Procedurals are the best: All the cop TV shows you need to binge
Procedural cops shows – what are they good for? We like procedural crime shows for their sense of familiarity. Even if you turn on a crime show for the first time it feels like you’ve seen it before. They’re all the same, just with different characters & settings. There’s a formula to them and despite the fact they’re inherently mysteries (usually murder-y in nature) they don’t feel like an unknown.
Every once in a while that’s just exactly what we need. New characters to love, stories that we’ve heard before with a new twist, and a little bit of mystery.
So, if you’re in the mood for a good cop procedural show, but aren’t sure which one to turn on, allow us to tell you some of our favorites.
The mentalist has seven seasons that originally aired from 2008 to 2015. The show stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a “psychic” that’s open about how fake psychics are – including himself. His knowledge of mentalism allows him to assist authorities while also seeking to discover the man who killed his wife.
This show (like so many crime procedurals) feeds off the Sherlock Holmes trope of one man seemingly able to pick up the smallest of clues and turn them into revelations about people and their crimes.
If you like three-piece suits, a frictional will-they-won’t-they leading duo, and/or a search for revenge then this is the procedural cop show for you. You can watch all seven seasons of The Mentalist on Amazon Prime.
A lot of procedurals focus on detectives & murder mysteries. If you want something with more variation then Nathan Fillion’s ABC show The Rookie is perfect. The show is currently in its third season.
The Rookie follows three officers in training, one of which is in his forties. The show is inspired by the real-life story of William Norcross who traveled to LA to become a cop at age 44. The ABC show obviously takes a lot of liberties to create Hollywood levels of drama, but that’s what makes it fun.
The show doesn’t just focus on a single pair of characters like a lot of cop shows. Instead, it follows an ensemble cast of six – the three rookies and their training officers – and you can’t help but love them all. You can watch the show on Hulu, YouTubeTV, or for free on ABC’s website.
Period dramas are so in right now, thanks to the explosive popularity of Bridgerton. If you want a little bit of historical fiction in your cop show then we recommend Murdoch Mysteries. The show is absolute bingewatching heaven with fourteen seasons and counting. The show began in 2008 and is currently airing its fourteenth season in Canada.
The show takes place in Toronto and starts in the late 1800s. The main character, Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is a science enthusiast, so we get to watch old-timey murder be solved while the titular character explores the burgeoning science of fingerprints, ballistics, and more.
If we haven’t sold you on the show yet please keep in mind that the middle-aged main character frequently rides bicycles stoically while wearing a full suit and that never gets old. You can watch through season 10 on Hulu or you can watch through season 13 on Amazon Prime with the Acorn TV add-on.
Need even more Nathan Fillion? Well, Castle should do the trick with eight full seasons. Famed author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) gets permission to tag along on detective Kate Beckett’s (Stana Katic) murder investigations for research purposes.
The ABC show stole the hearts of procedural show fans and is still heralded as a favorite. The show has a fantastic balance of seriousness, humor, and Fillion’s charm to keep you bingewatching until you run out of episodes.
Also, if you find yourself completely obsessed there are actually Richard Castle novels that you can read which are inspired by the titles mentioned in the show. You can watch Castle on Hulu.
If you want something a little more science-y then Bones is the perfect watch – although if you’re easily squeamish then maybe not. Bones follows the extremely socially inept forensic anthropologist Doctor Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) as she assists FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) on murder cases.
Brennan and her colleagues help Booth to identify newly discovered & badly decayed or damaged remains with their scientific know-how and facial reconstruction abilities.
The show does a great job of creating dramatic – if at times somewhat far fetched – scenarios that will keep you engaged for twelve whole seasons. You can watch Bones on Hulu or Amazon Prime.
Person of Interest
Person of Interest is special in that it has all the procedural show tropes without really being about cops. The show follows a wealthy & mysterious tech genius named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) who teams up with a grumpy & brooding ex-CIA agent named John Reese (Jim Caviezel).
Thanks to Finch’s tech they’re able to try & stop crime before it happens . . . and sometimes while it happens. However, they end up getting pulled into a complicated conspiracy that pits them against the government.
The show has a great combination of case-of-the-week episodes and an anthology story that will keep you asking questions. The show has five seasons and can be watched on Netflix.