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NCIS & spinoffs - how to watch the long-running CBS crime saga in release and chronological order

Whether it be Los Angeles, New Orleans, Hawai'i, Sydney, or the O.G. - we have NCIS covered

In the realm of long-standing TV franchises, NCIS holds a solid top spot. It's the seventh-longest-running scripted US prime-time TV series. You don't get that spot by not being extremely popular. Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill created the powerhouse procedural and follows a fictional team of special Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents investigating high-profile crimes.

Since its debut in September 2003, NCIS has successfully blended the crime drama genre with humor to captivate audiences. Its reach has grown to incorporate several franchise spinoffs, including NCIS: Los Angeles and the most recent international series, NCIS: Sydney.

Are you a long-time fan or new to the world of NCIS? Our guide will get you prepped with all the information necessary to continue or kick off your exhilarating journey through the naval crime-infused world of NCIS.

NCIS is a spin-off

Image credit: CBS

Before NCIS was the powerhouse procedural it is today, it started as a two-episode backdoor pilot on the popular CBS legal drama JAG. The episodes "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown" were a two-part series in the eighth season of JAG. The NCIS pilot episodes introduced series early series regulars Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon; quirky Abby Sciuto, played by Pauley Perrette; Michael Weatherly as Anthony DiNozzo; and the late David McCallum, as Donald "Ducky" Mallard. The highly successful JAG helped launch NCIS into popularity, lending popular characters like Adam Baldwin's Cmdr. Michael Rainer to the budding franchise.

The episode "Ice Queen," follows the NCIS team investigating the death of Lieutenant Loren Singer. His death leads the team to identify Commander Harmon Rabb as the main suspect. "Meltdown," picks up with Commander Rabb's trial and the NCIS team's continued efforts to find the real perp and uncover the truth of Singer's murder.

How to watch the NCIS TV franchise in release order

This long-running procedural TV show is a safe bet to watch from beginning to end in its release order. After its two-episode pilot in April 2003, the NCIS series premiered on September 23, 2003, and hasn't looked back. The popular series is now in its 20th season, with the 21st scheduled for February 2024.

JAG

  • JAG Season 8 Episode 21 (2003)
  • JAG Season 8 Episode 22 (2003)

NCIS

  • NCIS Season 1 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 2 (2004)
  • NCIS Season 3 (2005)
  • NCIS Season 4 (2006)
  • NCIS Season 5 (2007)
  • NCIS Season 6 (2008)
  • NCIS Season 7 (2009)
  • NCIS Season 8 (2010)
  • NCIS Season 9 (2011)
  • NCIS Season 10 (2012)
  • NCIS Season 11 (2013)
  • NCIS Season 12 (2014)
  • NCIS Season 13 (2015)
  • NCIS Season 14 (2016)
  • NCIS Season 15 (2017)
  • NCIS Season 16 (2018)
  • NCIS Season 17 (2019)
  • NCIS Season 18 (2020)
  • NCIS Season 19 (2021)
  • NCIS Season 20 (2022)
  • NCIS Season 21 (2024)

NCIS: Los Angeles

  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 1 (2009)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 2 (2010)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 3 (2011)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 4 (2012)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 5 (2013)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 6 (2014)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 7 (2015)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 8 (2016)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 9 (2017)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 10 (2018)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 11 (2019)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 12 (2020)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 (2021)
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 14 (2022)

NCIS: New Orleans

  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 1 (2014)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 2 (2015)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 3 (2016)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 4 (2017)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 5 (2018)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 6 (2019)
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 7 (2020)

NCIS: Hawaiʻi

  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi Season 1 (2021)
  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi Season 2 (2022)
  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi Season 3 (2024)

NCIS: Sydney

  • NCIS: Sydney Season 1 (2023)

How to watch the NCIS franchise in chronological order

Image credit: CBS

For each series in the franchise, it is a safe bet to watch every season in release order. There are, however, several crossover episodes and two-part pilots that you should watch in a specific order.

  • JAG Season 8 Episode 21
  • JAG Season 8 Episode 22
  • NCIS Season 1 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 2 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 3 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 4 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 5 (2003)
  • NCIS Season 6 (2008)

During Season 6 of NCIS, the show used the same pilot tactics as its Naval predecessor, JAG, to introduce the franchise's first spinoff, NCIS: Los Angeles.

NCIS: Los Angeles (2009)

Image credit: CBS
  • NCIS Season 6 Episodes 22 'Legend, Part 1'
  • NCIS Season 6 Episodes 23 'Legend, Part 2'
  • NCIS: Los Angeles - Season 1 Episode 1 (2009)
  • NCIS Season 7 Episode 1 (2009)

NCIS: New Orleans

Image credit: CBS

NCIS: New Orleans arrived in Season 11 of the original NCIS series. The two-part pilot "Crescent City" introduced characters from the soon-to-be-released spinoff, including NCIS Special Agent Dwayne "King" Pride, played by Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula.

  • NCIS Season 11 (2013) - Episode 18 'Crescent City, Part 1'
  • NCIS Season 11 (2013) - Episode 19 'Crescent City, Part 2'
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 1 (2014) - Episode 1

The New Orleans crew crossed paths with the main NCIS folks in two more times. Once in Season 13 of NCIS, with a classic two-part crossover.

  • NCIS Season 13 (2015) - Episode 12 'Sister City, Part I'
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 2 (2015) - Episode 12 'Sister City, Part 2'

The next joint story came in season 14 of NCIS with another two-parter, culminating on the 14th episode of NCIS: New Orleans third season.

