Scott D. Pierce: Hey haters, ‘NCIS’ has lots of young viewers

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: November 8, 2013 01:01AM
Updated: November 8, 2013 01:01AM
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Courtesy photo After Gibbs (Mark Harmon, left) leaves mid-case to help his father reconnect with a former war pilot, Tony (Michael Weatherly, center) and McGee (Sean Murray, right) argue over who should run lead on the team’s investigation into the murder of a Marine Sergeant, on "NCIS," which airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2.

Wow. I am really sick of hearing people mock “NCIS” for being a show that only old people watch.

Not because there’s any need to defend “NCIS,” but because it’s simply not true.

Yes, there are a lot of older viewers who enjoy their “NCIS.” But the show also wins its Tuesday-night time slot among the all-important 18-to-49-year-old demographic that’s so important to advertisers. And to the networks that sell commercials to advertisers.

Frankly, the show is a bit of a miracle. It’s amazing that it’s still incredibly popular in its 11th season, 241 episodes into its run.

Episode 242 airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2.

Why is it still so popular? If anybody had an answer to that, there would be a lot more shows like “NCIS” on the air. Instead of the one very successful spinoff, “NCIS: Los Angeles.” And a second spinoff currently in development.

It has a lot to do with the chemistry among cast members. And that could account for the rather loopy response from a particularly devoted group of fans who spouted conspiracy theories all over the place when Cote de Pablo (Ziva) left the show this fall.

Whatever the reason for its success, it’s the ultimate arrogance to dismiss “NCIS” simply because you are not a fan.

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has all sorts of buzz, but it draws fewer of those younger viewers than “NCIS.” The last three Tuesdays, “NCIS” pulled a 3.0, 3.0 and 2.9 rating in the 18-49 demo to “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” 2.7, 2.7 and 2.5.

That’s far closer than the race among total viewers. “NCIS” (18.99 million) was seen by more than 2 ½ times as many viewers as “S.H.I.E.L.D.”

This is not criticism of either show. This is criticism of uninformed snarkiness from people who say, “I don’t know anyone who watches ‘NCIS.’ ”

If that’s really true, you must not get out much.

It’s the same sort of snark I hear from people who say, “Why is ‘Survivor’ still on the air? I haven’t watched it in years!”

That may well be. But, believe it or not, TV doesn’t revolve around you. Or me. It’s all about collective numbers.

And “Survivor” still draws about 10 million viewers a week. More important, it consistently wins its time period in the 18-49 demo against regular competition. (Not up against the World Series, but that was just two Wednesdays.)

Last season, “NCIS” was the most-watched scripted show on TV, averaging 21.3 million viewers. Only NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” averaged more viewers — and only 99,000 more.

A lot of those viewers are outside the demo. But “NCIS” was No. 14 on the 18-49 list, better than 196 other shows.

So snark all you want, the show remains a hit.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.