The Real Reason NCIS: Red Was Canceled Before It Even Aired

"NCIS" has been CBS's crown jewel for many years, and each spinoff it generates is somehow even more popular than the last. However, in 2013, the planned "NCIS: Red" offshoot simply came and went, never to be heard from again. As Distractify notes, like many shows before it, "Red" was introduced as a backdoor pilot to the already-established "NCIS: Los Angeles," which should've guaranteed the show a solid spot alongside it.

"Red" debuted as part of a special two-parter episode, entitled "Red" and "Red-2." We met a mobile team, working alongside Chris O'Donnell's fan favorite character Callen, who would then presumably go off and do their own thing once the show got started. In fact, "Los Angeles" originally kicked off the very same way. The cast of "Red" was impressive, too, including "Sex and the City" fan favorite John Corbett and "24" star Kim Raver.

All the pieces were in place for yet another successful "NCIS" spinoff, so where did it go wrong for "Red"?

NCIS: Red was cancelled before it even really began

As Screen Rant notes, it's strange to think that "NCIS: Red" never took off considering the original, now beloved procedural was itself introduced as a backdoor pilot to "JAG" back in the day. The show officially premiered in 2003 and has gone on to generate almost 20 successful seasons since, with a variety of well-received spinoffs too, from "NCIS: Los Angeles" to the recently-released "NCIS: Hawai'i."

Unlike those shows, which follow a group of agents working in a particular area, "Red" was set to follow a mobile team, who moved all over the country solving crimes. However, just a couple of months after the main characters were introduced, in a special two-part episode of "Los Angeles," it was confirmed that "Red" would not be going forward — before its run had even really started.

A TV Fanatic review of the introductory installment described the episode as "disappointing" and, after the second, the outlet wrote that "neither [episode] made me excited for the potential new series." The lukewarm reception wasn't cited as the reason the show never got off the ground, but it seems the network shared the opinion that if the show had gotten a full season it would not have been one of the franchise's best spin-offs. As then-CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler put it, per Digital Spy, "Sometimes [spinoffs] work and sometimes they don't. Protecting [the franchise] was really important."

It's entirely possible "Red" could come back someday, in a different iteration, and maybe even with a whole new cast. As Distractify argues, "Red" might have had a stronger chance if it was introduced via "NCIS," like "New Orleans" was shortly after the cancellation. In fact, one character even popped up in "NCIS," suggesting there's still hope.