‘NCIS’, CBS’ #1 drama television series, could be facing a major change in cast. The show, in its seventh season, is unique in that it is one of the very few to see its average audience actually increase with each new season.
‘NCIS’ faces the unenviable position of battling Fox’s ‘American Idol’ on Tuesday nights, as well as the ‘Dancing With the Stars’ result show on ABC. Regardless, it has been averaging between 19 and 20 million viewers per week.
One of ‘NCIS’ strengths, in addition to strong and compelling storylines, is its excellent ensemble cast, headed up by former ‘Chicago Hope’ hunk Mark Harmon. With Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray, David McCallum, Cote de Pablo and Rocky Carroll rounding off the ‘NCIS’ team of naval crime fighters, the show features the best developed characters on television.
But will that lineup continue past this season?
Weatherly, Perrette, Murray and McCallum all face contracts that expire at the end of this season. Word in the industry has it that the network has made each actor a ‘lowball’ offer to begin the negotiating process.
What will it take to bring all four of the characters back for season eight? The answer is crucial to the ‘NCIS’ program, as all four are crucial to the show’s success. Weatherly’s ‘Tony DiNozzo’ and Perrette’s ‘Abby Sciuto’ are ‘NCIS’ originals and the two quirkiest and most entertaining characters on all of television. Murray, a mid-first season addition to the cast, has grown to fill the much needed computer expert role that makes the team’s crime solving process take shape. Veteran actor McCallum, best known for his role on the ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’, adds a distinctive flavor as the brilliant but talkative coroner.
‘NCIS’ has experienced cast turnover before and survived. After the second season, Sasha Alexander’s ‘Kate Todd’ character was killed off the show as Alexander wanted to pursue other projects. Lauren Holly’s ‘Jenny Shepard’ was killed off after season five.
Alexander’s departure was a boost to the show in that, while she was good in her role, she didn’t have the same on-screen chemistry as Cote de Pablo. Holly’s departure didn’t help nor hurt the show, as she was replaced by a capable Rocky Carroll.
CBS better figure this question out soon and not allow it to become another ‘CSI’, which faced this issue a few years back with Jorga Fox and George Eads, or even another ‘Two and a Half Men’, whose future is still in question with contract issues surrounding Charlie Sheen.