The Procedural

Besides going bald and getting excited about Home Depot, there’s one other way that I figured out that I’m adult: I’m now into procedurals.

For those of you who are physically and socially active, a procedural is a type of television show in which some sort of case is solved each week. There’s also generally some kind of overarching…arch…each season. Common subgenres include procedurals are law enforcement shows, medical shows, and legal shows.

“Wow,” you are saying, “That is a diverse genre of shows.” You are right and you are also so dreadfully, sadly wrong. Oh, you!

All procedurals involve the following elements (broken down, lawyer style):

  • Attractive professionals,
  • Who are good at their jobs,
  • And live in loft apartments with exposed brick,
  • Trying to find/keep romance alive,
  • While meeting their professional goals,
  • Getting shot/car wrecked/earthquaked once per season, AND
  • Working with bit-part actors who will have their own shows in 3-6 years.

There are some other common but not omnipresent staples of the genre. These include:

You may have noticed that I immediately mentioned that the characters are attractive.  What happens when you put attractive people together? They start to get hot and bothered. Will there be love triangles? Will they/won’t they situations? Poor timing because someone is dating a third party even though everyone knows the third party will only be on for four to eight episodes? YES!

Another common element is the odd couple matching of partners/lawyers/doctors.  One plays by the book, one is a cowboy. (Sometimes one is ACTUALLY a cowboy.) Even though they’re an odd couple, the partners learn from each other and meet in the middle sometimes. Also, at the end of the episode, one partner will usually quote something that the other partner said in the first few minutes of the episode.  Then everyone has a good, cathartic laugh.


  • A character’s secret family member is into crime/drugs/shadiness.
  • Parent sleeps with teacher.
  • Student sleeps with teacher.
  • Principal sleeps with student.
  • Principal sleeps with parent.
  • Principal sleeps with teacher.  (What are these PTA meetings like?)
  • One partner thinks the other partner committed a crime/malpractice.
  • A celebrity randomly shows up at the station/hospital/firm/casino.
  • Sarcasm.
  • Someone stole a baby because they’re jealous.
  • Someone thinks their spouse is having an affair but really they’re doing something else in secret. (AA/double life/out of work)
  • Someone is married to someone in another state.
  • No one is unattractive.
  • A politician who everyone likes is actually corrupt.
  • Someone frequently plays in high-stakes poker games.
  • Girl A accuses Guy of committing a crime, but really Girl B was the victim and Girl A is just sticking up for Girl B.

I’m generally into procedurals that are a little weird, meaning the shows are dark, the characters are self-destructive, and no one watched them. Two of my favorites are Lie to Me and Life. If Veronica Mars counts as a procedural, it’s in there, too.  The only procedural that I like that didn’t crash and burn in the ratings is Castle. I’ve also watched a couple of episodes of Chicago Fire and I’m cautiously optimistic.

If you do a Google image search for procedural, an image of Taylor Swift comes up.  What does that mean?


2 thoughts on “The Procedural

  1. Castle is by far my favorite show on television these days however I’m not entirely sure I define it as a procedural.

    I think I define procedural slightly more narrow….I see them as having very limited character development and almost no sweeping arcs. Basically any show that has a lots of initials and/or colons (Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, CSI: NY)

    Although now I’m intrigued by the categorization of television series and am trying to decide how I would define shows like Castle or White Collar if not procedurals. They don’t have nearly the arc of an epic series like Lost or Once Upon a Time. But they’re not as episodic as Law & Order. Color me perplexed.

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