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EXCLUSIVE: 'NCIS' Boss Shane Brennan on the Show's Record Ratings

by Kelly Woo, posted Jan 12th 2011 6:45PM
NCISDefying the usual laws of television, Tuesday night's episode of 'NCIS' was watched by a series-high 22 million total viewers ... in its eighth season.

Most series lose viewers over time, yet somehow, 'NCIS' has avoided t he trend. Shane Brennan, the showrunner for both 'NCIS' and 'NCIS: LA' (which also notched a series high), called us for a quick chat about the phenomenal ratings.

His reaction upon hearing the numbers? "Incredibly gratified, because we put so much hard work and so much love and attention into these episodes," he said on the phone. "Last night's episode wasn't an 'event episode,' it was just a good episode of 'NCIS,' and to have that many people tune in and watch the show is incredibly gratifiying to everyone involved."

So why does Brennan think 'NCIS' has managed to avoid the usual ratings drop that plagues long-running shows? His theory: Reruns!

"The show was syndicated onto USA, and they, in their wisdom, decided they would run these marathons where they would have eight or 10 episodes on one day, and that did expose the show to a new audience," he said, noting that the syndicated run began around season 5.

"We made a conscious effort around season 5 to delve into the characters more deeply, and I think the audience always loved these characters, but they were always desperate to know more, and so one of the things we did was we gave the audience what they wanted. It's a testament to the characters and the cast that in season 8 we can still find new and exciting things for these characters to a) be involved in and b) reveal things about them to the audience."

"This show is described as a procedural, and yes it is, but people don't just turn on to see a procedural with this show," Brennan continued. "They turn on to watch a program that has a lot of very intriguing, interesting character relationships. And the characters continue to grow season to season ..."

The 'NCIS' writing team plans to keep their big audience hooked with even more character-based storylines.

"We've got an incredibly run home to the end of the season," Brennan revealed. "We've got an origin episode where we reveal how Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) first joined 'NCIS' and that's something the fans of the show have been hanging out for for many years -- to find out how the team was put together ... I can't talk much about May sweeps, but the last three or four episodes of the season are as exciting as we've done."

Tuesday night did not feature a new episode of 'Glee,' and after getting more exposure with a post-Super Bowl airing, the Fox hit could prove to be fiercer competition than it already is.

"Look, it's never really concerned me," Brennan said of his timeslot war. "We'd love to maintain [the ratings], but we're realistic ... we want to continue giving the audience great episodes, and if we do that, they'll either watch us live to air or DVR it."

He added, "Interestingly, next week's episode is one of those event episodes, we've got Bob Newhart in it. It's an astonishing episode, it's incredibly moving. Bob Newhart should be nominated for an Emmy for his performance as a guest in it."

"It'll be very interesting to see if that audience tunes in next week," he mused. "Maybe we will crack 23 million. If we don't, no one's going to be too upset about that -- numbers go up and they go down, and sometimes you're against a repeat and sometimes you're against 'American Idol.' And we've sent 'American Idol' to Wednesday so I guess we've finally succeeded in beating 'American Idol' [laughs].

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NCIS is the best show on TV, Watching the character development is astounding, and the acting and the writing
is always surperb!

February 08 2011 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I love NCIS. Never miss an episode and I watch the reruns on USA.

January 13 2011 at 9:57 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply


January 13 2011 at 12:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Is this the NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service? It is a great tv series. no wonder if the series get those ratings.

Donald - http://www.curtisjohnson.com/

January 12 2011 at 8:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to donaldmwilliams8's comment

No, it's the NCIS: Desperate Housewives Crimes Division... How many NCIS's are there?

January 13 2011 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joni Hough

Thanks TV Squad and Kelly Woo for featuring an article about NCIS. SB is right - the ratings are nice and I'm thrilled that these talented men and women are getting them, but I'd be watching even if they were as they were in earlier seasons.
Can't wait for the Tony "origins" episode. If I was a school girl I'd be downright giddy.

January 12 2011 at 7:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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