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NCIS: Where To Start, According To Fans

"NCIS" has such a long, storied history that figuring out where to start is quite a difficult task. The consensus from the drama's fans suggests that new viewers should watch all 21 seasons to learn about the program's characters. A few naysayers, however, think that starting with the most recent season is an easy way to catch up with the show.

The lion's share of fans posting to the "NCIS" subreddit think that the show's early seasons are the drama at its very best, and should not be skipped. "The first seasons are literally the prime, why would you not want to watch them?" a deleted user asked, summing up the subreddit's feelings. There are definitely some dissenting opinions out there, however. "There are throwbacks to earlier seasons and episodes that you might not get without watching from the beginning.[...] All that said, you can dive right in with the current season without being overwhelmed with references that you will neither get nor understand. The show does a good job of tying everything together, but keeping it loose enough to allow new viewers to join with minimal to no hassle," said Quora user Jeremy Cox. 

Since "NCIS" is a procedural and the focus tends to rest on the weight of the case of the week, one might think that makes it easier to catch up with than other shows in the same genre. Yet, some current long-term storylines — such as Alden Parker's (Garry Cole) mysterious backstory and Jessica Knight's (Katrina Law) and Jimmy Palmer's (Brian Dietzen) difficult romance — definitely affect current storylines and require back-watching. But some fans think you should go even farther back in the show's history to get the full picture.

Some fans think you should start with JAG

Though it's a fact that's not often discussed by fans of the show these days, "NCIS" is a quasi-spin-off of "JAG," where it got a backdoor pilot. With that in mind, some fans of the show think viewers should start with the two-part "JAG" episode that initially introduces Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Ducky Mallard (David McCallum), Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) — Season 8's "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown."

"You should watch the two JAG episodes that were the pilot for NCIS as well, just have a back story," said u/TEG24601 on Reddit. Bob Cole on Quora demurs, noting that "NCIS" sets up its own premise fairly well and resets everything in its pilot episode; newbies don't have to start with the series where it originated.

In short, most fans think you should watch the characters develop over time instead of treating the show as an episode-by-episode one-and-done flood of grisly cases. "This is not the type of show that you can just pick up anywhere. You need to see the whole picture," said Quora user Florence Lince. And with a long, slow summer ahead of TV fans everywhere, there's no better time to start the show while waiting for Season 22 of "NCIS" to begin this fall.