The Popularity Of Justice

Even Marvel's "The Punisher" is rumoured to become the basis for a procedural show
Even Marvel's "The Punisher" is rumoured to become the basis for a procedural show

Even Marvel's "The Punisher" is rumoured to become the basis for a procedural show

I’ve been watching Criminal Minds lately and it got me thinking about the fact that I’ve always liked police investigation style television shows, with a personal favourite being CSI (the original, not Miami or NY). I’m also a Bones fan, though I don’t know how much that started because I was missing David Boreanaz (who plays Seely Booth but is better known as Angel, before vampires were cool).

I realised that even though I’ve watched (and do watch) quite a lot of crime shows, there are many that I haven’t watched. You see, I never really watched Law and Order and or their million spin-off’s, not because I didn’t like them, but I already had too many cop shows in my viewing rotation and I do like to mix it up.

Police procedurals are so popular, many have multiple spin-off shows

It got me thinking; if I watch lots of police procedural shows but there are still heaps that I haven’t ever watched, just how many are there that have come and gone over the years? So after a quick Wikipedia check (which is so accurate you could reference them in an assignment *insert sarcasm here*), I discovered that there are/have been 620 police related television shows – 620!

After going through the long list, I discovered that 103 are still currently on the air. That’s 103 in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. With many of the North American police procedurals syndicated across the world, that’s a whole lot of shows to choose from.

The rule is, generally shows aren’t created if there isn’t a market for them, so why are there so many police procedurals on the air? Crime shows have always been a staple on television, just like crime novels have always been popular. It’s because people love a ‘whodunnit’, they like trying to figure out who committed the crime alongside the professionals on the case; it can make them feel smarter and more aware.

I also feel it’s popularity stems from the same reason that you love Batman and Superman comics, people like to see justice being served. The world is not a safe place, it is filled with crime. I feel that people want to believe that no matter how meticulously you cover your tracks, you will always be caught out by a series of professionals and justice will prevail. My sister disagrees. She thinks that there are so many soap opera style shows out there and that people want to see something interesting.

I agree to a certain extent, one of the things I love about police dramas is their story lines are rarely predictable. There is almost always an element of surprise and there is always something you can learn. I find them educational in understanding the justice system in different countries, mostly the US. Either way, police shows are some of the most popular on television and seem to be the most dominant genre.

What’s your favourite police drama? Why do you think they are so popular?

Punisher picture found here.
CSI picture found here.

  • John James

    I can’t begin to describe how over police procedurals I am…they just bore me to tears…they are so predictable and repetitious. I think that’s why I loved it when shows like The West Wing and Lost and the Battlestar Gallactica reboot, and most especially Mad Men, came along and shook up TV viewing.

    I like shows that are about people, about how they react to situations, how they relate to each other. Shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. It’s not the genre that’s important, it’s the writing, acting and direction that’s important to me.

    When TV is great, it is just as good, if not better, than anything cinema can deliver. Police procedurals are just formulaic…they don’t challenge the audience…they don’t challenge the writers or actors either. We don’t need any more police procedurals…

    • Monique Fischle

      I agree that for the most part they are predictable, but the reason I love Criminal Minds is I don’t find it as predictable as the rest. I studied Crime Fiction in year 11 and 12 when I did extension English and I like trying to analyse the plots and seeing if I can spot the red herrings. That’s just the nerd in me.

      But I also love Criminal Minds because of the characters in it and their relationships (platonic) with each other. And I agree, Mad Men is amazing because I never know what to expect and there is nothing else like it on television.

      I was surprised at how many police procedurals there have been, but for the most part, shows are made based on the money and the ratings they bring in and whether we like to admit it or not, police procedurals have high ratings.

  • Katyberry

    I made the decision to give up on Criminal Minds last year, and Bones just recently. My husband and I had been taping and watching them out of habit, but I finally realized that it really was habit only – we didn’t like them at all any more! Just got too silly. We still like Castle (it’s a bit of fun!) and I’m still doing the Mentalist, but I think it’s time us running out. I certainly wouldn’t watch either if those if it wasn’t for desperation to share some TV time with hubbie.
    Not wanting to sound like a TV snob, but gave you tried The Killing on SBS? It’s really great, tense and complex police story. Really brilliant. And then there’s The Wire, but that probably doesn’t quite fit the police procedural bill.

    Good work on the blog – ups and downs but I do like to check it out now and again!!

    • Monique Fischle

      That’s why I stopped watching CSI. It was really just habit. I’m only a recent convert to Criminal Minds and I’m still enjoying it.

      I watch The Killing with my Dad sometimes, he loves it. One of the best “cop shows” I’ve ever watched was The Eagle (a Danish show that I’m not sure can really be classed as a cop show) maybe you’ve seen it if you watch The Killing? It was so incredibly brilliant, but unfortunately so many people overlook these shows because of the subtitles, but the Europeans really know how to make good TV.

      • Katyberry

        Oh, yes, I think that The Eagle was one of the first Danish programs I ever saw. Followed up by Unit One, and now The Killing! And now I SOOOO want to go to Denmark! (except for the cold factor – don’t know how I would go with that!)

        • Monique Fischle

          Yes! I watched Unit One as well! Always makes me want to go to Denmark, but I think if we got to wear the amazing jumpers featured in The Killing, we’d be warm enough :)

  • Rose Russo

    I enjoy watching Criminal Minds, NCIS and Law & Order SVU. But I don’t watch them every week. I think they’re popular because people like to guess… I enjoy the suspense of it all. Great post Monique.

    • Monique Fischle

      Thanks :)