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Please Just End New York City's War on Crime: 10 Places That Procedurals Should Be Set in Before New York City

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Seriously Random Lists | November 7, 2013 | Comments ()


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A few years ago, I wrote a little statistics piece on just how well New York City’s war on crime on television matched up with the one in reality. It turned out that there were twice as many murders in television Manhattan than in real Manhattan. And that’s not even taking into account the trail of bodies that undoubtedly leads to Ted Mosby.

I don’t like New York City.

Wow! That’s the most hate mail I’ve gotten since that libertarian website linked to my Walking Dead article!

No, let me rephrase by paraphrase, via one of history’s wisest women: I don’t hate New York City, I nothing New York City. I’ve been there, didn’t care for it, and I really did move on with my life.

But the damned city’s faithful adherents infect every aspect of popular culture, droning on with their solemn chant that it’s the most magical wonderful place on Earth. Priests don’t talk about the Vatican half as reverently as New Yorkers gush about their particular set of streets and buildings. I love Stephen King’s Dark Tower, even with a soft spot for the generally loathed ending. Know what I hated? Learning in book 3 or so that New York was literally the nexus of the universe in the story. It was at that point that I may or may not have secretly started rooting for the other side, eventually hoping that the beams would come crashing down and Randall Flagg would ride the Dark Tower down into oblivion like Slim Pickens on a nuke. No such luck.

There’s no point having the argument at length. Faith cannot be argued with and once it settles upon a tenet, the only words are either agreement or blasphemy.

But what I can do is argue that when the inevitable next batch of television procedurals comes around next year, that maybe, just maybe, they’ll set a few of them in other places instead of tossing them all into the Big Apple. And if you mention Los Angeles or Miami, I’ll forward your email address to the libertarians and let them sort you out.

So here are the ten places or times that procedurals should be set in before giving us another New York City one.


1. The South Pole: Six months of darkness. It’s fifty below zero outside, so all the mysteries are of the locked box variety. No one is getting in or out, which complicates anything like arrests. This wonderful little article on being a bartender at the South Pole should be the entry point. There are just enough people down there, that sometimes there needs to be someone in charge of figuring out what’s going on when little things go wrong.

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2. Soviet Russia: Now this could be as simple as adopting Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 (which is also getting a movie adaptation at the moment), but the notion of being law enforcement in a totalitarian state could certainly be generalized. There’s a tension between searching for the truth and never being allowed to acknowledge truth as a real ideal that would make for wonderful dark television.

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3. Ancient Rome: Personally, I think they could just take every genre, set it in Ancient Rome, and have Vorenus and Pullo do their thing. Added bonus: the complete absence of police of any kind makes the detective savant actually more realistic than in later eras. Sherlock Caesar?

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4. Renaissance Italy: Despite a handful of historical dramas set in the period, what I really want is a medical procedural set during the foundation of medicine, during the discoveries of circulation and the internal organs, etc.

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5. Post-apocalypse: Defiance doesn’t count. Science fiction has a tradition of the sheriff but it has little in the way of true detectives. Think Asimov meets The Walking Dead.

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6. The moon. Outland doesn’t count.

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7. Canada. Or just bring back Flashpoint. Whatever’s easier. I’m not picky.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • bastich

    The faster the Discworld procedural TV show gets made, the better.

  • Aaron Schulz

    Are you from chicago?

  • Semilitterate

    How about a series set in Minneapolis/St Paul with Lucas Davenport and that fuckin' Flowers. Great novels, I would watch. Of course, depends on the casting.

  • coryo

    Ugh! Thank you! I am ready to watch just about anything provided it's set anywhere other than New York. Real, imaginary, shitty, whatever. Just not New York.

    Though I would quite literally kill to see anything, anything at all, set in 9th or 10th Century Cordoba.

  • Sadly, Chicago has more murders than your average police procedural, so audiences would totally believe a high body count. And if you prefer to go creepy/weird investigations, set it in the rural Midwest with a Sheriff's department. Crazy stuff be happening out in the middle of nowhere.

  • TK

    My suggestion? Nazi Germany. Inspired by one of two novels:

    Either Robert Harris's Fatherland, about a pair of Berlin Kriminalpolizei detectives in an alternate history where the Germans won the war.

    OR

    Based on the excellent Philip Kerr noir series about Bernie Gunther, a detective in Nazi Germany. The first book takes place during the '36 Olympics and is terrific.

  • mrsdalgliesh

    I have become addicted to Flashpoint reruns. I didn't discover the show until it was almost off the air, so first I caught up via ION and now I'm rewatching. Having Papa Mars leading the team doesn't hurt, but I'm actually devoted to all of the team members. It's a procedural, yes, but one that was really well done.

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    Lindsey Davis writes a great series about a detective called Marcus Didius Falco in early A.D. Rome. It would make an amazing series and Kevin McKidd would be perfectly cast as Falco.

  • e jerry powell

    But what will we do with Ray Stevenson?

    (And good luck getting McKidd out of Shonda Rhimes's clutches.)

