Can you believe that NCIS is going into season 18!
As should be expected from such a long-running series, there have been a lot of cast changes over the years.
So our TV Fanatics Dale McGarrigle and Christine Orlando had a chat recently about original cast members versus newer ones, characters they wish weren't dead, favorites, pet peeves, and more!
Christine: NCIS has seen its share of cast turnover over 17 seasons. Have there been changes that you've really enjoyed, or ones you wish hadn't changed at all?
Dale: First, let me start by griping that I never understand why actors leave shows. Are well-paying acting jobs really that plentiful?
Did Cote de Pablo work again? Michael Weatherly had a landing spot on Bull, but was that an improvement to playing second banana to Mark Harmon?
Christine: I think, as actors, they can get bored with one character after a while. Or, as with Sasha Alexander, who played Kate during the first two seasons of NCIS, she didn't realize how much work and time a regular series would take, and she wasn't ready for it.
But yeah, it seems like a significant risk to give up a steady paycheck on a hit show, especially on a major network. Getting that role in the first place is like winning the lottery!
Dale: I understand Pauley Perrette left for personal reasons, which I never understood. (Something about Mark Harmon's dog?). And she got a lousy sitcom as a consolation prize.
Christine: Yeah, the stories that came out when Perrette left were pretty wacky.
I never had the chance to watch Broke, but its reviews were mixed until CBS pulled the plug.
I liked Perrette's character, Abby, for several seasons, but it felt like she never changed. Abby was always that quirky, overly naive, woman/child, and that grew old for me.
It got to the point that by Abby's last season or so, I'd cringe when she was on screen, so I was happy when she left to make room for someone new. I think the show needed fresh blood to change things up a bit.
What do you think about Kasie, Abby's replacement?
Dale: I like Kasie. She's different enough from Abby, kind of a geeky fangirl. But she gets the job done.
The problem I had with the new characters is the producers threw a bunch of them against the wall to see what stuck. Like, what was Clayton's purpose?
Christine: I liked Clayton Reeves and loved his British accent! I was upset when he was killed off.
It did feel as though they killed Clayton solely to traumatize Abby and give her a motive for leaving NCIS, which was a waste of a great character.
But you're right about the show throwing a bunch of new characters at us. After Ziva left, it felt like they wanted to give it some time before they made any new characters permanent, and it led to a bit of a revolving door for Gibbs' team.
Clayton lasted less than two seasons, while Jennifer Esposito's Agent Alex Quinn was only on for a season. I feel like there were more agents in and out that I'm not recalling.
Dale: The only one that was new was Jack (Jacqueline Sloane), who has been underutilized. They gave the team a profiler, but even that was ripping off Criminal Minds.
Christine: I really like Jack, and I'd love to see more of her, either professionally as their profiler or more of her personal life.
They explored the story about the daughter Jack put up for adoption, and she has some sort of a relationship with Gibbs, but it's like they're always hinting at it and never give them a solid storyline.
That's a pet peeve of mine with NCIS. They hint at romances or tease them but never commit, and I don't like being toyed with. Either have two characters dive into an affair, even if it fails, or leave that out of the story entirely.
Dale: Like Torres and Bishop. You have to care about the characters enough to have them get together. Torres has been a Latino Tony. Bishop is somewhat different, but being the lead female, she has to have all the failed relationships.
Christine: Bishop and Torres have grown on me more than I ever expected. I've grown to care about each of them separately, but I fear the show is going down the Tony/Ziva road again, where we get teased about a romance that will never happen on screen.
That gets boring and feels like lazy writing to me. Either commit to a personal storyline or let it go.
Your turn, NCIS fans. Did NCIS do right by Tony and Ziva's romance?
Dale: Bishop has developed over the years. Torres is still pretty one-note: the macho guy with a heart of gold.
Christine: I do think there is a lot more room to develop Torres. He's a little more of a team player than when he first came on after being deep undercover.
I would like to see a real relationship develop between Bishop and Torres, along with how that might complicate their work lives, but I hate when they tease us with it but do nothing because then I begin to care about the pairing and feel like I'm wasting my time!
