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January 30 2009

Just Following Procedure. Kind words about Bones and the benefits of charm in an article about the plethora of procedurals with generic case-of-the-week story lines. Brief OMWF mention.

They have a point with Bones. People can still mindlessly tune in if they've never seen it before, and feel complete in the episode (the case gets solved). But it also weaves the character development along with it so that by the time the innocent on-looker is finished with the episode, they want to see more of the show because of the characters, not because of the solved case.
I usually get bored with procedurals within about five episodes - no matter how interesting the premise/setup may be. Bones is an exception and is the first procedural that I recall enjoying more and more with time. I think Bones does the procedural thing extraordinarily well. Almost every episode presents an interesting crime to solve (while staying fairly accurate scientifically), but the focus of the show is the characters and their development. Nevertheless, a person can catch one episode and follow it will little difficulty.
Oh good, another "Procedurals are crap but not my procedural, it's different and good !" article. The fact is, they all have character stuff in them now and they (almost) all have arc and serial elements, claiming otherwise is, frankly, just displaying ignorance of the show type (even 'The Mentalist' has a - background, i'll admit - arc about finding the serial killer of Jane's family and some interesting - if, again, subtle - character observations about exactly what makes him tick). As usual with this sort of thing, they compare the most character driven with the least so primarily to make their point (no mention of 'Life' for instance, a procedural's procedural which also has a heavily arc driven serial plot - much moreso than 'Bones' for instance - and a ton of character stuff to boot).

I like 'Bones' a great deal, the cast dynamic is great, it's funny, the writing's usually pretty good but that said, the episodic elements are very "crime of the week" (if anything that's highlighted even more because, since they concentrate more on the character stuff, the episodic stuff sometimes almost seems like an afterthought) and the mysteries are often pretty transparent IMO. And that just boils down to time - some procedurals are more interested in well plotted mysteries, the puzzle element of crime shows and some are more interested in character stuff at the expense of the mystery. Seems to me like if they both do what they do well then there's room for them both without heaping derision on one kind because it's supposedly lower minded.
I agree. The writer says that "charm" can make you loyal to a show, but how charming you find the characters is awfully subjective. I like Bones & love Life, but I also enjoy Numb3rs, which the writer includes in a list of shows that he presumably feels have no arc or aren't character-driven. I really enjoy the characters in Numb3rs, and they've certainly developed over time. And I know that other people feel real involvement with the CSI characters, though I didn't like the few episodes I saw.
All procedurals feel fake after The Wire. But then, almost all of TV feels fake after The Wire, and so it's probably not very useful to compare anything to it. The Wire should probably have its own category; at least it would keep people like me bringing it up constantly in discussions of TV.
I agree, Saje and jcs. I happen to like procedurals, but the ones I like are because I like the main characters/team, how they relate to each other, and how they grow. Saying the audience doesn't have time to care about who's guilty or innocent misses the point. I'm not watching the shows for the criminal or even the victim(s), I'm watching because I enjoy the interaction of the regular characters - and because I like to see the steps they take to find the guilty party.

For example, I didn't watch Criminal Minds for the first two seasons because I didn't want to watch anything that intense, but I started to watch in S3 - and am now catching up on S2 and 3 on A&E - but I love these characters and how they interact, how they protect and support one another. We have found out about their childhoods and what makes them the way they are - growing in spite of - or because of - things in their past. For the same reasons, I enjoy Numb3rs, CSI: Miami, CSI:NY and Without a Trace as well as Bones. I love Life!

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