The Reinvention Of The Crime Procedural: 5 Shows Doing It Right
The crime procedural and television go together like peanut butter and jelly, or green eggs and ham. Also like a serial killer and a jail cell — which is probably why they’re so darn popular. For over fifty years, the crime procedural has dominated television: from Dragnet to Columbo, 21 Jump Street to Law & Order and beyond — all of these iconic procedural dramas made the case for, and canonized, the methodology behind the madness, now and forevermore. In fact, crime procedurals are the number one US television export. We seem to really love them, huh?
That’s because crime procedural is like TV mashed potatoes. It’s warm, inviting, comforting, and you’re guaranteed to be satisfied by the end unless you overindulge and then it quickly becomes monotonous mush. The crime will always be solved, the murderer may or may not die, but justice will always be served.
But some series have done the unthinkable and trying to make the crime procedural exciting and new again. Because everyone deserves a second chance — even a worn-through television genre. And that’s where these shows come in: they’re reinventing the format, and for that we are very grateful.
Jessica's Pick: Sleepy Hollow Some years ago, Law & Order changed the procedural landscape by adding a law component in addition to catching the criminal in each case. In today's TV landscape, it's not quite so easy to stand out from the pack as a procedural, and to combat this, some sharp cop dramas have expanded and grown more extravagant, building a whole universe to support its bad guy premise. Among these is Fox’s new drama Sleepy Hollow, which follows a Revolutionary War era gentlemen and a modern day cop as they try to take down a slew of monsters from fiction and lore.
Taking down supernatural bad guys has been done before in dramas, including The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, Sleepy Hollow thrives exceptionally in several ways those shows never did. It’s a fish out of water story in which Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) manages to take to his new surroundings with humor and grace. More importantly, its lore is steeped in pseudo history, with characters like George Washington and towns like Roanoke shaping its monster of the week premise. Sleepy Hollow is a procedural that is fused firmly with lore, but it is its ties with Americana that make the drama an exceptionally fun watch each week.
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