As the creator of “NCIS,” perhaps no one has had a more direct role in the creation and success of the series over the years more than Donald. P. Bellisario.
Behind the scenes, Bellisario was the one who got the show on TV. He then also served as the executive producer and the showrunner from 2003 to 2007. At that point, Mark Harmon apparently forced him out of his role due to a controversial situation.
During his time, Bellisario wrote 11 different episodes of the show. He also created shows like “Quantum Leap,” “Magnum P.I.,” “JAG,” and “Airwolf.” As for directing, that hasn’t necessarily been Bellisario’s trademark.
In total, according to IMDb, Bellisario directed 18 different TV episodes during his career as well as the movie “Last Rites.” He directed nine episodes of “JAG,” for example, but only one episode of “NCIS.”
The only episode he directed was the pilot for “NCIS,” which was titled “Yankee White.” He also directed one of the “JAG” episodes that were a backdoor pilot for “NCIS.”
More on the ‘NCIS’ Pilot Episode
The series starts off with quite a dramatic episode. First impressions do matter, after all. A U.S. Naval commander on Air Force One gets poisoned and killed while he is eating lunch with President George W. Bush. Then, yet another officer gets poisoned and the “NCIS” crew starts to understand what’s going on. As it turns out, a journalist on board was the one responsible. This journalist wasn’t trying to kill officers. His goal was to kill the president. Gibbs ends up dramatically shooting the man, which puts an end to the team’s first official case.
When it comes to directing an episode, Bellisario may have just gotten the most important episode of the show ever. He got to introduce fans to some key characters like Caitlin Todd (played by Sasha Alexander), for example. Most of the other characters like Gibbs, DiNozzo, Abby, and Ducky got introduced during the backdoor pilot.
As the creator of “NCIS,” it does make sense that he directed that first episode. He went from playing a huge role in the “NCIS” world to a much smaller role.
Why Did Donald P. Bellisario Get Fired From ‘NCIS’?
For some fans, it’s strange that Bellisario ended up getting booted off the show he created. So, how did that happen to begin with?
According to TV Guide, Mark Harmon and Bellisario did not get along at all. Harmon specifically was not fond of what he called Bellisario’s “chaotic management style.” This ended up causing Harmon to work extremely long hours to get the show filmed.
At the end of the day, the network took Mark Harmon’s side. They figured the show couldn’t go on without Gibbs, but could still function with a switch in the show’s leadership. So, Bellisario got fired. He instead is just an executive producer on the show.
Bellisario is now retired from the TV world. A lot of drama, as well as a lot of amazing TV, remains his legacy.