NCIS, Criminal Minds, Mentalist or Bones, this list is not exhaustive, and I could go on for days. The past decade, countless procedural flourished on TV and the genre quickly became a relatively safe source of money for networks. A case-of-the-week basis, with a red thread in the background driving the main characters. This type of storytelling is now very classic and could even sometimes be considered boring.
The fact is that today there is too many procedural shows on TV, and we are starting to see more and more unimaginative, boring and even sometimes downright stupid series. Are we, by sticking to one genre, killing creativity on TV? I do not deny that a show like NCIS became one of the most successful shows on television and led to multiple spin-offs. However, I lately sensed some loss of interest, symptomatic of a genre in decline.
For example, Castle is probably one of the most classic procedural shows you can currently find on TV. A murder, three or four suspects, a few twists before finding out that the one nobody noticed was, in fact, the perpetrator. This format can sometimes be laughable, even more, when you can find the murderer long before the end of the episode. This did not prevent Castle from being a hit and a welcome success for ABC. However, the show is now a mere shadow of its former self and a blatant example of what procedural can lead to. That is to say, uninspired storytelling, repeating itself way too often.
Another example is Lucifer, a show I was genuinely expecting as a comic book fan, which has been swallowed by the procedural genre. Everything that made its source material successful was replaced by what networks think will sell better. Lucifer is now working with a detective, women he will probably end up with, and helps her solving crimes. In the end, the show is unimaginative, vulgar in the worst way possible and it only feels like FOX is treating us like fools. At least the lead-actor was a perfect choice, and probably the only thing saving the show.
I am very critical but not hopeless; procedural are still capable of producing good television content. The most recent example I have in mind is CBS's Limitless. It's original, innovative, actually smart and it distinguish itself from anything else on TV, while staying faithful to the procedural "code"(seriously it's awesome). I can safely say that this show is a game changer and could lay the foundation for more creative shows in the near future.
I would put in the same category, on a smaller scale, The CW's iZombie. While the show deviates from its source material, being based on a comic, iZombie is a little breath of fresh air, a guilty pleasure. The show deals with Liv, a zombie medical examiner who can eat victim's brains and revive their memories to solve crimes. The show is a mix, throwing into the apparently usual police procedural some sci-fi/fantastic aspects diabolically effective. It is far from perfect, and it can sometimes be cheesy but iZombie, just like Limitless, doesn't hesitate to be bold and try to step out of the box.
Is there too much procedural on TV? Yes, definitely. You only have to see how many shows have been canceled this year alone to realize it. However, are procedural killing creativity? Not entirely. The fact is that a procedural now needs to bring its own personality, something that makes it different from the rest.
We, the audience, are more and more exposed to TV content. Thus it becomes increasingly difficult to actually surprise us. Networks are beginning to understand it, but we still are a long way. They locked themselves into a deadly routine from which it is arduous to escape. TV is like any other media, in constant transition, but only time will tell if lessons are learned from failures.