Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't hate the crime procedural

I wanted  to add "hate the game" to the title but I think that would be too cheesy.

Every week when the ratings for the previous night come out, they are accompanied by incredulous comments about how many viewers the various CBS crime shows (NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, etc) get. There are also some comments attacking the viewers of the shows complaining about how brain dead the audience is. Sometimes even a Heroes fan attacks crime shows and their fans.

Critics like attacking crime shows for their formulaic nature. But the writers are still talented and the actors are still talented. What more can be done with a show whose intent is to show crimes and  people solving them? I would agree that the interpersonal relationships are weak compared to other shows, but the format itself isn't that bad.

First, there is the murder or people finding the body. The crime can be directed to show the total brutality of murder in a way cable shows are praised for. People finding the body can be humorous in the case of Bones or thrilling in the case of most other shows. Then the police/FBI/other group goes about solving the crime using cool technology, interrogation techniques, logic, and maybe some shooting/fighting until they catch the criminal. Along the way the audience may learn something about the characters and the characters develop distinct personalities and traits. It's an easy way to engage the audience and keep them watching the show.

The purpose of television is to make money and the formula of the crime procedural is perfectly suited to bring in viewers. Most people don't have time to watch a continuous story week after week at the exact same time. With the growing popularity of internet viewing and DVR, that is changing, but for now the public at large watches shows they can miss on random weeks.

Therein lies the greatness of crime procedurals. For all the critics and haters out there, the audience keeps returning to these crime shows, and to prove the audience is not one large blob, some shows even do much better in the ratings than others. I know it's hard concept to swallow, but not all crime procedurals are the same. That's why NCIS does at least twice as well as The Forgotten. There is a difference in quality between all the various crime shows and the audience recognizes that.

Next time you see the huge ratings of a crime procedural, don't whine and bitch. And please don't attack the viewers. Accept that not all people watch television as obsessively as you and get over it.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree. I like the talk about characters: I think that the real reason I watch procedurals isn't because of the cases or the way they solve them, but the characters themselves. To have a good procedurals, you really need strong characters

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