A procedural drama is a genre of television programming which focuses on how crimes are solved or some other aspect of a law enforcement agency, legislative body, or court of law. Some dramas include a lab or conference room with high-tech or state-of-the-art equipment where the main characters meet to work out the problem. Shows usually have an episodic format that does not require the viewer to have seen previous episodes. Episodes typically have a self-contained, also referred to as stand-alone, plot that is introduced and resolved within the same episode. This format is often referred to as "case-of-the-week". Procedurals are typically contrasted with serial dramas which rely more on story arcs.
The procedural format is popular around the world. In 2011, the director of a TV consultancy said, "The continuing trend is for procedurals because they use a predictable structure." Due to their stand-alone episodic nature, they are more accessible to new viewers than serials. Self-contained episodes also make it easier for viewers to return to a show if they have missed some episodes. In general, procedural dramas can usually be re-run with little concern for episode order.
Procedurals are often criticized for being formulaic. Procedurals are also generally less character-driven than serialized shows. However, some procedurals have more character emphasis than is typical of the format. Some may occasionally feature a storyline stretching over several episodes.
A popular variant is the police procedural.
- Adam-12 (1968–1975)
- Beauty & the Beast (2012–present)
- Blue Bloods (2010–present)
- Body of Proof (2011–2013)
- Bones (2005–present)
- Castle (2009–present)
- Cold Case (2003–2010)
- Columbo (1968–1978)
- Common Law (2012–present)
- Criminal Minds (2005–present)
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–present)
- CSI: Miami (2002–2012)
- CSI: NY (2004–2013)
- Dragnet (1951–1959; 1967–1970)
- Elementary (2012–present)
- Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980)
- Hawaii Five-0 (2010–present)
- House (2004-2012; medical procedural drama)
- Hill Street Blues (1981–1987)
- JAG (1995–2005)
- Law & Order (1990–2010)
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present)
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001–2011)
- Law & Order: UK (2009–present)
- Lie To Me (2009–2011)
- Matlock (1986–1995)
- McCallum (1995-1998)
- The Mentalist (2008–present)
- Monk (2002-2012)
- Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
- NCIS (2003–present)
- New Tricks (2003-present)
- NCIS: Los Angeles (2009–present)
- Numb3rs (2005–2010)
- NYPD Blue (1993–2005)
- Perception (2012–present)
- Perry Mason (1957–1966)
- Person of Interest (2011–present)
- Rebus (2000-2007)
- Taggart (1983-2010)
- The Practice (1997–2004)
- Psych (2006–2014)
- The Unit (2006–2009)
- Without a Trace (2002–2009)
- White Collar (2009–present)
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