That’s right, folks. Mark Harmon’s biggest contribution to the history of television, other than “NCIS,” is his infamous uttering of the phrase “s*** happens” during the aforementioned episode of “Chicago Hope.” The show’s executive producer, Michael Pressman, told reporters at the time that the on-screen cuss — which comes while Dr. McNeil is being grilled by a superior over a botched operation — was completely necessary.
“It’s a painful story that ends up with [Harmon] being unable to make his point clear,” Pressman said, speaking to the New York Post about the episode’s premise and ultimate goal. “It’s a full embodiment of what the episode is about, and there really wasn’t a better way to say it.” CBS reiterated Pressman’s sentiment with a statement of its own, saying, “The producers felt strongly that the line was important for artistic truthfulness. We wanted to support their creative vision.”
At the time of the episode’s airing, many TV shows and characters were delving deeper and deeper into risqué ways of expressing themselves. “It appears that all of the standards that used to be maintained and respected have now given way to almost a total lack of standards,” the Parents Television Council said in a statement, as quoted by The A.V. Club.
Harmon is still appearing on TV to this day, though in a limited capacity now on “NCIS.” His character, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, made his final appearance as a series regular on October 12, per Yahoo News.