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.
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 (often called a story arc).
A popular subgenre is the police procedural.
This list provides examples of procedural dramas, it is not exhaustive.
- 9-1-1 (2018–present)
- Adam-12 (1968–1975)
- Battle Creek (2015)
- Beauty & the Beast (2012–2016)
- Blue Bloods (2010–present)
- Body of Proof (2011–2013)
- Bones (2005–2017)
- Castle (2009–2016)
- Charlie's Angels (1976–1981)
- Chicago P.D. (2014–present)
- Chicago Justice (2017)
- The Closer (2005–2012)
- Cold Case (2003–2010)
- Columbo (1968–1978)
- Common Law (2012)
- Conviction (2006)
- Criminal Minds (2005–2020)
- Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (2016–2017)
- Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (2011)
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000–2015)
- CSI: Cyber (2015–2016)
- CSI: Miami (2002–2012)
- CSI: NY (2004–2013)
- Deadline (2000–2001)
- Dragnet (1951–1959; 1967–1970)
- Elementary (2012–2019)
- Emergency! (1972–1979)
- FBI (2018–present)
- FBI: Most Wanted (2020-present)
- Hawaii Five-0 (2010–present)
- Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980)
- Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)
- House (2004–2012; medical procedural drama)
- Hill Street Blues (1981–1987)
- In Plain Sight (2008–2012)
- Instinct (2018–2019)
- Ironside (1967–1975)
- iZombie (2015–2019)
- JAG (1995–2005)
- Jo (2013)
- Law & Order (1990–2010)
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present)
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001–2011)
- Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005–2006)
- Law & Order: UK (2009–2014)
- Law & Order: LA (2010–2011)
- Lie to Me (2009–2011)
- Lucifer (2016–present)
- Major Crimes (2012–2018)
- Matlock (1986–1995)
- Miami Vice (1984–1990)
- McCallum (1995–1998)
- The Mentalist (2008–2015)
- Monk (2002–2009)
- Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
- Nash Bridges (1996–2001)
- NCIS (2003–present)
- NCIS: Los Angeles (2009–present)
- NCIS: New Orleans (2014–present)
- New Tricks (2003–2015)
- New York Undercover (1994–1998)
- Numb3rs (2005–2010)
- NYPD Blue (1993–2005)
- Perception (2012–2015)
- Perry Mason (1957–1966)
- Person of Interest (2011–2016)
- The Practice (1997–2004)
- Psych (2006–2014)
- Rebus (2000–2007)
- Rizzoli & Isles (2010–2016)
- The Rookie (2018–present)
- Southland (2009–2013)
- Suits (2011–2019)
- S.W.A.T. (2017–present)
- Taggart (1983–2010)
- The Unit (2006–2009)
- Third Watch (1999–2005)
- Without a Trace (2002–2009)
- Adler, Tim (June 27, 2011). "Why TV Procedurals Also Rule The World". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- Gerard Gilbert (2009-02-20). "American law... British order". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
- Chuck Barney (2009-01-21). "Review: Fox's "Lie to Me" mostly a formulaic procedural". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- James Hibberd (2009-02-06). "Networks' new pilots favor formula over experiment". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- "Duelling sleuths". The Age. 2006-08-10. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- Bill Carter (2008-11-16). "No Mystery: Ratings Heat Up for 'NCIS'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- Jason Hughes (2009-09-23). "What if House stopped being a procedural?". TVSquad. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- Andy Dehnart (2008-12-02). "'Mentalist' follows CBS formula, with a twist". Today.com. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- Scott Collins (2008-11-17). "How does CBS spell success? 'NCIS'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- "'Rizzoli & Isles' renewed for sixth season". New York Post. 2014-12-09. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
The procedural drama stars Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli and Alexander as medical examiner Maura Isles.