Would 'NCIS' exist? Would NBC be doing better than CBS at this point?
This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if...?
In the spring of 1996, NBC was at the peak of its Must-See TV period. "Seinfeld," "ER," "Friends," "Frasier" and "Law & Order" were healthy and powerful, and there was a successful secondary tier of shows like "Wings," "Mad About You" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The previous fall, the network had launched a new drama called "JAG," starring David James Elliott as a Naval officer and attorney who traveled the globe having adventures and defending sailors in court. By today's standards, "JAG" — which averaged 11.6 million viewers a week, despite airing on Saturday — would be a big hit, but that year it was the #79 show on TV overall, and its audience was on the old side, at a time when "Friends" and its imitators were pushing NBC ever-younger. The Peacock canceled "JAG," and CBS — which was in such dire straits that the network was happy to take any viewers, of any age — picked it up for the next spring. It would air 205 episodes over nine seasons for CBS, never a massive hit but a reliable performer and foundational piece as CBS dug itself out of a gaping hole. More importantly, when "JAG" was in its later years, the show's creator Don Bellisario pitched a spin-off to CBS about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, aka "NCIS," which is entering its 11th season, is the most-watched drama on television and has spawned yet another successful spin-off in "NCIS: LA."
What if NBC didn't cancel 'JAG' after one season?