As much as I love crime procedurals, the drama of solving everyday crimes has become a bit too drab lately. Which is why I’ve begun seeking out the stranger entries in the procedural genre. Below, we’ve put together this list of strange, subversive, supernatural, and splendid mystery-solving. This selection is full of great shows that upend the idea of what a procedural can be!
I had to start with my fave murder boyfriends. Bryan Fuller will pop up on this list more than once as he has an eye for the beautifully strange. His take on Hannibal Lecter still stands as an incredible example of how horror can be portrayed in prestige TV form. The series follows the titular criminal (played perfectly by Mads Mikkelsen) as he works alongside Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) catching serial killers. It’s a super slick setup that allows for a gruesomely gorgeous murder-of-the-week structure. But that’s not all, as what this show is really about is Graham and Lecter’s burgeoning cat-and-mouse relationship. We all know what Hannibal is truly after, so the excitement here comes from wondering when the rest of the cast of characters will catch on.
CBS’ unexpected smash hit is about a psychologist (Katja Herbers) and a priest in training (Mike Colter) who team up to battle the unknown. The duo are tasked by the Catholic Church with investigating the backlog of unsolved events and deciding if there’s a logical reason or something more spooky. The series can get seriously scary but also hilariously ridiculous—shout out to the demon VR episode—and is a great distraction. By the time you reach the finale you’ll likely be hooked. If you do enjoy the debut season that recently came to an end you’ll be happy to know the show was already renewed for a second season!
This underrated gem is an enjoyably pulpy mix of horror and straight-up procedural. Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, an FBI agent who can’t shake the case that made his name and ruined his life. James Purefoy plays Joe Carroll, the Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed serial killer whom Hardy made it his mission to hunt down. When Carroll escapes from prison a chain of Earth-shattering events are set off surrounding a cult of serial killers that Carroll has coalesced during his incarceration. Ambitious, scary, and anchored by two great central performances and an outrageous setup.
It’s the classic that redefined what a procedural could be and it has its cult status for a reason. In case you’ve yet to discover The X-Files, it centers around two FBI agents—a skeptic (Gillian Anderson) and a conspiracy theorist (David Duchovny)—who are thrown together on a mission to find the truth. Each episode revolves around a different unexplainable mystery and they still entertain today. In fact if you want something really scary The X-Files has some truly terrifying episodes.
Though many of the entries on this list are pretty grim, Pushing Daisies is a bright light in the darkness. Sure it’s about a guy who can momentarily bring people back from the dead. But it’s also a hilarious romantic-comedy about that very same guy reuniting with his (deceased) childhood sweetheart. Okay, that might not sound like a delightful setup, but Bryan Fuller teams up Anna Friel and Lee Pace for a truly charming take on the procedural that is perfect for lovers of musicals, whimsy, and, of course, death.
If you’re looking for something a little darker, make sure to check out River. This bleak yet intriguing little show centers on Stellan Skarsgård’s world-weary cop whose partner (Nicola Walker) is killed on the job. So far, so conventional. But here’s the twist: his dead partner is still his partner… she’s just dead. Set in London, this short and snappy series will keep you guessing until the end. Skarsgård and Walker are infinitely watchable and though they’re trying to deal with different crimes each week, there is of course a bigger conspiracy waiting to be solved.
Easily the most fantastical series on this list, Grimm is a procedural set in a world where mythical creatures exist and fairytales are real. The series follows Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), who hails from a long line of cops who have to straddle the line between the supernatural world and the human one. The series takes pretty heavily from the incredible tales of the Brothers Grimm but plays fast and loose with how it adapts them. Imagine X-Files but with a little more magic and fantasy and you’re halfway there!
Featured Image: NBC