ways, can make for a welcome change of pace from most crime-related procedurals. While his own past remains a mystery, Colter Shaw always delivers a happy ending to his clients, and it sets the tone for the show as harrowing but heartfelt, giving it the right blend to keep audiences engaged without burning out.