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September 16, 2012 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Recommend some good TV series with strong procedural elements that are currently on the air.

I'd like to start watching more TV series with a procedural story structure. For those who don't know what that is, I'll explain. You know how on Buffy, there was usually a new baddie to defeat in every episode? Or, on House, each episode is centered around a new patient who comes to Dr. House for a diagnosis? Or Dr. Who, which typically begins each episode with the Doctor and companions arriving at a new setting.

Shows I have enjoyed lately include Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Girls, Parks and Recreation, Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad. But those are all heavily serialized shows which don't use the procedural format. I like dramas and comedies equally.

I'd prefer stuff that isn't cop, doctor, or law firm related, but I will gladly watch that sort of thing if you think it's above and beyond the usual "enhance photo" boilerplate.

Ideally, these will be shows that are currently on the air. Best of all would be shows that are only a few seasons old. Doesn't necessarily have to be American TV, though I'm not interested in ancient history like Are You Being Served or Keeping Up Appearances.

Netflix Instant would be awesome, but isn't mandatory.
posted by Sara C. to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Psych? I think a lot of it is on Hulu. It's sort of a police procedural, except the principal characters are fake psychic detectives, and it's a comedy, and it's awesome.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:01 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


A slight twist on the police procedural - "perception", currently airing on TNT (just finishing its first season), has a main character who is a doctor turned neurology professor and is paranoid/schizophrenic, and hallucinates various people and things (beautiful-mind style).
posted by rmd1023 at 9:04 PM on September 16, 2012


Ooh, have you watched Sherlock? it's one of my new favorites. If not, try Luther. It's another good procedural.
posted by Sphinx at 9:06 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Criminal Minds is TOO GOOD. It's about the people who psychologically profile serial killers. I don't really like TV in general, but I always get sucked into Criminal Minds when I catch it passing by. Even though it's a procedural, the characters are just really strong, and even when the plot is stupid, it's still inventive.
posted by threeants at 9:09 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, my husband and I also just thought of the Canadian show "Continuum." It's on BBC America. It's a police procedural, but in the future.

He also suggested "Bones" and "Castle," plus "Fringe" and "Once Upon A Time" maybe. "Burn Notice." And there's a new Sherlock Holmes adaptation coming up called "Elementary." Plus the UK's "Sherlock," "Luther," and I would say that "Being Human" kind of walks the line between procedural and supernatural soap. (I have not seen the US version, but apparently it's still going on.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:10 PM on September 16, 2012


It also has a very humanistic touch (if ham-handed occasionally), which helps to mitigate the whole LOOK AT ALL THESE BLOODY RIPPED-UP PEOPLE factor.
posted by threeants at 9:11 PM on September 16, 2012


I don't know if it's on any air but Life of Mars (the BBC English edition, NOT the US one) was a terrific police procedural with a wry science fiction twist.
posted by lois1950 at 9:14 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


A new show, scheduled to begin September 27th on CBS, is Elementary. It's a modern day Sherlock set in NYC and with a female version of Watson. Entertainment Weekly predicts it'll be a hit.
posted by kbar1 at 9:22 PM on September 16, 2012


ack... Life ON Mars.
posted by lois1950 at 9:27 PM on September 16, 2012


threeants hit on another one of my favorites, Criminal Minds appears paper thin on first look, but turns out to be deep as hell. The characters are similar to NCIS but with a second or third paragraph written in.
posted by Sphinx at 9:28 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed The Closer, which just ended this summer. Very strong procedural element, and each episode focuses on interview sessions instead of forensic investigation. The show featured strong characters and developed a good sense of humor too. Towards the end it became a little unrealistic in how much they were able to bend the law, but the first few seasons were excellent. The spinoff, Major Crimes, is similar and I think the first season is still running.
posted by lilac girl at 9:29 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I cannot recommend "The Good Wife" highly enough. It combines the best parts of a fun, case-of-the-week procedural and a long-format drama serial. Plus it's densely populated by fantastic women characters. Definitely worth a look if you aren't already familiar with it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:30 PM on September 16, 2012 [7 favorites]


One of my all-time favorites is ReGenesis, about a biotechnology lab in Canada. They came out with "fact sheets" to help viewers understand if the science is legitimate in each of the shows -- here are the ones for Season 1, which shows the type of puzzles solved in the show. Not on Netflix, but it is on Hulu for free.

