Looking for the coziest procedurals on TV
August 31, 2019 3:02 PM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are looking for some low-stakes TV to watch while one of us is exercising or pinned under the cat or something. We have Netflix (streaming and DVD), Amazon Prime, and local OTA channels in the SF Bay Area. No dish or cable, not interested in more streaming subscriptions. What do you recommend?

We generally like shows where an ensemble (or, at least 2 people) work together to figure things out, so we end up watching a lot of detective shows and the occasional relationship or medical drama. But we are not fond of gore, brutality, serial killers, sexual violence, asshole geniuses, assholes in general, characters being harmed so another character can have an emotion, cops-are-always-right plots, rules-are-for-losers plots, or rah-rah-kill-the-terrorist plots. Quirky is fine. Story arcs are OK, but we also like problem-of-the-week-neatly-resolved stuff. Shows we’ve liked recently include Major Crimes, Person of Interest, White Collar, The Good Place, One Day at a Time (reboot), and Grace and Frankie. NCIS original flavor satisfies a lot of our structural preferences, but the constant drone of sexual harassment, transphobia, and homophobia, played for laughs, that permeated the early seasons is hard to sit through. (I would be so there for NCIS: Queer Social Justice Warriors.) Bones was OK, if gory, until it went on maybe too long. Superhero shows might be OK but they can get a bit grim and doom-focused.

So, what are the cozy procedurals or non-grim dramas we should look at?
posted by expialidocious to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
Most of the Timothy Hutton A&E Nero Wolfe series seems to be available on YouTube. The low budget shows through a bit, but Hutton is an excellent Archie.
posted by praemunire at 3:07 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Midsomer Murders.

ETA: Yes! Nero Wolfe was terrific.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:08 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

We’re really enjoying Brooklyn 99!
posted by jeszac at 3:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

The main character on Psych may veer a little close to asshole-genius and rules-are-for-losers for you, but he has a lawful good foil, and is definitely an asshole in the sense of flouting convention rather than deliberately hurting people's feelings. It is for sure quirky but if that's cool with you, it should tick all of your other boxes. On Amazon Prime.
posted by babelfish at 3:18 PM on August 31, 2019 [13 favorites]

Father Brown is murder mystery focused, but not gory. He's a little bit "rules are for losers" but he's also clergy so it's complicated. I believe it's still on Netflix.

How do you feel about science fiction? Because honestly your request is giving me very Star Trek the Next Generation vibes. Super cozy team as family solving weekly problems.
posted by Mizu at 3:26 PM on August 31, 2019 [11 favorites]

Not sure if these are available on your services. I borrow the dvd's from the library: Rosemary and Thyme is about two garden designers, one a plant pathologist. They are very refreshingly middle aged and unfashionable. The first season is better than the second which mainly features pretty gardens. Pie in the Sky is another older British show about a cop who wants to retire and run a restaurant but is coerced into staying on the force. He manages to do both. Lots of humor but the stories can be serious. They are both very unstressful.
posted by Botanizer at 3:30 PM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

Star Trek TNG was my first thought too. Picard is just so GOOD.
posted by something something at 3:33 PM on August 31, 2019

Coziest of cozies is Father Brown on PBS.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:36 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Death in Paradise was made for you. I’ve only seen the first few seasons that are on Netflix so can’t vouch for the most recent ones with new cast, but the first few seasons are exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a fish out of water story about an uptight English police detective (Richard) who is called to investigate the murder of a detective inspector on an island in the Caribbean and ends up replacing him after solving his murder. His foil is a smart, cool headed local woman detective (Camille). There are also a couple of other nice supporting characters at the local station like the commissioner and officers, as well as the woman detective’s mother (Catherine) who owns a local bar.

