NCIS Shocker: Mark Harmon Eyes Very Limited Presence in Season 19

CBS’ decision to keep the specifics of NCIS star Mark Harmon‘s alleged “limited” Season 19 commitment under wraps is beginning to make sense.

Multiple sources confirm to TVLine exclusively that Harmon is slated to appear in a relatively small number of episodes next season. One insider close to the CBS procedural reveals of Harmon’s Season 19 episode count: “It’s going to be in the low single digits.” Another source says the actor will make only “a few” appearances throughout the season.

A CBS rep declined to comment for this story.

To fill the Harmon-sized hole, CBS is in talks with TV vet Gary Cole to join the cast in a major Season 19 role. (Our sister pub Variety first reported Cole’s possible casting.)

NCIS teed up Harmon’s drastically reduced Season 19 workload by “killing” off Gibbs in the Season 18 finale. (In the episode’s final moments, Gibbs was taking his latest handcrafted boat out for a spin when it suddenly was blown to smithereens. His “lifeless” body, however, could be seen discreetly and purposely swimming away right before the screen cut to black.)

Weeks prior to his (staged?) “death,” Gibbs had been suspended indefinitely from his role at NCIS, after assaulting an abuser of dogs. He eventually helped a local reporter (played by Gibbs’ real-life wife, Pam Dawber) investigate a possible serial killer.

“We take it year by year with Mark,” CBS entertainment chief Kelly Kahl told Deadline last month. “We’d love to have him as long as he’d like to be here…. [W]e’re happy to work around his schedule.”

News of Harmon’s status change comes as NCIS prepares to exit its longtime Tuesday-at-8 pm time slot. As we previously reported, the venerable series will relocate to Mondays-at-9 pm this fall.

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