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Why was 'NCIS' star Mark Harmon removed from the show's opening credits?

With Harmon's exit in Season 19, it made sense to have a renewed intro with a new lead paving the way
UPDATED SEP 21, 2022
Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs (R) on 'NCIS' (Twitter/NCIS)
Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs (R) on 'NCIS' (Twitter/NCIS)

The premiere of 'NCIS' Season 20 had no mention of long-time star Mark Harmon in the opening credits. The hit CBS procedural erased his name almost a year after the actor's exit as Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Harmon's character was last seen in Season 19 where the storyline saw him stay back in Alaska.

Monday's Season 20 opener is a two-hour crossover event with the spinoff, 'NCIS: Hawaii'. The show is now led by Sean Murray who leads 'NCIS' opening credits followed by Wilmer Valderrama, Katrina Law, Brian Dietzen, Diona Reasonover, David McCallum, Rocky Carroll, and Gary Cole.


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A still from 'NCIS' Season 17 (CBS)
A still from 'NCIS' Season 17 (CBS)

Why was Mark Harmon officially removed from 'NCIS' opening credits?

While there has been no concrete reason from the network, chances are that the new season required an updated credits scene with the current cast list. With Harmon's exit in Season 19, it made sense to have a renewed intro with a new lead paving the way. Plus, it also serves as a fitting tribute to have Harmon's name throughout the previous season although he was just involved in four of the episodes before exiting the show. 

It's worth noting that this wasn't the first time a network changed the opening credits. 'Starz's blockbuster law drama, 'Suits' had a similar move when the show's three key protagonists exited over the course of its nine-season run. The penultimate season saw the names of Meghan Markle, Gina Torres, and Patrick J Adams removed and replaced by Dule Hill and Katherine Heigl.

Coming back to Harmon's exit, the 70-year-old had previously explained the reason for his departure, "What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging. Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with."  He also told his fans that Gibbs was enjoying the simpler things in life: "I'm not retired... The character is living in Alaska as far as I know."

'NCIS' airs Mondays at 10 pm on CBS.