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What is a Procedural?

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This is a term used to describe a specific type of drama that uses a set “procedure” or routine within each episode to propel the characters through the story. Contrasted with serialized dramas, procedurals do not require the audience to have seen the previous episode in order to understand the plot of the next. Each episode contains the same characters but has an isolated story which ends at the conclusion of the hour. For example, in CSI, Gil Grissom and his team of crime scene investigators come across a dead body and a set of clues. Each clue, through a series of unforeseen plot turns, leads our characters to another until they ultimately solve the murder by the end of the episode. Each episode is a different murder and the viewers don’t need to know what happened in the previous episode in order to appreciate the current one. CSI, along with shows like LAW & ORDER, NCIS, NUMBERS, CRIMINAL MINDS and WITHOUT A TRACE are all great examples of crime procedurals. But not every procedural needs crime and cops. HOUSE is a medical procedural. SHARK is a legal procedural. MEDIUM has a supernatural spin to it. Studios and network love procedurals because the story begins and ends in the same hour, allowing them to air episodes out of order and repeat more easily. This creates a great opportunity for syndication as well.

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