Unquestionably, during its storied existence on the small screen, the “NCIS” program has shown itself to be a formidable force. Every episode of the procedural style crime drama, which draws inspiration from the actual Naval Criminal Investigative Services of the United States Department of the Navy, reveals the nuances of the process involved in resolving criminal cases involving the armed forces. The long-running CBS series has continued to grow over the years because to the public’s ongoing fascination with the battle against Naval crime, and some people might not be aware of how many shows truly make up the “NCIS” world.
After the 2003 launch of the first “NCIS,” which is a spinoff of the courtroom drama “JAG,” the show’s popularity opened the door for further episodes, which included “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “NCIS: Hawai’i,” and “NCIS: Sydney.” The five “NCIS” television series each center on a committed squad of detectives investigating intricate crimes ranging from apprehending deadly murderers to averting catastrophic terrorist strikes. Even though they can appear to be similar at first, each of them has distinct qualities that distinguish them apart and provide a different experience.
The original NCIS been around the longest
The series that ignited the nation’s interest in Naval criminal justice has lasted the longest and shows little signs of slowing down. There have been 20 seasons with over 450 episodes released, and a 21st season is already in the works that is set to arrive in 2024.
The unstoppable military police procedural follows the NCIS Major Case Response Team based out of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Led by NCIS Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, the team included several agents, including Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo, Sean Murray as Timothy McGee, and Sasha Alexander as Caitlin Todd. Running forensics for the squad behind the scenes was Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette. And the crew could always count on the expertise of Dr. Donald Mallard, played by the late David McCallum, and Dr. Jimmy Palmer, portrayed by Brian Dietzen. Since its debut, there have been several changes in the lineup, with a slew of recognizable talent being added to the roster, including Cote de Pablo, Wilmer Valderrama, Maria Bello, Jennifer Esposito, Katrina Law, and Gary Cole.
While there are many options to choose from in the franchise, it’s clear that fans feel the original series is the best “NCIS” show. Armed with the most episodes, star power, and cases to solve, classic “NCIS” offers an experience just a notch above the rest.
NCIS: Los Angeles raises the stakes with more action and espionage
In 2009, a backdoor pilot in an original “NCIS” sixth-season two-parter paved the way for “NCIS: Los Angeles” to become the first spinoff from the franchise. The action crime drama follows the Office of Special Projects, a counter-terrorist division of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. The elite unit excels in undercover operations for a number of different cases, including threats to national security, which translates to the spinoff featuring a more fast-paced approach to many of its entries and a lot more espionage action compared to any of its counterparts.
Chris O’Donnell starred in “NCIS: Los Angeles” as Special Agent in Charge G. Gallen, with LL Cool J as ex-Navy Seal Sam Hanna, the unit’s second in command. While the dynamic duo of the second “NCIS” series were highly skilled and trained, Special Agent Kensi Blye, played by Daniela Ruah, quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with while in the field and as one of the spinoff’s major players. As for the rest of the main cast, several changes were made during the show’s run, allowing for several talented individuals to make up its roster at different points in time, like Linda Hunt, Caleb Castille, Eric Christian Olsen, Medalion Rahimi, Nia Long, Miguel Ferrer, and Gerald McRaney.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” retired from active duty on May 21, 2023, after 14 seasons and over 320 episodes. Long before it ended, the series almost launched another offshoot called “NCIS: Red” in 2013 that CBS didn’t feel was worthy of entering the “NCIS” universe, leaving the door open for another location-based spinoff.
NCIS: New Orleans was known for offering an authentic Big Easy experience
The second spinoff, “NCIS: New Orleans,” was first introduced in a backdoor pilot in Season 11 of the original “NCIS” series. In 2014, the series officially became the third in the franchise and followed a new team operating out of a headquarters in the French Quarter of New Orleans, whose area of operations extended from the Mississippi River to the Texas Panhandle. While it stayed true to the franchise’s proven formula of investigating military-related criminal cases, the show took full advantage of its location to help set itself apart from the rest of the franchise. “From the start, ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ was able to distinguish itself with its New Orleans authenticity,” President of CBS Entertainment Kelly Kahl said in a statement according to Deadline. “From the colors and music to the vibrancy and stories you can only find in the Big Easy.”
With CCH Pounder portraying medical examiner Loretta Wade and Scott Bakula as Supervisory Agent Dwayne “King” Cassius Pride, the New Orleans team was commanded by these two talented actors. Agents Christopher LaSalle, Meredith Brody, and Sonja Percy were portrayed by Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan, and Shalita Grant. Actor Daryl Mitchell as Computer Specialist Patton Plame, aka Triple P, and Rob Kerkovich as Sebastian Lund, who handled forensics, completed the Crescent City squad. Following a series of roster changes akin to those seen by other shows in the franchise, “NCIS: New Orleans” became the first “NCIS” show to be canceled, concluding in 2021, after eight seasons and over 150 episodes.
Agents play nice with others in NCIS: Hawai’i
“NCIS: Hawai’i” debuted entirely on its own in September 2021 rather than through a backdoor pilot. Vanessa Lachey plays Jane Tennant in the third spinoff; she is the first female Special Agent in Charge of the company’s field office in the Aloha State. Jason Antoon as cyber intelligence specialist Ernie Malik, Yasmine Al-Bustami as junior field agent Lucy Tara, Alex Tarrant as agent Kai Holman, and Noah Mills as second in command Jesse Boone are with her. The final member of the primary cast is Tori Anderson’s FBI-NCIS Liaison Kate Whistler.
The fourth entry in the franchise’s ability to work well with others is easily one of the highlights. During its brief run, the series has already done multiple crossovers with “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” In a short time, the show has also displayed many examples of teamwork with outside agencies, like the FBI. The collaborative efforts witnessed on “NCIS: Hawai’i” have even received praise from real-life members of the organization. “I love the teamwork I see displayed on the show,” Norman Dominesey, Special Agent in charge of the NCIS Hawai’i Field Office in 2019, said to Hawai’i Island Midweek. “It’s what we see in our field office and throughout our organization. Law enforcement is a profession where teamwork is critical.”
There have been two seasons and over 40 episodes so far, with a third season on the way, and it will be exciting to see if “NCIS: Hawai’i” can outlast the other spinoffs or the original.
The franchise is going global with NCIS: Sydney
Viewers should expect something different from “NCIS: Sydney” compared to what they are likely used to from the previous series in the franchise. The show centers on the efforts of the Australian Federal Police and the Naval Investigative Criminal Services as they put aside their disagreements and work together to maintain safety and security in their respective areas of operation in light of the growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific.
Headlining “NCIS: Sydney” is Olivia Swann as NCIS Special Agent in Charge Michelle Mackey, and right beside her as second-in-command is Jim “JD” Dempsey from the Australian Federal Police, played by Todd Lassance. The rest of the cast includes Sean Sagar as NCIS Special Agent DeShawn Jackson, Tuuli Narkl as AFP Liaison Officer Evie Cooper, Mavournee Hazel as AFP Forensic Scientist Blue Gleeson, and William McInnes as AFP Forensic Pathologist Roy Penrose. The first season of the fifth “NCIS” series and fourth spinoff will consist of eight episodes and will premiere on CBS on November 14, 2023.
Will “NCIS: Sydney” start a new trend of international spinoffs, or will it end the franchise’s global takeover? Only time will tell. Fans will have to wait and see if the latest offshoot can go the distance and what other possible additions the “NCIS” universe adds to its ever-expanding roster.