CBS has enlisted Mark Harmon and the rest of his NCIS team to help ensure that the military crime drama’s New Orleans-based spin-off completes its ratings mission. Harmon will make another appearance on NCIS: New Orleans, which launches this fall, and this time he’s bringing more of his crew. Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Michael Weatherly’s Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo, Pauley Perrette’s Abigail “Abby” Sciuto, and David McCallum’s Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard will all visit The Big Easy in an unspecified episode. The crossover will partner Harmon with fellow veteran prime-time star Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap), who leads the New Orleans team.
“I’m here to help,” Harmon told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday. “I’ve learned a few things in 12 years that I’m happy to pass on – or not.”
There was previously a cross-over between the shows last season during two episodes that served as a backdoor pilot introduction to the new project, where Bakula plays Special Agent Dwayne Pride, the head of the NCIS New Orleans field office.
Bakula acknowledged he had “big shoes to fill” as the star of an NCIS spin-off. “This is kind of potentially a great partnership of a new show … the ball that’s being handed off is a perfect spiral,” he said of the new show, which will receive a lead-in from NCIS on Tuesday nights. “And there’s pressure that comes with that also. No question about it. Everyone’s talking about imagine what it will be like being on the air for 11 years. I said, ‘Hold on. They need to write the show, and then we need to do the show. We have to earn our place. It’s not a given,’ and I’m fortunate to have this great, very rich character that exists, that I can plumb for ideas and experiences.”
NCIS is the most watched drama series currently on TV — averaging about 19 million viewers. But the veteran drama tends to lack the media attention enjoyed by more buzzy cable dramas. Harmon seemed to suggest that people tend to underestimate how much work goes into keeping the procedural at the top of its game. “We’ve been fortunate on this show that we’re doing,” said Harmon, who is also an executive producer on the series. “It looks really easy to do. It’s really hard to do, and [executive producer Jeffrey Lieber is] finding that out right now … we take great pride in what we try to put forward, and we hope that that same footprint rests onto this [new] show.”