One NCIS actor was the first to utter a forbidden word on television, changing the media landscape forever. While expletives are now commonplace on TV, someone had to break the initial barrier to usher in this new era of media. Although television standards have relaxed over time, the breakdown of traditional norms was gradual. In the 1960s and ’70s, some actors and musicians managed to use profanity on live TV, but they often faced significant backlash. Introducing cursing into scripted network TV, where the profanity was planned, was an even greater challenge.

HBO shows pushed boundaries in the late ’90s with series like Sex and the City and The Sopranos. As television evolved to include HBO’s R-rated programming, which extended the limits of what was acceptable on TV, primetime shows gradually followed suit. While NCIS pushed the boundaries of comfortable viewing by frequently portraying murders and mutilated bodies, the police procedural wasn’t as racy as the shows released on HBO at the time. However, one NCIS star broke down a significant television barrier, setting up the series to be more relaxed even before it ever took off.

By chrysos