Badge of Entertainment: 24 Riveting Police Procedural Shows

Who doesn’t love a good police procedural television series? The popular genre always intrigues and entertains viewers but can also comfort us as we witness bravery, integrity, and justice served. From gritty dramas to ones with heaps of comedy or charm, these are 24 of the most riveting procedural shows.

1. Columbo (1971-1978)

Peter Falk in Columbo (1971)
Image Credit: Universal Television.

Arguably the finest television detective, the disheveled but brilliant Lieutenant Columbo delights audiences in one of the most unique shows of the genre. Unlike most other procedurals, Columbo always begins with a culprit committing what they believe is a perfect murder.

The show’s brilliance and fun come from Columbo’s eccentric personality and deductive skills as we watch him put together each clue and solve the crime. With his iconic trench coat and penchant for saying, “Just one more thing,” there’s no more extraordinary detective show than the 1970s gem.

2. NCIS (2003-Present)

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Image Credit: CBS and Belisarius Productions.

With 20 seasons and counting, the enthralling NCIS follows the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Washington, D.C. While the intrepid team investigates serious crimes involving the military and government, we also follow the ups and downs of their personal lives. The steady and reliable NCIS defines comfort with its likable characters we care about and an acute sense of right and wrong. 

3. Castle (2009-2016)

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Image Credit: Milmar Pictures.

The undeniably charming Castle revolves around the affable mystery writer Richard Castle, who begins to follow homicide detective Kate Beckett around for inspiration. Soon, Castle and Beckett prove to be a formidable crime-solving team.

With fellow detectives Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito, Castle’s daughter Alexis, mother Martha, and medical examiner Lanie, the show’s heart is complete. And we get an equally humorous and gripping series. The weekly and long-running storylines always intrigue, but the characters make Castle a fantastic gem, with some of the best romantic and platonic relationships ever put to screen. 

4. Monk (2002-2009)

Monk (2002)
Image Credit: Universal Television.

Adrian Monk gives Columbo a run for his money for the most eccentric detective in this poignant and witty series. Monk’s premise centers on the former police detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder who consults with the San Francisco Police Department. Haunted by the murder of his wife Trudy, this long-running mystery gives the series its heart. Likewise, the weekly mysteries and likable characters give the show charm and humor. 

5. The Mentalist (2008-2015)

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Image Credit: CBS Television, Inc.

The Mentalist follows Patrick Jane, a man with keen observational skills who consults on cases with the California Bureau of Investigation. Jane’s blunt but charming personality makes him unpredictable. But his infallible instincts and talents make him an invaluable team member that also includes detectives Teresa Lisbon, Wayne Rigsby, Grace Van Pelt, and Kimball Cho. 

6. Psych (2006-2014)

Psych (2006)
Image Credit: Universal Media Studios.

Hilarious, addictive, delightful, and often poignant, Psych follows Shawn Spencer, an incorrigible man-child with a good heart, acute observation talents, and a photographic memory. Pretending his skills are psychic abilities, he teams up with his lifelong best friend Gus to consult with the Santa Barbara Police Department. Shawn and Gus are the goofy counterparts of the strait-laced detectives Carlton Lassiter and Juliet O’Hara. Still, all together, they make an impressive team.

7. Criminal Minds (2005-Present)

Criminal Minds (2005)
Image Credit: CBS Studios.

The intense and gritty series Criminal Minds centers on a revolving team investigating the most ruthless criminals imaginable. In order to get into the mindset of the most evil culprits requires people of high moral fiber, tremendous fortitude, sharp intelligence, and unquestionable thick skin. Consequently, we see the juxtaposition of society’s polar opposites in riveting and dark storylines. 

8. Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)

Hill Street Blues (1981)
Image Credit: MTM Enterprises.

