‘NCIS’ Creator Bellisario Sues CBS Over ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 13th, 2013 at 10:58 pm,

The venerable collaboration between television hit-maker Donald P. Bellisario and CBS TV Studios may be over after Bellisario filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit regarding his lack of involvement in, and subsequent compensation for, NCIS: Los Angeles.

According to the lawsuit, NCIS: Los Angeles, the offshoot of Bellisario’s creation, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, falls under his contract with CBS TV Studios, which stipulates the creator has the first rights to any sequels or spin-offs and that he would be afforded the opportunity “to participate creatively and economically in the creation of such programs.”

Bellisario is making the case that since he first created JAG, which would later spawn NCIS, he would have to be considered the defacto creator of NCIS: Los Angeles because “the show scrupulously replicates that which has made NCIS so popular and it does so with near clone-like fidelity to Bellisario’s recipe.”


The suit goes on to say:

“Pursuant to the first opportunity provisions of Plaintiffs’ contracts with CBS, CBS is contractually obligated to compensate Bellisario for NCIS: LA, including a percentage of its profits as well as a certain fixed compensation.”


However, stemming from a 2007 dispute with series star Mark Harmon in which the actor threatened to leave NCIS due to what he called Bellisario’s “chaotic management style,” the producer let go of his duties on NCIS and was never consulted in the creation of NCIS: Los Angeles.

Moreover, CBS has responded to the lawsuit by stating:

“Don Bellisario has no rights to what he is claiming in this suit. The contract is clear, the facts are undeniable and the courts won’t need Naval intelligence to conclude that the case has no merit. We continue to honor all of our obligations to Mr. Bellisario under the actual agreement.”


Now in its second season, NCIS: Los Angeles has been considered a success for CBS. While it does not enjoy the incredible ratings of its predecessor, the drama has managed to capture a solid and consistent audience. But what the lawsuit is really looking at is the financial potential the series has. For example: cable network USA just struck a syndication deal with CBS TV Studios for a staggering $2.3 million dollars per episode for a minimum of 10 seasons. With that kind of revenue being generated by the new program, it is easy to see why Bellisario wants a piece of the action.

LA CBS ‘NCIS’ Creator Bellisario Sues CBS Over ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’

Beyond JAG and NCIS, Bellisario is famous for creating shows like Magnum P.I., Airwolf and the fan-favorite Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula. Bellisario also worked as writer and producer on the original Battlestar Galactica series in the late 1970s.

Spin-offs have long been a staple of television, but for the better part of the past decade they certainly seem well suited toward the more popular police procedurals. Programs like CSI, Law & Order and Criminal Minds have all had second chances at grabbing the audience’s attention, but with varying degrees of success.

Bellisario’s lawsuit regarding NCIS: Los Angeles could go a long way in determining how a spin-off is actually defined. It may serve to help, or hinder future creators depending on the suit’s outcome.

NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles air back-to-back on CBS Tuesdays starting @8pm.

Source: Variety

TAGS: Ncis
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  1. His case sounds logical to me, though the two-year delay before filing a suit seems peculiar. It would be nice to see the matter resolved without a court decision, as he’s certainly done well for prime time for many decades.

    • Man please give us back a show that already was loved ! Give us Airwolf !!!

  2. NCIS Los Angeles is a joke.

    • Hardly. Just as good as the original, if not better.

      CBS is wrong here — Bellisario clearly has a right to some compensation.

    • I agree. They stole his title but they didn’t his Genius. It is a pathetic joke. It needs a strong star and it doesn’t have any!!

  3. I can see the logic for both sides of the disagreement and I’m actually curious to see how this plays out.

  4. Maybe the creators of L&O should sue Bellisario over the use of formerly successful rappers playing cops.

  5. I love n.c.I.s and there duplication of n.c.I.s. los Angeles is not as good I think they need to include Mr Belisario in the new show he has a lot to offer it would really be there loss in the long run

  6. Placing on hold for anumber of years during an illness, I found comfort in looking at a naval officer television website that did relate to activities in my real life. i took the naval officer’s training test in 1978 and passed it enough to have been a real officer navy intelligence did not do it, but have keep interest insome intense television issues. i have never liked sci fi anything since the voyager with them then being replicated and positioned into my community withmuch afterthought and technological savvy of corpse abusive territtorial threats, when onlythe past 4 years my interest on computer has basically been music and my last name, which in religious circles stands for theHuman DNA of life alongw ith a few other statistical elements that coupled with a generated system of delivery like the FORC company, didnot include us at home..I am known as the Personna of the MAI Information Systems since 1977 and also the intellect and privy ofLt. Uhuru Star Trek, for the past over more than I care to entertain, I have been open and unwillingly not paid as a contention of any ofmy men friends oreither of our convictions personally. Iwant to get paid for my involvement and have safe passage to reside anywhere in this world. I am very fond of Mr. Donald Bellisario,w hom I do not know personally, yet feel desperate to find him for his graces. i am sure when his characters have been based on many of my life’s stories, that not contacting him before was directly my challenge. So Please contact us at this number, every thing is cool, but not contacting you first would been insidious and disgraceful not to try. You may have staff or self contact me asap at this number for further negotiations. I do notw ant to try to take this to any court or have to, but I do hold the personal right of knowledge and we can draw up a safe insurable contractural payment . I do need to as soon as possible, I have two children, a grand, and we want to move from Kentucky comfortable especially in view that much of my intellectual property and interest did make profit and I had no contact. Imust add, it will be very nice for fiance, who is a SuperTalented Musician to know we were not bilched on our way to the alter…Please be generous. Phone given after email contact. Thank you Don (we are Atonist from our Spiritual HOme Israel Egypy. I am known as the Goddess Issis., I have to be Proud. Thanks again and one day we may come to know that great Orb from which there has been much anticipation.

    • Wow this was written horribly, but a weird read. Enjoyable non the less

  7. Really do not like ncis la to Many far fetched terrorist stories which all seem alike popping agents all over the world so silly