PRESS TOUR: Conspiracy-minded 'NCIS' fans attack CBS, network president responds

Monday, 29 July 2013 11:48 AM Written by 

Read Friday's TV Q&A and more coverage from the Television Critics Association summer 2013 press tour by clicking here. 

Cote de pabloBEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- (UPDATED BELOW) This marks a crazy new low in fan campaigns.

Yesterday TV critics here at the press tour began receiving e-mails from "NCIS" fans so upset that Cote de Pablo is leaving the CBS drama that they are essentially calling the actress a liar.

A few weeks ago, de Pablo, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University who I interviewed at length a few years ago, announced she was leaving the show; her contract was up  in May, giving her an out. She will be back for a few episodes to wrap up her character's story this fall:

“I’ve had eight great years with NCIS and Ziva David,” the actress shares. “I have huge respect and affection for Mark [Harmon], Gary [Glasberg], Michael [Weatherly], David [McCallum], Rocky [Carroll], Pauley [Perrette], Brian [Dietzen], Sean [Murray], all of the team and CBS. I look forward to finishing Ziva’s story.”

But that wasn't enough for some fans who have taken to conspiracy theorizing.

Read more after the jump. ...

Here's an excerpt from the first e-mail TV critics received yesterday from a Dutch "NCIS" fan:

For many reasons, most fans do not believe CBS's official statement saying that Cote wanted to leave. Of course, we do not know the situation and are not certain about anything. Everything is very vague and the more we think about it, the stranger it all seems. It is for this reason that a lot of fans around the world have started projects to get Cote back on NCIS. It would be greatly appreciated if you could touch on this subject on Monday.
 
Now, I can understand some circumstances where a network's statements and the statements they issue on behalf of a star would be suspect. This is not one of them. If CBS was trying to mess with de Pablo, it seems entirely likely that co-star Mark Harmon would speak up given his past track record
 
A second fan letter was somewhat less conspiracy-minded but did point to CBS's poor track record when it comes to the female cast of "Criminal Minds," but I'm not sure that theory withstands scrutiny either. "NCIS" is a much more character-driven show, plus, it's the network's biggest hit making executives less likely to tinker with its successful formula.
 
Although the details of the reasoning for Cote's departure are sketchy, there are some aspects of the whole thing that are off-putting. In the last couple years, it seems CBS has gained a reputation for not monetarily valuing its female actors in the same way that it does their male cast mates. Criminal Minds is just one recent example of this. As a woman, I find this extremely disconcerting. From what us fans can gather, the situation seems to have boiled down to money and contract terms. 

By her own admission, Cote loves her job and the character she plays. I can only imagine what kind of 'negotiation tactics' it took for her to decide not re-sign the week before filming on season 11 begins, especially when everyone on the production side of the show has publicly sounded very positive about the likely outcome of said negotiations. 
 
It seems like this is just one of those times where fans can't fathom that an actor would like to move on to other roles and it also points to the reality that often viewers get more invested in TV show characters than the actors who play them.
 
UPDATE: CBS President Leslie Moonves told TV critics de Pablo wanted off "NCIS."
 
"We offered Cote de Pablo a lot of money and then we offered her even more money. We really didn't want to lose her," he said. "She didn't want to do the show. It was purely her decision. 'NCIS' is our highest-rated show and we don't like losing anybody. We did everything humanly possible. We feel like we exhausted every possible opportunity and ultimately she decided she didn't want to do the show."

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