Hill Street Blues was a revolutionary series in its time and still holds up as one of the finest police procedurals ever. From its first episode, we are entrenched in the daily proceedings of a Chicago-inspired precinct, following the low-level beat cops, high-ranking detectives, and the respected but imperfect police captain. Ushering in the ensemble drama series, Hill Street Blues consistently would surprise and enthrall its viewers. 

9. Elementary (2012-2019)

Elementary (2012)
Image Credit: CBS Television Studios.

This modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes takes the classic characters and breathes invigorating life into them. Holmes is a self-centered, eccentric, and brilliant recovering addict. Joan Watson is a former surgeon who becomes his sober companion and finds she has a knack for assisting in his crime-solving. 

Holmes and Watson consult with the New York Police on various investigations, learning much about themselves and forming an untenable bond. Elementary gives the Holmes characters a fresh and exciting appeal in this steady, profound, and under-the-radar series that tackles important themes of recovery and loyalty.

10. Blue Bloods (2010-Present)

Blue Bloods
Image Credit: CBS.

Blue Bloods holds a unique distinction from other shows of the genre. This poignant New York set series centers on one family with a significant number of members in law enforcement. In the Reagan family, patriarch and police commissioner Frank leads with solid convictions, inspiring his children to follow in his footsteps.

These include hard-headed detective Danny, fair-minded assistant district attorney Erin, and by-the-book beat cop Jamie. Blue Bloods balances family drama and criminal investigations with ease, giving audiences characters we grow to care about deeply and storylines that demonstrate a strong sense of justice. 

11. NYPD Blue (1993-2005)

NYPD Blue (1993)
Image Credit: Steven Bochco Productions.

Gritty and provocative, NYPD Blue follows the homicide detectives of New York City’s 15th precinct. The series consistently stuns its viewers and brings them to tears with intense storytelling and very different characters who do not always follow the rules. The fascinating dichotomy between brash Sipowicz and his more strait-laced partners Simone and Sorensen provides the show’s emotional and raw backbone, drawing in droves of audiences.

12. White Collar (2009-2014)

White Collar (2009)
Image Credit: Fox Television Studios.

White Collar is a breezy and stylish procedural following charismatic art thief, forger, and confidence man Neal Caffrey. In Catch Me If You Can fashion, his steadfast purser, FBI agent Peter Burke, suggests the imprisoned Neal use his particular skill set to assist them on cases.

And he does just that, forming a strong bond with Peter but always keeping his criminal ways simmering under the surface. With witty banter and moving storytelling, White Collar delights us endlessly.

13. Without a Trace (2002-2009)

Without a Trace (2002)
Image Credit: Jerry Bruckheimer Television.

Without a Trace more than deserves the descriptor riveting. The series follows the FBI Missing Persons Department. Led by stoic and stalwart Jack Malone, this intrepid team uses psychological profiling and other tools to find the missing victims in the crucial 72-hour window. This fascinating series gives us a glimpse into these divisions’ tireless work that brings the innocent home to their loved ones.

14. JAG (1995-2005)

JAG (1995)
Image Credit: Paramount Network Television.

JAG comes from the creator of NCIS and features a similar tone, quality, and rich storytelling. This series centers on Naval Pilot Harmon Rabb and Marine Sarah “Mac” Mackenzie, lawyers for the U.S. Navy’s Judge Advocate General division. With a touch of humor, gripping storylines, and a fantastic will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Harm and Mac, JAG takes us on an incredible journey of poignant and grounded proportions.

15. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015)

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000)
Image Credit: Jerry Bruckheimer Television.

CSI brought the lives of forensic investigators into our homes for the first time in the 2000s, making us all feel like we could be crime solvers as well. This series features an impressive rotating cast and provocative storytelling about a CSI team in Las Vegas. The spin-offs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York are equally enthralling, with the original series giving audiences a glimpse into this dark world.

16. Law and Order (1990-2009, 2022-present)

Law and Order
Image Credit: NBC.