  • ZombieMrsSmith

    Falco's best friend is Lucius Petronius Longus who is a soldier in the Vigiles. When Rome was on, I always sort of imagined McKidd and Stevenson as being like Falco and Petro.

  • bastich

    PUNISHER WAR ZONE 2!!!

    ...oh, you meant his character, didn't you...ah, never mind then.

  • Zirza

    This is probably beside the point, but I was entirely underwhelmed by New York too. I had fun, but everyone I know who went there is all IT'S FANTASTIC I LOVE IT BEST CITY ON EARTH and I'm all, what? It's not that I hate it, I just don't like it all that much. I prefer London.

  • maureenc

    Where's 8, 9, and 10?

    As a counter-point to a post-apocalyptic police procedural, what about a police procedural set in a post-scarcity, post-hierarchical, quasi-anarchic, vaguely socialist as-close-to-Utopia-as-humans-can-get-without-getting-creepy society? (Like The Culture, but on Earth and less technologically advanced).

  • Huh. Perils of filling in the headline of the post before writing the article and then not remembering you originally shot for ten before only thinking of seven.

    Scratch that. Um, 8, 9, and 10 are intentionally left as exercises for the reader.

  • I'd love to see Vorenus and Pullo back on my t.v. (would it be zombie Vorenus since he died?) Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing those two back together as different characters. Kevin McKidd is SO WASTED on Grey's Anatomy.

  • PDamian

    Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko deserves his own series. Granted, the movie adaptation of Gorky Park with William Hurt as Renko wasn't very good, but the Renko books are better suited to entire seasons, anyways.

  • Three_nineteen

    Or Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin series, which takes place in the late 19th century. Russian (upper class, of course) period drama mysteries - even if the show sucked, it would be gorgeous to watch.

  • oilybohunk7

    Any moderately sized university campus. Oh man did I enjoy reading the crime report in the campus newspaper to see what tomfoolery had happened that week.

  • ViciousTrollop

    Ewww. Canadian television.

  • bastich

    Do you mean period, or just lately? I mean, does that include You Can't Do That On Television? Forever Knight? Red Green? The Kids In The Hall? SCTV?

    Two Canadian exports I will always support: TV shows and hot actresses.

  • foolsage

    Hey, now. "Continuum" and "Lost Girl" are both quite enjoyable.

  • mc-rox

    and Intelligence is one of the best Canadian shows out there as well as Slings and Arrows and The Newsroom (CBC show not the HBO show).

  • Fabius_Maximus

    I like Outland.

    But yeah, the whole New York thing has been done to death. Although Copper could have worked if better executed.

  • Justin Kuhn

    When I watched Outland I noticed it was a remake of High Noon, in space.

  • Guest

    Can't we just end Procedurals entirely?

  • BWeaves

    This is why I loved Foyle's War. It wasn't about WWII. That just happened in the background.

    Also, Life on Mars, the British version. I loved the whole "Did he time travel?" or "Is this just happening in his head and he's in a coma?" or "Is he dead and this is his afterlife?" thang. Well, plus Gene Hunt.

    Also, I just don't get the appeal of New York.

  • Semilitterate

    Foyles War was great, loved every minute of it and was sorry to get to the end. A Touch of Frost is another outstanding Brit detective series. As an added bonus you get Michael Kitchen as a bad guy in one episode.

  • Bedewcrock

    Great mention with Foyle's War. I just started watching it and am really enjoying it for that very reason. Reminds me of Prime Suspect. Also, I cannot bring my gaze from Paul Milner/Anthony Howell's eyebrows; they're mesmerizing.

  • BWeaves

    Likewise, Sam's hair. I love a good Victory Roll.

  • Bedewcrock

    And then creepily whisper, "Honeysuckle."

  • BWeaves

    When I was little (1960s), I lived in England. Half the girls in my school were named Penelope or Prudence or Honeysuckle or Primrose.

  • Bedewcrock

    I'm utterly delighted you told me that.

  • How about Mars or a space colony? You get the normal procedural effects, a twist of sci-fi and just enough weird/wacky stuff to make it original.

    Or if we gotta set it on Earth and in the US, why not the Wild West? (think Brisco County Jr but more serious).

  • lowercase_ryan

    I'd love to see a Fallout (3, as if it needs to be said) themed procedural. Of course it would be expensive as hell.

  • bastich

    No love for New Vegas?

    (Dammit, now I'm picturing a "good cop/bad cop" scene involving Fisto the sexbot.)

  • Jay Pausner

    Does anyone else recall a TV series being developed by David Cronenberg that would star Tim Roth? What ever happened to that?

    Roth would play doctor John Hunter, surgeon to the stars of the 18th Century (Lord Byron, for example).

    He was famous for grave-robbing, self-experimentation and generally taking medicine and surgery out of the medieval practices and into more modern scientific applications

  • Emm82

    I don't but I'd love to see it!

  • Jay Pausner

    maybe with enough upvotes they'll decide to produce it. At any rate, would Netflix do something like this?

  • DataAngel

    Renaissance Italy

    I have the weirdest boner.

  • e jerry powell

    I have an app for that.

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