Update: L.A.Times hails 'NCIS' and its closed-ended procedural ways; New York Times, too

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November 17th, 2008

A glowing examination in tomorrow's LA Times on the late-blooming success of NCIS. Now in its sixth season, it achieved a record audience for the series last Tuesday. It's an interesting article that touches on a topic of frequent discussion here -- serial shows vs. procedural shows and even procedurals that have serial story lines vs. those, like NCIS that do not:

But looked at more closely, "NCIS' " rise becomes easier to understand. For one thing, the series has bucked TV's trend toward serialized storytelling, which, though popular with hard-core fans and many critics, requires more dedication from viewers and has almost certainly tamped down ratings for many shows.

"NCIS" "probably has not lost many of its core viewers over time," Steve Sternberg, an executive vice president at New York-based ad firm Magna, wrote in an e-mail. "There is a small central cast and close-ended story lines. This makes it easier for new viewers to tune in and figure out what's going on." - from the LA Times article "How Does CBS Spell Success? 'NCIS'"

Update: it must be a national NCIS holiday. The New York Time is on it too:

But that statistic told only part of the "NCIS" success story. Two weeks ago CBS decided to fill a weak hour, Friday at 9 p.m., with repeats of "NCIS." In both weeks since the repeat has been the most-watched show on Friday, with more than 11 million viewers each time.

And the cable network USA, which added "NCIS" repeats to its schedule in September, has seen its ratings soar anywhere it places "NCIS." The show has dominated in its regular spot at 7 p.m., and on most nights it is the No. 1 or 2 entertainment show on cable, drawing audiences of more than four million.

Update 2: USA Today is also in on it (thanks to Jenn in the comments for the link) it's all hail NCIS day:

The familiarity of procedural dramas, much like gangster movies and musicals in the '30s, can offer comfort in troubled times, says Jonathan Taplin, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Some of NCIS' audience growth also may be the indirect result of last season's writers' strike, executive producer Shane Brennan says. The writers squeezed numerous story lines into the few episodes available at the end of the season.

"We built a lot of momentum coming out of the strike. We cranked up the pressure in the last eight or so episodes," he says. "It was unrelenting for the audience."

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