How to Create a Hit Procedural

The always funny and always wise Ken Levine has his usual great advice for all of us wannabe police procedural creators.

In other words, for us all:

Yes, it's true. This shot is from THE MENTALIST, which is cancelled, finished, kaput. But not because it didn't follow the rules!
Yes, it’s true. This shot is from THE MENTALIST, which is cancelled, finished, kaput. But not because it didn’t follow the rules!

by Ken Levine

Network development season is in full swing. Comedies are hot commodities this year but one staple that never seems to go out of style is procedural dramas. Fame and fortune and a spin-off with:MIAMI at the end of the title can be yours if you just follow my simple rules.

Your star must have some supernatural power. He or she can read minds, has an amazing photographic memory, can remember every lunch he/she ever had, is a math whiz, or the most common – can see Fairy Tale characters.

But with this gift must come a curse. They must be tortured emotionally. They must have a dark past. Their wife/sibling/child/imaginary friend has been killed and they’re still haunted by it.

They’re only helping the police solve crimes as a way to better get in touch with resolving the unsolved circumstances of their dark past. The killer is still out there!  But only week one and the season finale.  Otherwise, it’s business as usual.  Solving crimes and tossing off zingers.

When we go home with the hero we see he’s lonely. He can’t really get close to anyone because he’s so damaged. He compensates for no social skills by possessing this wondrous ability to bend spoons with his mind.

The hero must have a code. Oh sure he may come off as a cynic or she a bitch but ultimately they’re the champion of the little people.

The hero must have a partner of the opposite sex who finds him/her infuriating but is totally dependent on him/her. The partner is always somewhat of an idiot. He enters the crime scene and every week comes to the wrong conclusion. Only our hero, with his snazzy power, is perceptive enough to surmise what is really going on. And if the partner wasn’t already dumb enough, he has to now argue with the hero. The hero ultimately turns out to be right.

The hero must be surrounded by an investigative team. They stand around, provide exposition, and chase bad guys. Having a superpower means you never have to run. This team should be young and attractive. And one member must somehow be “quirky”….

Read it all at Ken Levine’s supercool blog