Season 8 of NCIS has almost reached its halfway point, but when the CBS procedural returns with new episodes in January, there's plenty more action in store. At the HRTS Hitmakers Luncheon on December 8, executive producer Shane Brennan took some time out to discuss an Emmy-worthy performance by guest star Bob Newhart, the future of Tiva and whether or not there's romantic potential on NCIS: Los Angeles

TV Guide Magazine: What can you tell us about Bob Newhart coming to NCIS?
What I can tell you is that everyone who's even thinking of voting for Emmys should take a look at this episode. Bob Newhart is astonishing. Mark Harmon was walking around set going, 'This has got to be an Emmy nomination for this guy.' It's a remarkable performance.

TV Guide Magazine: What does he play?
He plays a former colleague who has a very close connection with Ducky and in the course of the episode something is revealed about Bob's character and about Ducky's past. It's a very, very powerful and moving episode.

TV Guide Magazine: And obviously this has to be out of the box for him if you're talking about an Emmy.
It is, and Bob said that to us. He said, 'I've been working all of these years and I've never done a role like this.' And he was surprised to be doing something new, after such a great career. He'd never done that kind of character, never been asked to dig that deep.

TV Guide Magazine: Why do you think there's a renewed interest in NCIS in the eighth season?
It's a number of things. The show was always a solid show and the characters were beautifully drawn from the outset. It's the best cast working on television, without a doubt. And then in season 4 it went into syndication and brought a whole new audience to the show that hadn't seen it. As a result of that they came to the show in droves. That was also the point that I took over. I made some changes to the show that I think perhaps reinvigorated it and gave it a bit more depth. So in many respects the show for some people is only in its fourth season. They see it as a new show. And it's good for another eight.

TV Guide Magazine: People are obsessed with the potential for romance on the show. Is there anything you can say about Tiva developments?
There is a character that we will be introducing later in the season who we've discussed and teased and talked about all season, who some people believe could be a threat to any future plans for Tony and Ziva getting together.

TV Guide Magazine: Oh no!
I said, some people see that. I didn't say that I saw it. They'll have to watch and see what happens.

TV Guide Magazine: And now people are having that same kind of obsession with NCIS: LA, with Eric Christian Olsen's and Daniela Ruah's characters, Deeks and Kensi. Did you intend to give off that spark?  
The moment Eric Christian Olsen walked into the audition I said, 'there's romance.' Straight away. He and Daniela are two great looking people, fabulous actors, and Eric has just got so much charm, and he's so funny. Everyone on the set loves him, he's been a great addition to the show. Is there chemistry? Yes. Are there sparks? Yes. When will it happen? Keep watching. The Tony-Ziva romance took several seasons to warm up, so I think that's what's going to happen with Kensi and Deeks. 

TV Guide Magazine: I also heard you're making Linda Hunt mount a rock climbing wall.
The moment we added the gym, I took her to the wall, pointed to the top, and said, 'Do you think you'll be able to do that?' and she said, 'Of course!' And there she is. In fact, you get a double dose. We see her in two different episodes and that wall plays a big moment in both episodes. It's very, very funny.

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