Bellisario's show, JAG, did that all the way until the final episode. It ticked me off so much that I stopped watching two seasons before the show ended.
And NCIS didn't commit to Tony and Ziva as a real couple until she was presumed dead. At some point, if you keep teasing a romance and stringing shippers along but never giving them a payoff, you're cheating your fans.
You tell us, NCIS fans. Do you want to see Bishop and Torres begin a romantic relationship?
Dale: How about McGee? Do you prefer the quirky probie or the stodgy married man?
Christine: I like that he's married with kids now because that's realistic, but it's also made him dull and one-note.
Jimmy Palmer has been down a similar road, but I now like him better, whereas he bugged the heck out of me during the earlier seasons.
Dale: We're supposed to be living vicariously through these characters, and I get enough of tired married guy.
Christine: LOL! They could do more with McGee than they've been the last couple of seasons. There should be more sides to him by this point.
Speaking of character growth, do you think Gibbs has grown enough as a character over 17 seasons?
Dale: Gibbs is what he is: a father figure for his unit since his real family was taken away from him. He's been hurt too many times to put himself out there again.
Christine: I hate that he seems destined to be alone for the rest of his life. I'd love to see him approach a relationship with Jack, if only because it would be something different, and I think it's time that he finds a way to heal.
Dale: They're both damaged goods so they could be good for each other, but she wouldn't be able to turn off the psychoanalysis, which would drive him crazy.
Christine: Yeah, but that could be part of the fun!
I've read some fans complain that the show kills off more female characters (not including the murder of the week). Examples are Kate, Shannon Gibbs (pre-show), Jackie Vance, Diana (Fornell's wife) Ziva (sort of), Dir. Jenny Shepherd, etc.
Do you feel that pet peeve has any merit?
Dale: Other than Kate (as the actress wanted out) and Shepherd, the rest were tangential characters, and they've killed off tangential males as well, like Dornegat. I think it comes down to viewers caring less if males are killed off.
Christine: Gosh, I didn't even remember Dornegat!
Maybe it comes down to how much the audience cares about a particular character. These female characters seem to have connected with viewers, whereas others may not have, and therefore fans didn't take it as hard.
Have you had a favorite character throughout the series?
Dale: Gibbs. Here's my theory on cop-show lead characters: They're all descended from Joe Friday. They get surrounded by colorful, supporting characters.
Christine: That's a good theory. My favorite male lead character has changed over time. It started out being Gibbs, then changed to Tony, then back to Gibbs.
Dale: I keep watching to see if Gibbs is ever going to catch a break.
Christine: Have you had a favorite female character?
Dale: Probably Abby, although Pauley's exit kind of soured that for me.
Christine: I've enjoyed most of the female characters for different reasons. I liked Kate a lot and wish she could have stuck around longer.
Ziva had a lot of hard edges, but I always enjoyed her special relationship with Gibbs. Bishop has grown a lot since her arrival, and I like her character arc.
Has there been a character that's left that you wish hadn't?
Dale: Ducky, but I understand that David McCallum needs a less-demanding schedule. Palmer doesn't cut it as the office eccentric.
Same with Linda Hunt on NCIS: LA. I'm much younger, and I don't want to work every day.
Christine: I love Ducky, but like you, I understand the need for the actor to slow down at age 86! And at least he pops back in from time to time.
But Clayton Reeves is the first one that comes to mind that I wish hadn't been killed off.
And the flip side, has there been a character that's left that you thought you'd miss more than you actually do?
Dale: Probably Director Jenny Shepherd. She had done her time, and Vance took over fine.
Christine: I really thought I'd miss Tony DiNozzo terribly, but it hasn't happened. Surprisingly, I'm enjoying the new cast as much as I have the previous regulars, but I know other fans disagree.
Now it's your turn, TV Fanatics. Who's your favorite character? Who do you wish hadn't been killed off?
And do you enjoy the new cast as much as you did the old, or do you prefer one of the groupings in between? Which one reigns supreme?
Hit that BIG, BLUE, SHOW COMMENTS BUTTON down below to chime in and be a part of the NCIS conversation.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.