The actors are charming, the cast is diverse (most of the recurring cast and many of the local characters are black), the murders are never shown as gory, and the tone is as light as is possible for a murder mystery. There is a specific formula to every episode—there’s a murder, the police get called, they investigate a number of suspects, they round up all the suspects in one room and reveal who the murderer is and how it was done, then they go out to celebrate, usually at the Catherine’s bar. However, it won’t insult your intelligence despite its formulaic nature.

We watched it in the dead of winter and the beautiful warm tropical scenery was a balm for my frozen soul.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2019 [17 favorites]

There are 5 seasons of Murder She Wrote on Amazon Prime. That's approximately 100 hours of Jessica Fletcher.
posted by Stewriffic at 3:38 PM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

Too bad Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is leaving Netflix on Sept 15.

Call the Midwife is the coziest show imaginable.

Seconding Death in Paradise.

Great British Bake Off is not really what you're looking for but is also what I like for cozy TV.
posted by carolr at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

So glad you've seen Person of Interest!

I wonder if you might like Chuck or Leverage (looks like both are on Amazon Prime). Getting into the sci fi side of things, once you get past the first couple of episodes (seriously, just skip episode 2 which is patronizingly pseudo feminist), Stargate SG1 is consistently enjoyable investigations and episodic (also looks to be on Amazon Prime). Skip Stargate Universe, which tries to be Too Gritty.
posted by past unusual at 3:53 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Eureka - it was this quirky Syfy show with a big heart featuring the sheriff of a small secret town where the government stashes scientists. Things go Hilariously Wrong, often in problem-of-the-week fashion that the sheriff has to sort out, but sometimes with longer arcs that can get a bit darker.
Leverage is very good and ticks a lot of your boxes, but there's a character who specializes in hand-to-hand combat. It's not really gore, but the show isn't brutality free either, though there's a firm moral code.

They're not procedural, but there's a specific genre of low-stakes Canadian ensemble comedies that scratch a lot of the same itches you're describing. As Emily Nussbaum once put it, "The low stakes Canadian family sitcom is my version of CBD oil." Schitt's Creek is the most significant (and best), but also watch Kim's Convenience. Little Mosque on the Prairie is arguably too low-stakes at times, but also charming. I've never seen Corner Gas so I can't vouch for how it fits with your criteria, but I've been led to understand it fits in this category.

You should also watch Derry Girls. Everyone should watch Derry Girls.
posted by zachlipton at 3:57 PM on August 31, 2019 [8 favorites]

Northern Exposure was definitely quirky and ensemble. It was focused in n a NY doctor who has to adjust to life in a small Alaskan town. Some problems addressed were - what to do about transportation, the frozen 100+ year-old corpse that came down the stream, seasonal affect disorder, allergies - and many other challenges to meet and overcome.

So very cozy - never too heavy
posted by rw at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2019 [6 favorites]

Not sure it checks the boxes but Dead To Me is something I liked.
posted by bz at 4:16 PM on August 31, 2019 [5 favorites]

New Tricks is a British drama/comedy procedural about a squad of retired detectives who investigate re-opened cold cases. It makes for great low-stakes viewing. There are several seasons streaming on Hulu.

One of the in-jokes in the first season is that most of the actors played car-chase and gun-fight detectives on 1970s TV shows.
posted by monotreme at 4:17 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Have you watched Monk? Though the show is named after the main character, Monk's assistant is pretty frequently instrumental in the crimes actually getting solved and they are a defacto team. I was pretty young when it was on TV, so I can't speak on the social justice aspect with any certainty as I haven't watched it since, but it is probably the most benign detective show I've ever seen -- never anything gory, even the theme song is pretty whimsical. I watched it pretty much every week when it was airing and it is a good fit for "cozy procedural" in my memories.
posted by sevenofspades at 4:19 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Throwing it back to Moonlighting with Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis. So good. Unfortunately, only available on DVD.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 4:28 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

There are also a couple of other nice supporting characters at the local station like the commissioner and officers

It took me a little while to realize that Officer Dwayne was Danny John-Jules, aka Cat from Red Dwarf.

