'NCIS': Mark Harmon Says Shortened 16-Episode Season Was a 'Shock'

NCIS star and executive producer Mark Harmon admitted that it was "a shock" when CBS ordered a shortened season of the show. Harmon told Entertainment Tonight that Season 18 of the series would be just 16 episodes long, rather than the usual 24. He hoped that the cut wouldn't have a big impact on the crew, who work hard on the series behind the scenes.

"I know two shows ahead of where we are right now, and that's it. I know there's been talk about different things, but as far as where we're going from here, I don't know," said 69-year-old Harmon. "That was a shock to some people. We normally do 24 a year. My concerns get to be about a crew that is expecting to do more shows than they're going to do, and that's a loss so that loss is about taking the responsibility of that in some ways and... hopefully, there will be a season beyond this that there's something to look forward to in the future where we're not going to be wearing the masks and maybe we're not going to be doing shortened seasons again. We'll get back to a full order."

Harmon's commentary came during a conversation about NCIS's long success in the entertainment industry, including its upcoming 400th episode. He acknowledged the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on every part of Hollywood and said his hope for this series, in particular, stems from the writers, producers and behind-the-scenes crew.

"I've always trusted the writers here... They've constantly been challenging here, the character continues to evolve, he's getting older, and some of this I'm dealing with as an actor as well as playing the character," Harmon said. "It's been a ride here that personally I'm proud of as part of this crew. It's not easy and I don't know that there will be a show like this again that has this kind of impact over a period of time like this has had. But as long as it's here, we still try to keep it about the work here every day. As long as this group is still grabbing onto that every morning when we get in, and certainly this time has made us focus more on that than maybe ever in the past, we're appreciative to have that opportunity and we know what it took to get there. We know what it's going to take to stay, so the effort here has been remarkable."

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Of course, Harmon also praised the fan base for carrying the show all this way and said that the momentous episodes coming up are for them, first and foremost. NCIS airs on Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. Disclosure: PopCulture is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.