How many shows feature an unmistakable intro that’s only two notes? The “dun-dun” sound from Law and Order is instantly recognizable, but that’s not all this raw and riveting series has going for it. With both a long-standing and ever-changing cast, Law and Order features a unique and powerful narrative framework. 

17. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-present)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Image Credit: 2017 NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

The spin-off of Law and OrderSpecial Victims Unit is the favorite for many thanks to its affecting stories and cast led by Mariska Hargitay. These cases involve what they deem the “most heinous crimes,” with many involving women and children. It’s often tough to watch but always engrossing, impeccably acted, and emotional.

18. Murdoch Mysteries (2008-Present)

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Image Credit: Shaftesbury Films.

This Canadian period series follows William Murdoch of the Toronto Constabulary, the kind-hearted, steadfast, highly moral, and ingenious detective of Station House Number Four. With his love, Dr. Julia Ogden, by his side, he and his fellow officers George Crabtree and Inspector Thomas Brackenreid solve every crime with intelligence and integrity. 

19. Bones (2005-2017)

Bones (2005)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox Television.

Bones is for those who enjoy a mix of macabre and humor. The series follows the awkward but sweet forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan. Her genius brain allows her to see what others miss. With FBI agent Seeley Booth and their team, they investigate the most unsolvable crimes. Also featuring a lovely love story between the two leads, Bones has 12 seasons of reliable and poignant entertainment. 

20. Forever (2014-2015)

Forever (2014)
Image Credit: Patrick Harbron/Warner Bros. Television.

Wholly original and moving, Forever tells the story of Henry Morgan, a man whose death and rebirth trigger a perpetually ageless state. As he attempts to find normalcy with only a now much older son to confide in, Henry becomes a consultant for the NYPD. His work as a medical examiner proves helpful. But his years of life, wisdom, and emotional intelligence lend him the most. Forever proves that a procedural show can follow a tried and true formula and give audiences something new and exciting.

21. Cold Case (2003-2010)

Cold Case (2003)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television.

Ask anyone in law enforcement, and they will tell you cold cases are the most challenging crimes to solve. This series examines the crimes that feel impossible to solve with a team of investigators whose tireless work helps bring justice and closure to the friends and families of many victims. Utilizing a flashback narrative style, Cold Case draws you in and thoroughly engages.

22. Miss Scarlet and the Duke (2020-present)

Miss Scarlet & the Duke (2020)
Image Credit: GBH Boston.

The stylish and atmospheric Miss Scarlet and the Duke follows Eliza Scarlet, a woman who decides to open a private detective agency in 19th-century London. But because she’s a woman in an age where they had little power or respect, Eliza must work twice as hard and play by her own rules. On her side, but often in contention with her, is William “Duke” Wellington, the lead inspector of Scotland Yard and Eliza’s dear friend. 

23. Grantchester (2014-2023)

Grantchester (2014)
Image Credit: Kudos/Masterpiece co-production.

Grantchester is another series that follows the basic procedural formula but with an original premise. The 1950s story centers on young clergymen who devote their time to their faith while also investigating mysterious and dangerous happenings in his small village near Cambridge. With the help of a gruff police detective, they form an unlikely team. And the show is a treasure. 

24. Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)

Magnum, P.I. (1980)
Image Credit: Universal Television.

The 1980s classic Magnum, P.I. still holds up today for its engaging characters, captivating storytelling, and star Tom Selleck’s legendary mustache. Magnum is a Vietnam War veteran and private investigator in Hawaii, solving many crimes with panache and tenacity. More than any other procedural show, Magnum, P.I.’s tone is pure escapist entertainment that enthralls its viewers.

Source: (Reddit).

Marianne Paluso is a freelance writer and artist and holds a Masters Degree in English and Children’s Literature. Inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture, she especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She joined Wealth of Geeks in 2021, and has also contributed to The Nerd Machine, Catholic News Agency. She writes on her own website, creates art that is sold on Redbubble and Etsy, and also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video