You knew something was up with NCIS back in summer when its repeats were tramping new episodes of something as big as America's Got Talent. Indeed, while the trend for most television shows is to go downhill after the first few seasons, the reverse had been true for NCIS, now on its seventh season.
What's the secret? Shane Brennan, who took the reins as NCIS showrunner in season 5, tells The Hollywood Reporter that it's a combination of good strategy, persistence, and sheer quality.
"The first is, the show went on the USA Network in rerun marathons, and so a lot of college kids started watching," he said. "Eventually, they realized it wasn't just another police procedural. It had a lot of humor in it, quirky, interesting characters and the twists and turns of a procedural. The other is the very hard work that was done in the first four seasons: A lot of seeds were planted, stories and background outlined. So when I took over the show, it was ripe for us to start answering those questions."
While some procedurals have traditionally done well in the ratings, NCIS had taken things to new heights, raking in an average of 20 million viewers week in and week out for new episodes. And it has done so without any critical buzz; on the contrary, it has largely been panned by critics.
Does this bother Brennan? Not really, because the numbers they get every week speaks for themselves.
"Everyone likes to get accolades, but at the same time I'm sitting here smiling, because for six seasons, 14 million people every Tuesday night have sat down and watched NCIS and said to their friends and their family, 'You really should watch this show.' I love that people have embraced it and they're getting their reward now. And this goes to all of the cast and crew as well: The reward is, we're No. 1 - and the numbers keep going up."