When “NCIS” began in 2003 as a spin-off of “JAG,” no one could have predicted that the show would become so popular and that 20 years later, it’d still be going strong. Despite series regulars coming and going, and even the star of the show, Mark Harmon, stepping away, many fans have come to love the new team consisting of a mix of old and new characters. Characters like Tim McGee (Sean Murray) have been around since the beginning, while others, like Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover), arrived in the last five years.
While some viewers attribute “NCIS’s” longevity to the fantastic actors, the chemistry and cohesiveness of the team, or consistently strong writing, Rocky Carroll — who has portrayed NCIS director Leon Vance for 15 years — has another perspective. “In the early days of television, in the 60s and the 70s, every network had Westerns,” he told CBS Los Angeles. “CBS had “Gunsmoke,” there was “The Big Valley,” there was “Bonanza.” And there was something about that frontier, simple justice, about someone having an innate sense of right or wrong; there were good guys and bad guys, and at the end of the hour, the bad guys are brought to justice. I think the procedurals like “NCIS” have sort of become the Westerns of our new millennium.”
Viewers like seeing the bad guys brought to justice
The idea that procedurals are the new Westerns makes sense, especially when you consider the proliferation of popular procedurals currently airing on television. According to The New York Times, the ten most watched shows on Paramount+ include not only “NCIS,” but the procedurals “Criminal Minds,” “Blue Bloods,” “FBI,” and “SEAL Team.” Except for “Criminal Minds” — which was just rebooted in 2022 after previously airing for 15 seasons — all of these shows have been on air for at least five seasons, which gives credence to the idea that audiences want black-and-white justice in their television shows.
In a world where, every day, we read or watch news events in which it feels like someone has gotten away with something they shouldn’t have, it makes sense to want to immerse ourselves in a show where the bad guys get what they deserve. “As murky as justice can be in the real world, at least you know on “NCIS” at the end of the hour, bad guys are going to be brought to justice, and I think people respond to that,” Rocky Carroll told CBS Los Angeles. “I know I do when I watch it. It gives you that sense that there is good, and that good will win out in the end.”