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Why Was NCIS: Hawai’i Canceled?

Why Was NCIS: Hawai’i Canceled?


  • NCIS: Hawai’i
    became the shortest-lived
    franchise series due to budget cuts and CBS’s crowded schedule.
  • The cancelation denied the show a proper series finale, leaving plotlines unresolved, including Jane Tennant’s past.
  • Despite strong ratings,
    NCIS: Hawai’i
    was sacrificed to make room for new shows, illustrating the franchise’s oversaturation.

When the spin-off series NCIS: Hawai’i premiered on CBS in 2021, the show was notable for being the first series within the NCIS franchise to have a female lead, with Vanessa Lachey’s NCIS Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant, who leads a team of special agents at the field office in Hawaii. However, NCIS: Hawai’i, which is the fourth series in the franchise and spans three seasons, now has the dubious distinction of becoming the shortest-lived series within the franchise following the show’s surprising cancelation.

Moreover, the abruptness of the cancelation decision meant that NCIS: Hawai’i was denied the opportunity to provide the same series-ending closure that was afforded to previous spin-off shows NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, which ran 14 and seven seasons, respectively, before their cancelations.

With the cancelation of NCIS: Hawai’i, the lone existing spin-off series is NCIS: Sydney, the first series to be set outside the United States, which was recently renewed for a second season. The cancelation of NCIS: Hawai’i resulted from a combination of factors, including flat ratings, high production costs, and the need for CBS to make room on its increasingly crowded and deep schedule, which includes the upcoming prequel series NCIS: Origins.

NCIS: Hawai’i Was on the Cancelation Bubble



Release Date
September 23, 2003

Mark Harmon , sean murray , Wilmer Valderrama , david mccallum , Rocky Carroll , Brian Dietzen


Like what happened with the long-running CBS shows Blue Bloods and S.W.A.T., for which the show’s cast and crew made meaningful sacrifices to avoid cancelation, the producers and stars of NCIS: Hawai’i agreed to sizable budgetary cuts and other concessions to allow the show to at least survive through a fourth and presumably final season.

The cancelation of NCIS: Hawai’i, which was a top 20-rated show throughout its run, owes partially to the sheer strength of the CBS schedule, in which the network has struggled to accommodate a glut of quality shows. The cancelation announcement for NCIS: Hawai’i followed the cancelation of CSI: Vegas and So Help Me Todd, both of which were top 25-rated shows.


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Discover how to watch the NCIS franchise chronologically and by release date.

In addition to being a casualty of a historically strong schedule, for which CBS has committed to airing five new series for next season, NCIS: Hawai’i also fell victim to a cost-cutting drive by CBS and parent company Paramount Global, in advance of a potential sale of the company. This created an environment in which CBS was willing to cancel a show that any other network almost certainly would have been happy to renew.

The NCIS Franchise Is Overcrowded

Just five years ago, it seemed as if audience demand for the franchise, in which NCIS and the spin-off shows NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans all aired alongside one another on the CBS prime-time schedule for several years, was inexhaustible. However, the cancelation of NCIS: Hawai’i, following the demise of Los Angeles and New Orleans, and the tenuous presence of NCIS: Sydney proves that the franchise has become over-saturated, to the point that the shows have begun to cannibalize one another in terms of viewership.


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With such a diverse history and enormous cast, some characters on NCIS have stood out over the years with their quirks, intelligence, and dedication.

Indeed, as NCIS: Hawai’i was canceled partly to make room for a slate of new shows on CBS, including the upcoming prequel series, the recent renewal of NCIS: Sydney also made the exotic-looking Hawaiian series seem redundant on the network’s schedule. Moreover, NCIS: Origins and NCIS: Sydney will eventually be joined by the recently announced Tony & Ziva spin-off series, which will reunite beloved characters Tony DiNozzo and Ziva Davis, played by Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo.

NCIS: Hawai’i Ended Without a Proper Series Finale

Given that the third-season finale episode of NCIS: Hawai’i wasn’t at all intended to be the series finale, which the show’s cast and crew envisioned for the end of an abbreviated fourth season, the series’s end leaves several unresolved character and plot developments. The most significant story arc left forever unresolved by the show’s cancelation involves series lead Jane Tennant’s mother, who abandoned Jane when Jane was a child. The series instead ends with a two-part season finale in which Jane and her team, including NCIS: Los Angeles alumnus Sam Hanna, played by LL Cool J, attempt to track down a deadly biological weapon called Compound X.

Prior to the cancelation announcement, the show’s producers had intense discussions with CBS regarding the possibility of a 13-episode fourth season. Following the cancelation, the only way for NCIS: Hawai’i to achieve finality through a proper series finale is for CBS to either reverse its cancelation decision, as the network did with S.W.A.T., or give the show a fourth and final season on the Paramount+ streaming service. However, CBS has rejected either of these possibilities.

Indeed, the fact that NCIS: Hawai’i consistently generated stronger ratings than several renewed CBS shows, such as FBI: International, FBI: Wanted, and S.W.A.T., indicates that the cancelation of NCIS: Hawai’i is primarily attributable to cost, for which the expense of filming a series on location in Hawaii is prohibitive regardless of steep budget cuts, and the fact that CBS has three other shows in the franchise attached to its prime-time schedule for next season. Ultimately, the series became expendable. NCIS: Hawai’i is streaming now on Paramount+.

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