The lead character of television's most popular drama exited the show Monday without a fuss, and without the immediate ratings bump that would be expected if there had been, the AP reports. NCIS star Mark Harmon, who has played Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs since the CBS drama began in 2003, had his final night as a regular character on Monday's show. Gibbs informed his partner after working on a case in Alaska that he was going to stay there. At Harmon's request, CBS made no special promotion of the occasion, a muted departure for an industry that has never been shy about hawking the movements of big stars. That may partly be because Harmon, 70, hasn't ruled out the possibility of an occasional return.
“Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go,” said Steve Binder, NCIS executive producer, in a statement. “So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years ... never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.” Deadline notes fans have been speculating Harmon's departure was near, as he hasn't had as much screen time lately and Gary Cole was added as a series regular. Monday's show was seen by an estimated 7.37 million viewers, the Nielsen company said. That number is expected to increase substantially once streaming and delayed viewing is taken into account, particularly as word of Harmon's exit spreads. NCIS has been television's most popular drama for 11 of the past 12 seasons.
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