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‘NCIS’ hits the big 300

But is the long-running hit really the best ingredient for a broadcaster?

FROM CAMPAIGN US: “NCIS,” primetime’s most-watched drama, is celebrating a milestone: 300 episodes this week. With 20.4 million viewers at present, based on the Live + 7 Day data from Nielsen, and a confirmed renewal for a least two more seasons, the truly extraordinary ”NCIS” could probably last another 300 episodes. It has even been cited as “the most watched drama series in the world” for the last two years, according to Eurodata TV Worldwide and The Monte Carlo Television Festival.

The end is not near.

But like anything of a dramatic nature airing on CBS (including “CSI” in its heyday), the reality of “NCIS – despite the enormity of its success – is the lack of buzz. Millions of people are watching it, yet it never really enters the cultural conversation. You don’t go to Comic-Con and see a larger-than-life billboard featuring Mark Harmon and company. Nor is the proverbial watercooler buzzing with banter. And that begs the question: Is “NCIS” — and the countless other generic, but highly rated network dramas (“Law & Order: SVU,” the “Chicago” franchise on NBC or basically anything on CBS) — more beneficial to a broadcaster than low-rated critical darlings like “American Crime” on ABC? Or anything with a superhero?

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Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of the “Mr. Television” for Campaign US (www.campaignlive.com). Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. How is it “beneficial” to have a show people don’t watch?

    Is not making money “beneficial” to a network?

    Is having tweets about a show that don’t drive audiences and thus money beneficial?

    Social media has proven that it is almost entirely disconnected from actual viewership so is only used as an adjunct to TV executives looking to justify renewing a buddy’s show in spite of lower ratings.

    As for the “cultural relevance”, everyone knows Gibbs and his crew. The fact the media won’t talk about the show (mostly because Les Moonves doesn’t spent oodles on PR) is an indication of the irrelevance of the media and its talking heads, not of the relevance of any show.

    As for American Crime, I have yet to see anyone I encounter know what it is, let alone talk about it. The fact critics talk about it doesn’t make it relevant.

    Similarly, the press went gaga over Mad Men and still talks about it as if it were culturally relevant, but most people only know it through looking up media references and the endless “it’s a big hit” articles that accompanied its career as an endlessly renewed ratings flop.

    The media has a very high opinion of itself and it thinks that if it talks about something nobody watches it makes it relevant, but it only serves to make the media more and more irrelevant, like Hollywood is becoming more and more every day with its endless parade of shows people don’t want to watch.

    Talk to non-Hollywood people and you’ll see how little cultural impact new movies and TV shows make.

    As an aside, I wouldn’t call any scripted show on NBC “highly rated” as much as I respect Dick Wolf’s talent.