"We were able to keep it afloat a couple of years because we weren't good enough to get all the attention and we weren't bad enough to get canceled," says Harmon with a laugh. "And the biggest thing: We shoot in Santa Clarita," which sits 30 miles comfortably removed from Los Angeles. "Nobody from the network wanted to drive out there!" Network execs stayed out of their hair.
"NCIS" still shoots at Santa Clarita Studios, which means a lengthy commute for Harmon and many of his cast mates.
That's fine with him. Ten years and running on "NCIS" isn't about to drive him somewhere else.
"I've been acting long enough to appreciate the kind of opportunity this show is," he says. "It's a machine, but it's a machine that's forever changing, and if we're able to maintain what we have here, I don't see any reason why it can't continue for a while."
How long? Harmon answers by explaining what it is about "NCIS" he savors the most.
"I love the drive to work," he says. "I love getting up and looking forward to where I'm going."
If steering his '91 Bimmer northward from his Santa Monica home each dawn ever starts to feel punishing, "I think that will be the time to hang it up," he declares. "But as long as we're finding ways to do new stories and grow these characters, I'll be there."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier