NCIS Should Uphold A 21-Year Franchise Trend With Its Tony & Ziva Spinoff

Michael Weatherly as Tony and Cote de Pablo as Ziva from NCIS


  • NCIS franchise could continue tradition with Tony & Ziva spinoff overlap, setting up an exciting storyline for fans to enjoy.
  • Showrunners have the opportunity to showcase creative character crossovers within the expansive NCIS universe, enhancing the viewer experience.
  • Launching Tony & Ziva spinoff as a backdoor pilot on NCIS could draw attention to the new series and honor the franchise’s successful trend.

NCIS could uphold a fascinating 21-year franchise trend with its upcoming Tony and Ziva spinoff. The new series will reintroduce flagship NCIS characters Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) sometime in late 2024 or early 2025. Filming is scheduled to begin in summer 2024 in Budapest and other locations around Europe. The spinoff’s timeline provides an exciting possibility for NCIS: Tony & Ziva to overlap with the flagship, which is scheduled to return in the fall 2024-2025 TV cycle following its renewal for NCIS season 22.

With a franchise as expansive as NCIS, showrunners are able to orchestrate creative ways to utilize their cast of characters, and it could lend itself to Tony & Ziva‘s story. It’s common for NCIS characters from one show to be featured in another, with omnipresent characters like Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) competing for the NCIS franchise record of appearing in the most shows within the franchise. More than a possibility, it would feel natural for Tony and Ziva to cross over with the flagship series since that’s where their characters originated.

NCIS Should Launch Its Tony & Ziva Spinoff As A Backdoor Pilot

And It’s A Serious Possibility

One of the most exciting possibilities for the Tony and Ziva spinoff is that it could be launched in the flagship series. It feels obvious that the characters should return to NCIS, since that’s where they both got their start. Michael Weatherly was with the cast from its origin and Ziva joined the franchise in NCIS season 3. To draw attention to the new series and bring back fan-favorite characters to the main series, NCIS should launch its Tony and Ziva spinoff as a backdoor pilot.

While the show has already received the green light, it could still mimic the technique to draw attention to the show, with NCIS: Tony & Ziva streaming on Paramount+. Launching the limited series on CBS would uphold the trend of backdoor pilots for the franchise, which has seen a number of their other shows advertised successfully. In a recent TVLine interview, NCIS co-showrunner Steve D. Binder humored the idea of setting up Tony & Ziva on the flagship series:

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You know, that’s been a long-running creative process, going through several incarnations of things…. Let’s put it this way, I would love to. I would love to do that, and I don’t speak for Michael [Weatherly], but I have a feeling Michael would be up for anything like that. So, we’re all for it.

If the Tony & Ziva spinoff decides to go in this direction, it wouldn’t be too surprising since DiNozzo made a surprise NCIS return in NCIS season 21. Michael Weatherly also seemingly confirmed that Cote de Pablo would return in NCIS season 21 earlier this year after his appearance on the flagship. When de Pablo failed to appear in the previous season, it made the chances of her return to the main series in NCIS season 22 all the more likely.

The Original NCIS Is A Spinoff Itself


The flagship NCIS itself started as a backdoor pilot on the television series Jag. The Navy-themed legal drama lasted for 10 seasons, which is substantial, but NCIS outlasted the original show. The backdoor pilot was a two-part feature in Jag season 8, episodes 20, “Ice Queen,” and 21, “Meltdown.” The episodes introduced key NCIS characters Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Anthony DiNozzo, Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), and Dr. Mallard (David McCallum), who would all go on to star on NCIS. The characters returned when NCIS launched its opening episode: NCIS season 1, episode 1, “Yankee White.”

NCIS Continued The Trend Launching NCIS: Los Angeles And NCIS: New Orleans On NCIS

NCIS Launched Its First Two Location-Based Spinoffs With Backdoor Pilots

NCIS passed on the trend with its own spinoff shows: NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. The backdoor pilot for NCIS: Los Angeles took place in NCIS season 6, episodes 22, “Legends Part I,” and 23, “Legends Part II.” The spinoff introduced key characters from the cast of NCIS: Los Angeles like G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell), Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah), and Sam Hanna (LL Cool J), as well as the Los Angeles Office of Special Projects. The series’ launch marked the first spinoff show for NCIS, which witnessed highly trained agents going undercover and working with advanced technology.

NCIS continued the trend when it introduced NCIS: New Orleans in NCIS season 11, episodes 18, “Crescent City Part I,” and 19, “Crescent City Part II.” The episodes introduced the cast of NCIS: New Orleans, with Scott Bakula as Dwayne Cassius Pride, the Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans field office. The spinoff aired for seven seasons, but ultimately, it was the first NCIS series to end in 2021. The same year, CBS launched NCIS: Hawai’i but opted not to present it with a backdoor pilot. Likewise, NCIS: Sydney premiered in 2023 without any exposition on the flagship.

But The Spinoff Wasn’t Picked Up For Its Own Show

G. Callen (Chris O'Donnell) with the NCIS Red Team lead

While NCIS’ backdoor pilot method is a tried-and-true test of what will work for the franchise, it’s also a proven way of weeding out what won’t work. There’s one NCIS spinoff that’s not often talked about, and that’s because it didn’t get picked up after its backdoor pilot on the Los Angeles-based series. NCIS: Red was tested in NCIS: Los Angeles season 4, episodes 18, “Red,” and 19, “Red 2.”NCIS: Red marked a fourth-generation spinoff for the franchise, as it was launched from NCIS: Los Angeles, which was a spinoff of the flagship NCIS, which itself was Jag spinoff.

NCIS: Red introduced characters like Paris Summerskill, portrayed by Kim Raver, who was Special Agent in Charge of the NCIS Red Team. The backdoor pilot also introduced John Corbett as former NCIS Special Agent Roy Haines. The Red Team was one of several mobile units for the NCIS, each given a color to identify their team. If the series had been picked up, Raver would have been the first female lead of an NCIS team in one of the franchise’s spinoffs. That honor now belongs to Vanessa Lachey of NCIS: Hawai’i.

If the franchise launches NCIS: Tony & Ziva in their flagship series, NCIS could revive a tested 21-year franchise tradition. It would be the perfect time to continue the trend since Tony DiNozzo and Ziva David got their start on the flagship series and have ties to some of its most important NCIS characters: McGee and Jimmy. The Tony & Ziva characters reuniting with Sean Murray and Brian Dietzen would be enough to call them back to the flagship. The narratives could also overlap, with the David-DiNozzo team seeking assistance from the Major Case Response Team.


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