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Cops, doctors, and lawyers ... oh my!

by Debra McDuffee, posted Feb 6th 2009 6:06PM
Thirteen and Foreman from House MD
I was sitting down to watch TV last night, scanning through my choices on DVR: Lie to Me, Eleventh Hour, Life, Life on Mars.... I turned to my husband and said, "I think I'm sick of procedurals."

So I thought about what other shows we watch: Grey's Anatomy, House, Eli Stone, Damages... wait a minute, cops and doctors and lawyers... oh my! The only shining light, besides my TV on DVD, in our lineup is Leverage, so thanks again TNT for something different.

You can imagine, then, how I connected with James Hibbard's article today about the new fall TV pilots, and how they are all pretty much cop, lawyer or doctor shows. Yawn... I'm tired of these, so I scanned his list to find something unique. Did I?

Sadly, not on NBC or CBS, but FOX had some unique premises. Masterworks, which sounds like a cross between DaVinci Code and National Treasure, has some promise, and Human Target (based on the comic book) about a man who stands in for people who have a hit out on them could also be interesting.

ABC, too, has some fun premises, not necessarily original, but at least different than what's on TV right now. Eastwick, based on the book and movie Witches of Eastwick, with its supernatural mumbo-jumbo could work for me, as could the remake of V. I'd even check out the nameless pilot with the amateur detective who has his 11-year-old brother solve the cases for him.

All-in-all, though, it was disappointing to see that unique is "out." Even the shows that sound like I might watch them, although different from what's on TV right now, are based on something, a remake or stolen from another genre.

Are you, like me, craving something different in original programming?

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I've never been a procedural fan, unless you count a unique one like Pushing Daisies. I like it a lot better when it's a serialized character drama that I can really get interested in, or else a hilarious comedy. 30 Rock, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, Chuck, Dexter, Heroes...all shows that don't feature one of those three categories.

February 07 2009 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is a "procedural" exactly? And what's the opposite? And what does "serialized" means? I watch TV, but I don't classify according to these terms, and I don't know what they mean.

February 06 2009 at 10:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to La-Di-Dah's comment

A procedural is a show like CSI or Law & Order. There's a beginning a middle and an end. Whereas shows like Lost or Heroes have this continuing story over the season(s).

February 07 2009 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joost Schuur

It's funny that you just wrote about how you're sick of procedurals. In an effort to watch less TV, I cut 6 season passes a few days ago, almost entirely based on them being procedurals (Bones, NCIS, Medium etc). I figured if I could easily miss one episode, I could easily miss the entire show.

Maybe I'm in the minority for networks to not care, since I'll start watching a show with a strong arc at its core from the start of the season to the end without needing to be served up bite sized entertainment that I can jump in on at any time. Whenever I wonder how I could watch less TV, strict procedurals are the first on the chopping block.

February 06 2009 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joost Schuur's comment

I'd have to say that I feel just the opposite. I feel like there are too many shows where if you miss one you're going to be lost and I deliberately avoid that kind of show. (Even though I very rarely miss an episode of the shows I love, I don't want to feel like I'm going to be punished if I do.) There's nothing wrong with having some ongoing story arcs and of course character development is a good thing, but I really think that serialization is overrated.

The current version of Doctor Who probably has what I'd consider to be the best mix. Yeah, there's always something that's building up through the season, but the individual stories are generally self-contained and you can watch the season finales without feeling lost even if you missed a few episodes during the season.

February 07 2009 at 12:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know what we haven't seen in a while, is Teacher procedurals. Doctors, Lawyers, Cops, they have oversaturated TV. Firemen have Rescue Me, what do teachers have? There used to be Boston Public, and a couple crappy sitcoms, but no dramas. The Wire had some scenes with teachers, but not much. A good drama about the educational system in this country could be good. And I'm sure there are enough English teachers out there with Shakespearean fantasies to write a few dozen pilot scripts.

February 06 2009 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think we're on the edge of a new popular breakthrough in these kinds of shows. Part of why they work is the good vs. evil, helping regular people aspects of these shows. But there are also new ideas that come along every so often that push the genres to tell stories in different ways. CSI added the visual style and scientific elements. ER was a fairly gritty, realistic depiction of emergency medicine early on. Matlock, Murder She Wrote, and Quincy were early instances of more personality-driven procedurals (see House, Shark, and Lie to Me now). The Wire was about as realistic as possible without being a documentary. All of these shows have contributed to the changing face of these formats. I had hoped Pushing Daisies would be that next step, but it failed. Maybe Damages is (to some degree) a step forward for lawyer shows, but I don't see it as so much of a procedural. I guess that, even though it apes the Ocean's movies big time, Leverage is something different, good on them. Something about The Closer feels unique, as it's not just driven by Brenda's character; it's a true ensemble show, with wonderful writing and an interesting style. I have to say, cops, doctors, and lawyers will keep getting shows because of the wealth of interesting stories that can be told (and retold), combined with the near-guarantee of a resolution each week. But I'm always on the lookout for something new and different; thank goodness for LOST indeed!

February 06 2009 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter (a procedural, but original), True Blood (not a great show, but original enough and not a procedural), Hustle (Though, I suppose it is a "con-man" procedural, like Leverage, only better).

February 06 2009 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

Need to keep in mind, Leverage is as much a procedural as Eli Stone or Damages, if not more so. As is Pushing Daisies.

All you are really saying, is that you want to see some real inventive spins on the procedural, which I agree with you on.

Lost, yea, can't put that in the procedural category at all. Heroes too. BSG. DH. Uhm, I'm sure there are more, but can't think of them right now.

February 06 2009 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Joey Geraci's comment

Damages is a serial, not procedural. A procedural has the plot resolved within an episode like Law & Order or House. Damages the plot takes all season to unravel, more like a legal version of Lost, making it a serial show.

February 08 2009 at 8:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No love for a Unique show like LOST eh? ;]

Yeah, i too am sick of all of the doctors/lawyers/cop shows. It kind of sad that those seem like the only kind of shows that are being made, and it's because people like watching them... for some reason.

I miss shows like Pushing Daisies =/

February 06 2009 at 6:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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