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July 22, 2014

Build Your Very Own Crime Show

by Stephanie Earp, posted May 10th 2011 6:45PM


As a TV writer, I'm well aware of the limits of the human imagination, and nowhere is that glaring fact more evident than in the procedural crime drama genre. We put a man on the moon, invented the microchip and domesticated wolves, but apparently when it comes to solving fictional crime, there is only one way to go about it. Not that this has stopped me from watching hours and hours of the stuff; in fact, I think I'm sometimes comforted by the fact that even if I'm tuning into a series for the first time, I'll know the lay of the land by the first commercial break. I honestly think I could write the stuff in my sleep. I bet you could too -- have a go:


Choose Your Lead Detective:

a) A once-successful lawyer who bent the rules one too many times
b) A introverted genius who struggles to understand humanity
c) A sharp-tongued no-nonsense leader with a gruff exterior and a heart of gold
d) A sensible stoic with a keen sense of right and wrong


Choose Your Sidekick:

a) A woman whose beauty is her greatest weapon and the thing she most has to overcome
b) An introverted genius who struggles to understand humanity (unavailable if you chose option B, above)
c) A man with two first names -- or two last names
d) A visible minority

Choose Your Team (circle 3):

a) A gifted technician
b) A ladies' man
c) A serious young woman with big ambitions
d) An adventure junkie
e) A curmudgeonly older man in a diagnostic role
f) A warm and loving woman in a secretarial role

Choose Your Lead Detective's Dark Secret:

a) Addiction
b) Divorce
c) A bad shooting
d) An unsolved case

Assign the following props and habits to some of your secondary characters:

a) Quirky eyeglasses
b) Sweet tooth
c) Regional accent
d) Knitting
e) Joyriding
d) Gambling



Assign the following back-stories to your secondary characters:

a) A childhood of poverty and/or abuse
b) The child of a legendary member of the force
c) Popular, good at sports, attended fancy private schools
d) Outcast nerd who loved science

Choose the relationship between your Lead Detective and Sidekick:

a) Romantic -- they love each other but can never admit it
b) Unrequited romantic -- one loves the other
c) Mentor and protege -- but when will the student become the master?
d) Cats in a sack -- they can barely disguise their hate for each other

Write Your Pilot Log Line:

... Lead Detective and his/her team are on the trail of a ...

a) hit and run
b) assassin
c) crew of bank robbers

... Meanwhile Secondary Character 1 discovers Secondary Character 2 has a secret (see question 3) and wonders whether to tell the boss.

Write Your Special Episode Log Line:

... The team work harder than ever as they search for a suspect in an attack on ....

a) a real celebrity (played by themselves)
b) a fictional celebrity
c) a team-member's family
d) a child

... with special guest star...

a) Regis Philbin
b) Alyssa Milano
c) Candice Bergen
d) Elle Fanning

Write Your Season Finale Log Line:

Lead Detective's past comes back to haunt him/her as the team track a serial killer who's next target is Lead Detective! Meanwhile:

a) Two secondary characters kiss
b) One secondary character realizes they have to come clean and quit the team or be fired
c) One secondary character is shot, and may die

Sidekick makes the connection that could solve the case, and arrives just in time to save Lead Detective, but Lead Detective saves him/herself, shooting serial killer dead. Except, where's the body? To be continued...

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