Wire in the Blood is excellent. The main character is a clinical psychologist who solves crimes by understanding the psychology behind the criminals. Available on Netflix Instant.
posted by Houstonian at 9:46 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I originally put on Lie to Me as a show for background noise, but kept getting sucked in. Basically, guy uses microexpressions and behavioral psychology to solve crimes.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:52 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am pretty into Lost Girl (yet another Canadian show!). It's about a, uh, succubus private detective in Toronto who solves fairy-related crimes in conjunction with her human sidekick and her werewolf and siren detective friends. So cheesy yet SO EXCELLENT. There've been two seasons so far and it's been renewed for a third.
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:08 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


While The Shield has a larger narrative arc, each episode is standalone much as is Breaking Bad.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:26 PM on September 16, 2012


Burn Notice, particularly the early seasons, is fun to watch. There's an over-arching storyline each season, but there is a case of the week format that can be serious, funny, or both. Also seconding recommendations for The Closer (though I found myself having serious ethical problems with the main character at times), Wire in the Blood, and Sherlock, though they're both based on solving crimes. It's not CSI-style enhance photo stuff where characters just inform each other of things they both already know for the benefit of the audience.

You may like Covert Affairs. It's another spy show, but there's a mission of the week. Supernatural is also of the Buffy format, with a monster of the week and a big bad each season. The first season was a bit shaky, and the last two have suffered from the loss of a few key players, but it's a very solid show. Leverage is another show with weekly cases, though I'm not too fond of the team leader, the supporting cast is fabulous.
posted by xyzzy at 10:36 PM on September 16, 2012


Seconding The Good Wife and The Closer. They're criminally overlooked by TV tastemakers and the younger demographic, and it's a shame; the main characters are two of the most complex and well written characters on TV (not women, characters).

I think TV these days (at least critically acclaimed TV) is geared towards fatally flawed men leading arc-driven shows with crazy narrative "hooks", but since these shows star strong female characters, and, as you note, crime procedurals have been done to death, people tend to not give them a chance. They're written off as shows your mom would like. This is a mistake. These shows aren't "good for procedurals" or "good for cop/lawyer shows", they're genuinely great. And, in the case of The Good Wife, the supporting and extended cast is probably the best on TV.

Also, Revenge on ABC kinda sorta fits the bill; the first half of the season was a complete procedural, but it got pretty arc-driven on the second half. I have no idea how it's going to be going forward, so I can't say which half was the aberration.
posted by lesli212 at 10:40 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Party Down is hilarious. It's about a catering company whose workers are all struggling Hollywood types, each episode is set at a different function they're working.
posted by smittosmith at 10:54 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


You might enjoy Law & Order UK. It's like old school Law & Order, but with wigs and more bummer endings. A bunch of episodes seem to be on YouTube.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:55 PM on September 16, 2012


I enjoy watching Hustle. Not sure if it is on air where you might be, but I am sure you know the workarounds.
posted by vidur at 12:12 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What vidur said. Hustle is the best. A mini Ocean's Eleven in each episode.
posted by juv3nal at 12:40 AM on September 17, 2012


I'm really, really, really enjoying White Collar on netflix instant. I started it up because it had the full five stars from other users which is unusual.

Alphas is on there too.

Leverage is great but no longer on there I believe. Breakout Kings is kind of close.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:08 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it's not on anymore, but In Treatment is a non-police episodic procedural.
posted by clerestory at 2:22 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pretty much hate this kind of show, but I do enjoy Burn Notice - although, it is a few seasons in.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:33 AM on September 17, 2012


Fringe. Its last season starts in a couple weeks. I don't know if they'll do a lot of monster-of-the-week episodes since they only have 13 episodes left, but that is how the show started out. I don't think it's on Netflix Instant, but the first three seasons are on Amazon Prime Instant.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 2:38 AM on September 17, 2012


It isn't on the air now, but it's being heavily shown on a couple networks - Cold Case. Yeah, it's a police procedural, but it did manage to avoid the "dealing with the personal lives of our cops" that trips up L&O SVU now and then. It deals with the cold case squad in the Philadelphia police department; they do a lot of "showing you what happened in flashback", where the crew will be interviewing Sid the witness in the present day and then they'll segue to a scene from 1976 when Sid was fourteen and saw the victim at the disco and overheard a conversation or something.

The later episodes get a little too precious about "whee we've picked really fun music from the same time period as the murder", and they sometimes get a little too bogged down in the lead detective's tragic past and messed-up sister, but it's usually pretty good (and special props to the show for avoiding the "hey our two leads are hot let's have them hook up" trap).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on September 17, 2012


It's not quite The Wire, but Bones had a pretty decent first few seasons.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:24 AM on September 17, 2012


Person of Interest on CBS is really good for a CBS procedural. Each week the two protagonists (one secret agent type, one nerdy computer type) get someone's serial number and know they will be involved in a serious crime and they try to stop it. There are some really good "twisty" person of the week episodes, mixed in with a pretty strong set of ongoing storylines.

It's a bit hard to find online though. It also takes a few episodes to get going. But we binged through the whole first season recently and are eagerly awaiting a second.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Major Crimes" is indeed still running, and airs tonight (Monday). It's exactly the same show as "The Closer," but the Closer herself, Chief Johnson, has moved on, so they've removed 3 characters and subbed in a new character and put a former recurring character in charge.

I second Person of Interest, and strongly second Burn Notice. Burn Notice serves its arcs faithfully each episode, but it also chews through arcs so much that the original series premise has been turned on its head. Caution: you will get addicted to Michael's voiceovers.