+1 to Pie In The Sky and Miss Fisher.

low-stakes Canadian ensemble comedies

Murdoch Mysteries is a doofy light comedy semi-cozy procedural from Canada. It's not high art, but it's low stress.
posted by zamboni at 5:18 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Great News. The two seasons are on Netflix. Light and smart.
posted by gryphonlover at 5:22 PM on August 31, 2019

Murdoch is a lot like Bones in that it wasn't sure how serious it wanted its tone to be in the early seasons before it settled down into mostly comedy/fantasy crime. It's kind of insulting to the intelligence, but fun.

Death in Paradise I have to say I hated after maybe two seasons. It felt like they were doing the same three plots over and over. It was just too TOO rote for me.
posted by rikschell at 5:31 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by SaltySalticid at 5:53 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you watched the relaunched Doctor Who? There’s a lot of death but the brutality is minimal since it’s aimed at all ages. Every episode is a small group trying to solve a mystery. Quirky out the wazoo. The one sticking point is the asshole genius trope—the Doctor is always the smartest one in the room, but how much of an asshole they are depends on who is playing them. Biggest asshole: Seasons 8 through 10, played by Peter Capaldi. Not at all an asshole: Season 11, the latest, played by Jodie Whitaker, unfortunately the only season you’d have to pay to watch.
posted by ejs at 5:56 PM on August 31, 2019

Pushing Daisies on Amazon Prime! Funny & very quirky trio working together to solve the decidedly un-gory murder of the week.
posted by sweetjane at 6:13 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

I know you said no more steaming, but If you get Acorn TV for these and more goodies you’ll probably be happy with it!
Murdoch Mysteries (and new episodes which are not on Netflix)
Miss Fishers (including a new 60s era reboot)
Midsomer Murders
Agatha Rasin
Queens of Mystery
posted by Crystalinne at 6:24 PM on August 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

Good Omens doesn't really wrap thing us over an episode, but is great.
posted by lab.beetle at 6:26 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lucifer is on Netflix. Police procedural involving Lucifer, the devil himself, taking a break from satanic duties to slum with humans in LA. He runs a nightclub and helps out the cops by partnering up with a detective to solve crimes. He’s got an Angel for a brother, a demon friend, a therapist, and visits from his goddess mother, etc.

It’s fun, relatively light, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Crimes get wrapped up, but there’s sexual tension and storyline that takes you season to season. Final season coming soon.

Some of the characters think Lucifer is an asshole but the audience knows he’s truly the devil, so he ends up being sympathetic.
posted by vivzan at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Cadfael is fairly unique. Somewhat serious, but IIRC episodes usually end on a positive note. Looks like it's on prime, according to imdb.
posted by Poldo at 7:09 PM on August 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sherlock Homes: Granada Series with Jeremy Brett, 1984. The quintessential and source of a truly great Sherlock.

Stargate: +1. Early seasons; latter seasons has McGyver phoning it in.

Elementary: good chemistry between the leads. Guest stars are solid character actors. Solid stories; good production values.

Sherlock thing I got going on? Maybe . . . but stories are episodic, with lower key story arcs.

Legends of Tomorrow: super hero yes. But with quite cheery, neon candy-coloured sets. Many story lines revolve around family, devotion, sacrifice, and some healthy male friendships, and solid female characters with a lot of agency.
posted by lemon_icing at 7:41 PM on August 31, 2019

Sherlock definitely has asshole genius issues out the wazoo.
posted by praemunire at 7:58 PM on August 31, 2019

I was just coming here to recommend Lucifer, too. It's ... what it is (which is to say, fairly ridiculous) but it's fun and has a good heart. I'm pretty tired of "will they/won't they" in shows, but it's OK here. The cast is incredibly charming. I've been surprised at how much I've liked it.