  • NCIS Season 14 (2016) - Episode 15 'Pandora’s Box, Part 1'
  • NCIS: New Orleans Season 3 (2016) - Episode 14 'Pandora’s Box, Part 2'

NCIS: Hawaiʻi

Image credit: CBS

NCIS: Hawaiʻi premiered on September 20, 2021. Unlike other franchises in teh series, NCIS: Hawaiʻi sidestepped the backdoor pilot or crossover introduction and debuted on it's own. The series did have a crossover with the nineteenth season of its parent series NCIS. In the two-part crossover, Agents Torres and Knight head to Hawaiʻi to assit Agent Jane Tennant of NCIS: Hawaiʻi, in her pursuit of a witness on the run for five years.

  • NCIS Season 19 (2021) Episode 17 'Starting Over'
  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi - Season 1 (2021) - Episode 18 'TNT'

A season later, the two franchises met again in another two-part episode crossover. It begins with NCIS Season 20, episod1 'A Family Matter' where Agent Alden Palmer is on the run with his ex-wife, Vivian. Intriguing! The crossover concludes on the season 2 premiere of NCIS: Hawaiʻi titled 'Prisoners' Dilemma.'

  • NCIS Season 20 (2022) - Episode 1 'A Family Matter'
  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi Season 2 (2022) - Episode 1 'Prisoners' Dilemma'

The Big Three

A big three-part crossover between NCIS, NCIS: Hawaiʻi, and NCIS: Los Angeles took place in season 20 of the NCIS parent series. The franchise-spanning three-parter began on episode 10 of NCIS, continued over on NCIS: Hawaiʻi season 2, episode 10, completing on NCIS: Los Angles season 14, episode 10. The symmetry of episode numbers can't go unnoticed.

  • NCIS Season 20 (2022) - Episode 10 'Too Many Cooks'
  • NCIS: Hawaiʻi Season 2 (2022) - Episode 10: 'Deep Fake'
  • NCIS: Los Angeles Season 14 (2022) - Episode 10: 'A Long Time Coming'

NCIS: Sydney

Image credit: Paramount+

It's the new baby of the franchise. Released on Paramount+ in Australia in November of 2023, the series is the first international spinoff featuring Australian actors and producers. The series is set in Sydney, Australia, and follows a joint task force of US NCIS agents and the Australian Federal Police.

Like Hawai'i before it, NCIS: Sydney also side-stepped the backdoor pilot process, but don't think that means it will never play with its siblings. In a December 2023 interview with TVLine, Sydney showrunner Morgan O’Neil touched on a possible crossover, saying "part of the thrill of a franchise like this is that it’s a universe that’s stitched together by a common DNA."

O'Neil continues, "We’d love to crossover with [the other shows], and there would be some pretty exciting ways that you could crossover — with Hawai’i in particular, given that it’s relatively close [to Australia]. It’s definitely right there in the middle."

For now, it's probably best chronologically to start NCIS: Sydney after you've watched everything taht's come before it.

How many NCIS series are there in order?

There are a total of five series that make up the NCIS franchise. There would have been 6 to date, but NCIS: Red failed to wow the execs at CBS, and the series was never released. There are 46 seasons of NCIS-themed television for you to enjoy, with more on the way. You can pretty much set your watch to them.

Will NCIS: Sydney air in the US?

You are in luck if you need your fix of Australia-based naval crime intrigue. NCIS: Sydney is on CBS and Paramount + for your viewing pleasure.

How many episodes are in season 21 of NCIS?

Unfortunatley, season 21 of the franchise's flagship show will only consist of 10 episodes, making it the shortest season yet. However, fans still have a pretty cool marker to look forward to this season: episode 7, airing on April 15, will be the franchise's 1,000th episode.

Who knew that many crimes even existed?

Will Gibbs return to NCIS?

The character of Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs endured for 19 seasons before exiting the series. The famous NCIS agent is beloved by fans, and rumors swirled that the character may return in season 21.

It turns out Gibbs was just waiting to get a spin-off of his own! CBS recently ordered a prequel series centered on Agent Gibbs' early years. The series is titled NCIS: Origins, with Mark Harmon reprising his original role, but as a narrator. There's no de-aging tech in use here - Deadline recently announced that Catch-22 actor Austin Stowell will play young Gibbs. The series is slated for a 2024-2025 season.

And speaking of new shows...

Is there a new NCIS spinoff coming?

Great news, Navy nerds, there is a brand new NCIS spinoff on its way! As we reported on in February 2024, a new NCIS series starring breakout characters Tony DiNozzo and Ziva David (played by Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo, respectively) is in production. Check out Popverse's covereage of the Tony & Ziva NCIS spinoff to learn more.

Is NCIS being renewed for 2025?

Officially, there's been no word as to whether the flagship series will continue into its 22nd season. But that doesn't mean people don't want it. Speaking to TV Insider, series star Brian Dietzen said:

"I think that no one ever wants to count their chickens, but I think that the show has been doing really well. And why stop at 1,000? I feel like we’re halfway there. We want a clean, even 2,000. We’ll just keep it rolling."

2,000 episodes? Well, we know people would watch, but if the show was planning on keeping the same cast, there might have to be a hefty number of nursing home-centric crimes.

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NCIS: Los Angeles

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About the Author
Carl Waldron avatar

Carl Waldron

Contributing writer

Carl studies the stats of old Marvel trading cards, collects dope domain names, and has a growing backlog of video games and comics he'll never get to play. He spends his time getting beat up by his kids, playing Destiny 2 (Titan Main), and designing things for money. Carl has written for DCComics.com, IGN.com, Multiversity Comics, and Newsarama, all while disguised as a mild-mannered Creative Director.
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