'NCIS': Will It Be Renewed for Season 18?

Since the 2019-2020 television season is coming to an early end due to the coronavirus pandemic, the time is coming quickly for networks to make decisions about next season. CBS usually has the easiest decisions to make when compared to other networks thanks to the strong ratings for the NCIS franchise, which holds down three timeslots every year. While NCIS and its spinoffs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans have not officially been renewed for the 2020-2021 season, it seems unlikely that any of them will be canceled.

Next year will mark the 18th season for NCIS. The franchise is actually part of the larger JAG universe, as Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and his team were introduced in a 2003 back-door pilot during JAG's eighth season. NCIS has now run seven more seasons than JAG did, and remains one of the most-watched television shows currently airing. When the show was renewed for Season 17, Deadline reported its 16th season averaged 16 million viewers, which is astonishing during this era of delayed DVR viewing.

Aside from strong viewership, CBS seems unlikely to cancel NCIS because next year, the show will hit 400 episodes. The Season 17 finale was originally going to be the 400th episode, but the show was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Season 17 finished with Tuesday's episode, which was episode 398 overall.

"Episode No. 399 was just two days away from the start of production," co-showrunner Frank Cardella told TVLine. "All of the prep work was completed, sets were built, the guest cast was set as were locations. No. 400 was set to shoot next, and we will probably still shoot it as 400 and air as 400."

Cardella later explained that producers had "special things planned" for episode 400 and CBS was "throwing a big party for us... but it will happen." He teased a "very interesting script" written by co-shorunner Steven D. Binder. All Cardella would say about the story is it will explain how Gubbs met Ducky (David McCallum).

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Thursday's episode was not planned as the season finale. In "The Arizona," Gibbs investigated the story of Joe Smith (guest star Christopher Lloyd), a 95-year-old man who claimed to serve on the U.S.S. Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harper in December 1941. Gibbs' team discovered Smith was telling the truth, but not until after Smith died. They followed through with his wishes though, and he was interned at Pearl Harbor. The episode's co-writer, Gina Monreal, told TVGuide it should not be considered a true season finale because it hinted where the rest of the season would have gone for Gibbs.

"At the end of this episode, he opens up to McGee [Sean Murray] about his past. He's seeing ramifications of the sacrifice he's made for the team and his family. You're seeing an emotional side to him," Monreal explained. "One thing about the Gibbs character, he's constantly evolving."