I watch Leverage, but I don't lose sleep if I miss it-- it's light enough to float off the screen. They just transplanted the show from Boston to Portland, and it's a new con every week.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:18 AM on September 17, 2012


Pick any random show from USA network. Monk is available on netflix last I saw, as is Psych. There's also White Collar. Burn Notice would also be a good option. others: Bones, Castle.

(technically, 'procedural' shows are shows that focus specifically on 'procedure'. CSI is the primary example. It was all about the process of catching the killer: science stuff montage, funky music, conclusion. I think what you're actually looking for are "episodic" (each episode stands alone) and "formulaic" (every episode follows a standard structure). USA network pretty much only airs shows that follow the USA formula: 90 seconds of tie in from previous episode, stand-alone problem, 90 seconds of cliffhanger related to season-long plot. Sounds like your cup of tea)
posted by ghostiger at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Warehouse 13 is fun and the dialog is snappy, if you like sci fi. Sort of an artifact of the week to find and an overarching storyline.

Burn Notice is rollicking good fun. You usually have adventure of the week and a bit of an overarching storyline to keep you coming back too. And they blow a lot of things up which is always good fun.

Criminal Minds is good, though scares the heck out of me. I also suspect it's a bit like Murder she Wrote in that I doubt there are that many serial killers in the US a year.
posted by wwax at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2012


I really like Bones, the first 6 season of which are on Netflix Instant. (The show pretty much jumped the shark at the end of Season 6 anyway, but there hope the just starting Season 8 will get it back in track.) I'd give a better review, but I'm on my phone.
posted by cgg at 8:07 AM on September 17, 2012


Criminal Minds, The Closer.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:27 AM on September 17, 2012


I have very much enjoyed Doc Martin, the first 5 seasons of which are available streaming on Netflix.
posted by fancyoats at 8:42 AM on September 17, 2012


Four seasons of Eureka are available on Netflix instant. The promotional images that Netflix has for it make it look so corny I put off watching it for a long time. Finally tried it on a whim and I was very pleasantly surprised.
posted by cali59 at 8:52 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Have you seen Grimm? Some people think it's cheesy and dorky - be that as it may, it's thoroughly enjoyable to me. New type of Wesen (shapeshifting creature) shows up every week and gets into (usually gory) trouble; Nick (good guy cop, also a "Grimm") has to figure out what's going on, etc., etc.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 10:51 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are great suggestions, guys! A lot of them are for shows I was considering watching, which is perfect.

I've already seen Bones and Castle and loved them -- that's exactly the kind of show I'm looking for. I'm especially interested in procedural shows that are light in tone or which have a humorous/"dramedy" vibe to them.

Party Down is one of those shows I intellectually know is Great Television, but watching it sort of horrifies me. But again, folks who've suggested it are exactly on the right track. All of these suggestions imply that everything else y'all have suggested is going to be perfect.

It's funny how many people mentioned White Collar, which I've never actually seen, but I have a lot of friends with great taste who like it. I'd assumed it was just their guilty pleasure, but now I'm starting to think it's actually good.
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 PM on September 17, 2012


White Collar is a really fun show, with a really great cast of characters. The plot is a bit swiss cheese sometimes, but the two main actors have so much chemistry that I've been able to overlook it. Bonus (if you grew up during Saved By The Bell like me): Tiffani Thiessen.
posted by ashirys at 1:36 PM on September 17, 2012


Veronica Mars fits the format--every episode there is a mini-mystery that gets wrapped up by the end of the show, meanwhile a longer story arc mystery for the episode gets slowly unveiled--but it's technically explictly a detective show. Life is like this too. However, both are somewhat unconventional. I'm a little lukewarm about Life myself--a lot of the plotting seemed sloppy to me--but Veronica Mars is pretty excellent.
posted by ifjuly at 2:34 PM on September 17, 2012


Suits just ended for the season on USA, but may still be on various streaming sites. A lot like White Collar, but a lot of people think better.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:57 PM on September 17, 2012


I am loving Person of Interest on CBS. Second season about to begin. Hope it's what you're after.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:50 PM on September 17, 2012


Nthing White Collar. Warehouse 13 fits too. Eureka I really enjoyed but only loosely follows figuring out what weird thing happened to the town this week.
posted by ejaned8 at 6:39 PM on September 17, 2012


Have you seen Medium? There's a new crime for Allison DuBois to solve in (nearly) every episode.

Supernatural also seems like it'd fit the bill - it gets a little less procedural and more storyliney in the later seasons, but the show is amazing and I bet you won't even care by the time you make it to those episodes.

I know this suggestion will probably be controversial but since you mentioned Buffy - what about Angel? I don't love it like I loooove Buffy, but it follows a similar formula for episodes.

Seconding Veronica Mars and Grimm.
posted by meggan at 7:37 PM on September 17, 2012


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