There are some gory bits but it doesn't linger too much on them. It's not the focus of the show.
posted by darksong at 8:41 PM on August 31, 2019

Ghost Whisperer is so much better than you'd think it would be.
posted by phunniemee at 9:54 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Madame Secretary
posted by hypnogogue at 9:55 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

I seek out these shows, too. Recently watched:
The Good Cop
Battle Creek
The Pinkertons
A Young Doctor's Notebook
The Closer
Note that Call the Midwife has scenes of babies being born in every episode and all the drama, blood, & noise that goes along with that.

Prime Video
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Case Histories
The Blue Rose

Quirky/Funny not procedural
Family Tree (with Chris O'Dowd)
Moone Boy
Corner Gas (kind of a Canadian Northern Exposure)

If you are a member of your local PBS station, check to see if it has Passport as a member benefit. You can watch past episodes of many PBS shows on demand. Including shows like Frankie Drake Mysteries, Inspector Lewis, Grantchester, & other shows, not just Masterpiece. Here is TPT's list, limited to shows with video, some of which are clips, but full shows, too.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 10:32 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

A few people have mentioned Father Brown, but the very first episode starts off with a post-sex scene where you learn that the man had blackmailed the woman into having said sex. The woman is very clearly unhappy about what just happened, and the man threatens her that it'll happen again. I didn't continue watching because of my own "no sexual violence" filter, so maybe this scene is not typical of other episodes, but I wanted to send along a warning in case your filter level is close to mine.
posted by catabananza at 11:25 PM on August 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

Battle Creek was super, so bummed there was only one season but it was a really good one!
posted by fshgrl at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2019

Suits! Suits! Suits!
posted by like_neon at 12:09 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you can get access to Numb3rs, I can't recommend it enough. It's a slightly older show, ran from 2005-2010, and focuses on an FBI agent who enlists his (not-an-asshole) math genius brother to help him solve cases. The family (and team) dynamics are great, there's really not much violence at all considering it's a crime show, and the only assholes are either antagonists or minor characters. As a bonus, by the end of the last season, the cast is pretty damn diverse, with only one cis straight white Christian dude in the main cast - the Eppes family, who the show centres around, is Jewish.
posted by Tamanna at 3:53 AM on September 1, 2019 [7 favorites]

If you don’t mind subtitles, Ministerio del Tiempo (Ministry of Time) is a nice Spanish drama, available on Netflix, about three people from different eras who are recruited by a secret government department, and travel through time together to stop baddies changing the course of history. Kind of like an ensemble Doctor Who, with Spanish history as a backdrop instead of British.
posted by penguin pie at 5:55 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Agatha Christie's Poirot is fun to rewatch. Seconding Chuck, which is silly but also fun.
posted by pinochiette at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Have you watched The Closer (the precursor to Major Crimes)? Many of the cast are the same and the lead character is terrific and I think it ticks all your boxes.
posted by purplesludge at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2019

I saw Leverage above, but there's also Hu$tle (British). Both are ensemble con man shows but in a Robin Hood vein - sticking it to the bad guys.

Also, someone mentioned Eureka - if you like it, Warehouse 13 takes place in the same universe (and also Alphas). There are stakes, and people do get hurt, but the cast of characters is amazing.
posted by cabingirl at 7:35 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second the CBC's "Corner Gas". Weird, wacky and wonderful.
posted by james33 at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

A couple of Aussie shows, Murder Call , (a bit old), and City Homicide.
Elementary - Sherlock is a an asshole, but Watson take the edge off, and the rest of the cast is great, too. Their partnership excellent in that there is no romance and she is so smart.
Psych was fun. River is a truly compelling miniseries I can't recommend enough. Bletchley Circle, also.
I quickly hated Monk, though I tried, because I like Tony Shaloub, but the whole OCD thing soon got irritating.
3rd Rock From the Sun is hilarious. And Black Books is British humour at its best.
posted by Enid Lareg at 9:09 AM on September 1, 2019

Check out Republic of Doyle from the CBC. Six seasons, all on Netflix.
posted by killy willy at 9:10 AM on September 1, 2019

I was also going to recommend Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's specifically a send-up of overwrought ensemble-cast police/detective procedurals, while simultaneously being one. There's crime, because there has to be, but it's certainly not grimdark.

