NCIS season 19 release date and everything we know so far

NCIS season 19
(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive / Getty)

After the drama surrounding NCIS season 19 actually happening or not passed — it was confirmed after Mark Harmon was announced to return — many more questions emerged in the aftermath.

Now, it's all a matter of how much Gibbs we will get, as the show is seemingly hiring folks who could be filling up his on-screen time. That's the speculation because of rumors that Harmon's new contract is for many fewer appearances. 

Yes, NCIS is changing in major ways, even moving to a new night. We don't know if this will be the final season, either, and we're not betting against an appearance on our list of the biggest canceled TV shows.

NCIS season 19 latest news (updated July 20)

  • The NCIS season 19 release date is confirmed!
  • The script for episode 1 is apparently already written.
  • And production has also begun.

NCIS season 19 release date

CBS has announced that NCIS season 19 will debut at 9 p.m. ET on Monday, September 20, 2021. This matches up with historical precedent, as the series NCIS has almost-always debuted in mid-to-late September (2020's debut was in November).

In its announcement of NCIS' return, CBS also confirmed that Blue Bloods, S.W.A.T., Bull and Magnum P.I. are all coming back as well. 

Production has begun on the new season, as series co-star Brian Dietzen noted "Work starts up next week!" in an Instagram post dated July 9, 2021.

NCIS season 19 episode 1

We don't know the plot of the NCIS season 19 episode 1 yet — an official description and trailer is likely months away — but we do know that the scripts are out there. 

On July 15, writer/producer Christopher J. Walid shared a photo of the episode 1 script on his Twitter, with the caption "Day one of Season 19. So grateful to be back on set with the best cast and crew in the biz."

Of course, the title of the episode is hidden:

NCIS season 19 episode 1 script

(Image credit: Christopher J. Waild/Twitter)

NCIS season 19 new date and time slot

In huge news for CBS, NCIS is leaving its 8 p.m. Tuesday time slot, and moving to 9 p.m. on Mondays. This is seen as a dramatic change for the Eye-network, as NCIS was in that previous slot for 18 years.

NCIS season 19 cast

Mark Harmon is one of four characters you can expect to return for NCIS season 19. And Harmon may follow the form of David McCallum (Dr. Donald 'Ducky' Mallard), who had a decreased presence in the previous seasons — and is expected back for more. 

Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Katrina Law (Jessica Knight) are expected back as well. Wilmer Valderrama (Nick Torres) is also likely to return for NCIS season 19.

As for new characters: Deadline reported that Gary Gole (Veep, The Good Fight, Office Space) is joining the series, and the site claims his signing is connected to Harmon's reduced number of episodes. Specifically, they note "Cole is expected to help fill the void left by Harmon’s reduced on-screen presence next season." 

The big question concerning NCIS season 19 now, though, is if Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham) will ever return. The NCIS season 18 finale made us think she won't.

NCIS season 19 episodes

While most NCIS seasons had a full 24-episode order, seasons 17 and 18 had shortened runs (20 and 11 episodes, respectively) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the season is yet to begin production, and we're so early into the NCIS season 19 news, we can't say whether or not the show will be at full capacity.

As we'll explain below, NCIS season 19 hinged on whether or not Mark Harmon wanted to come back. The actor was reportedly looking to leave the series, and the NCIS season 18 finale gives the series the opportunity to reduce his role going forward. 

So, if we get less Gibbs in season 19, as a sign that Harmon is winding up his time on the show, don't bet on NCIS season 20. 

NCIS season 19: Gibbs' reduced capacity

The big story of Mark Harmon's return to NCIS the series starts in February, when The Hollywood Reporter published a story revealing Harmon was considering hanging up the role of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. 

The outlet later reported that NCIS would likely be cancelled altogether if Harmon retired. This brought the actor back to the table. Now, though, all signs suggest he'll only be there for a reduced amount of episodes.

NCIS season 18 ended with Gibbs saying farewell to Eleanor Bishop, and then making a swift dive underwater after his boat was blown up. If Gibbs is now in hiding — to make the serial killer that he's hunting think Gibbs is actually dead — we could see a lot less of Mark Harmon this season.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.