People who work in law enforcement have told me it's one of the few cop shows that they find watchable, much like I know people who work in medicine who find Scrubs pretty good.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2019

Have you watched The Closer (the precursor to Major Crimes)? Many of the cast are the same and the lead character is terrific and I think it ticks all your boxes.

I came to recommend The Closer. Everything about it is top notch. Wonderful character development and relationships, plus when they did the rare comic episode, it was pure gold.
posted by Dolley at 10:03 AM on September 1, 2019

Another vote for Lucifer, which is just so silly, it's the silliest. It rarely takes itself or anything else too seriously, and many of the characters do that whole "baffled nonhuman being outside of its time/place" thing very entertainingly.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've enjoyed the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries. In my opinion it took a bit of time to find its feet, and also to become more of an ensemble, but if you bear with it, I think it could work for you.

A comedy with some drama, rather than a detective show, is the New Zealand-Australian series 800 Words. I think it could work for you.

Finally, one season only but maybe give The Middleman a try.

I want to comment that I liked all the incarnations of Death in Paradise, and I would not count out Father Brown. I also watched Republic of Doyle, but found the main guy's attitude and treatment of women kind of problematic, especially in the earlier seasons. He gets called on it, and does get better as it goes on, but it made me grit my teeth fairly often, and I think that might put off some people.
posted by gudrun at 1:44 PM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like the same types of shows—would definitely nth Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (I didn't know it was leaving Netflix!), Psych, Eureka, Death in Paradise. I also liked the USA show Royal Pains a lot and it's on Netflix.
posted by radioamy at 6:45 PM on September 1, 2019

I do want to caution that Numb3rs, while fun, does feature an advisior-grad student romantic relationship (maybe it's advisor-former grad student, I can't remember) and, at some point in the series, that became a hard no for me. (I did do a PhD (in math, even), which I'm sure is a factor in how much it squicks me.)

I bailed on watching NCIS after the transphobic joke that just wouldn't die in season one (season two?). Then one day I skipped forward a few seasons and gave it another shot. The more recent seasons (how is it still going!?) are still story-of-the-week, but make attempts at novel things like character development and plot arcs that span multiple episodes. It's still not going to win any awards for being progressive, but, if you haven't tried the last few seasons, I found the non-offensive enough to watch.
posted by hoyland at 8:23 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Marple movies with Geraldine McEwan that were made in the mid-2000s are exactly what you want. They’re light, charming, really well-executed productions, and often feature actors and directors who went on to much greater fame. I don’t recall them being overtly homophobic or transphobic (there may be some Bury Your Gays going on because they are murder mysteries, but I watched them maybe two years ago, found them to be exactly what you’re looking for, and didn’t find the handling of any of those kinds of aspects to be offensive). They weren’t what I was expecting from Miss Marple at all: they have a lot more charm.

But they’re on Hulu. Maybe also Acorn or Britbox.

That said, if you can get Hoopla through your public library, they’re on there, too, and you”ll get around 10 free rentals a month.
posted by verbminx at 11:50 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Kim's Convenience. Relaxing Canadian low-stakes family drama.
posted by *s at 1:24 PM on September 3, 2019

The first option that jumped into my head was Leverage. It seems to tick a lot of your buttons. Some might say the Timothy Hutton character touches on the "Asshole Genius" trope, but I would say he is more specifically very emotionally damaged for good reason and he gets better as the the seasons progress.
posted by Julnyes at 2:11 PM on September 4, 2019

The Mentalist is streaming on prime now. There is a dead body or two in each episode but they aren't ever dwelled on and the ensemble cast is pretty great.
posted by onebyone at 6:52 AM on November 14, 2019

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