Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (2024)

We've already run down our favorite action/adventure series, but now we're looking at a decade's worth of favorite procedural programming.

This is a reminder that we have almost two dozen favorites lists, and since we couldn't showcase every show on every list, we parsed them out a bit to make it more fun.

And these lists are not in any particular order. They're in the order the entries were received by TV Fanatic staff, so don't read into them!

To qualify, a show that began in another decade had to be airing during the decade, run a larger number of seasons from 2010 through 2019 if it started before 2010 or run the entire decade. Here we go!

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (1)

Person of Interest – CBS (2011-2016)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (2)

Person of Interest started as a fairly standard CBS procedural before slowly morphing into one of the best science fiction shows of the decade.

The series was ahead of its time, exploring the dangers of the surveillance state before the topic became mainstream news and media fodder. Early seasons were dedicated to saving individuals from danger with the help of the all-seeing Machine, while later seasons dove deep into the implications of artificial intelligence.

Alongside saving a new individual each week were themes of morality and redemption, as well as an unsettling world filled with corruption and conflicting ideologies. Bolstered by character-based storytelling and a cinematic score, POI stood far above the average procedural.

Despite going full sci-fi by the end of the series run the show never fully stepped away from its procedural format, and used the procedural style storytelling to emphasize that even when the world is threatened by warring species of artificial intelligence, being there for one person matters.

9-1-1 – FOX (2018-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (3)

9-1-1 feels like much more than an average procedural. It’s a fast-paced, character-driven show that explores the world of the everyday first responder like very few shows have ever done.

The special effects are unlike much else on television currently, and the storylines are raw and relatable. And it doesn’t hurt that the cast boasts supreme talent bringing every story to life.

9-1-1 has continued to grow each season and there’s no telling what heights the show can reach in the next decade.

Criminal Minds – CBS (2015-2020)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (4)

There aren’t many shows on the air that can live beyond the ten-year mark.

Criminal Minds did that and proved that while losing essential cast members can be worrisome; a good ensemble can weather the storm and get even better as the years progress.

What Criminal Minds does well is focus on its characters and how they address the crimes they’re committed to stopping. Because like Person of Interest, the BCU on Criminal Minds needs to evaluate a horrifying situation and ensure that it’s stopped before it continues.

Even though a lot of crimes begin to seem the same, their individual circ*mstances and the approaches the team takes change making each unique while still weaving the thread through a common tapestry.

Blue Bloods – CBS (2010-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (5)

Blue Bloods may be about a family of cops, but make no mistake about it: it’s one of the more realistic cop dramas on the air.

The show relies on an NYPD advisor to help keep the storylines believable and gives viewers three or four cases each week.

Plus we get a glimpse into the political side of things as Frank struggles to remain loyal to the cops he commands despite pressure from the current mayor to do things differently.

Law & Order: SVU – NBC (1999-present)

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Even after two decades, SVU is still one of the best procedurals on TV.

Olivia Benson has gone from being a doe-eyed rookie to being the head of SVU.

She’s doing a great job leading her short-staffed department to close cases and get justice for rape survivors.

Stalker – CBS (2014-2015)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (7)

Stalker was as dark as Criminal Minds, and for the most part, better. With Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott at the wheel, they worked in a team that investigated stalking cases across America.

The guest stars and the supporting cast were just as loveable.

The cases were harrowing, and the overarching mystery was enough to keep us glued to the screen. It’s just a shame the series was canceled as a result of it being made from an outside studio. If there’s one that deserves the revival treatment in the next few years, it’s Stalker.

If tripe like Unforgettable can come back from the dead, then so should Stalker.

Forever – ABC (2014-2015)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (8)

ABC struck gold with this series about a man who returned from the dead every time he died.

The cast alone was enough to keep this show going, but ABC had other ideas.

They canceled the show after just one season, leaving us with one heck of a cliffhanger.

The Resident – FOX (2018-Present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (9)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a medical drama like The Resident.

It has one of the strongest casts currently on TV, and at the helm of it is a criminally underrated Matt Czuchry who spent years quietly stealing scenes in some of the biggest hit shows before he was finally given one of his own.

It’s fast-paced, thrilling, and at times appalling as it delves into the ugly side of medical care. The series is every bit a rebel and renegade as Conrad himself, unapologetically exposing the greed, apathy, and malpractice in a for-profit healthcare system that places profit over patients.

However, amidst all that darkness it balances it out with genuine, multifaceted doctors and nurses who aren’t afraid to break the rules for the betterment of the patients — fighting a flawed system from within.

It’s the “bad boy” of current medical dramas, but with compelling characters, a supremely talented cast, and excellent writing it only gets better with age.

One Chicago Universe – NBC (2014-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (10)

The Chicago Universe of shows features first responders — the fire department, the police, and the doctors that care for those rescued.

Beginning with Chicago Fire in 2012, the shows feature diverse casts that lean on the side of too good looking.

While most of the stories take place in the fire station, the precinct, or the hospital, characters are complex, and relationships drive their actions.

Chicago Fire spawned satellite series Chicago PD and Chicago Med and even the short-lived Chicago Justice. By 2019, the shows function like a well-oiled machine, and if you’ve never lived through one of their three-night crossovers, you’re missing out on seamless storytelling.

Suits – USA (2011-2019)

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The very definition of the best of the decade, this sleek, smart, and fashionable series created by Aaron Korsh is one of the greatest dramas of our time.

The legal drama centered around Harvey Specter and Mike Ross, as the two took on the world of corporate law while attempting to ascend to a level of success.

The drama, inner-office disputes, exploration of greed, ambition, corporate takeovers, crime, salaciousness and more that had our protagonists and their allies’ “backs against the wall” regularly was almost Shakespearian in its portrayal.

With exceptional music, one of the best opening numbers of all time, and incredible fashion that has lauded in more ways than one, the series defined the decade.

And the cast included the incredible talents of Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Rick Hoffman, and Sarah Rafferty. But it also included the most significant role for the current duch*ess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and legend Gina Torres.

The Blacklist – NBC (2013-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (12)

The Blacklist broke into the scene with an intriguing concept, a mysterious leading character in Red Reddington, and of course, James Spader.

It has taken us on many twists and turns for multiple seasons, constantly finding new ways to go into fresh directions.

It’s filled to the brim with intrigue and mystery, and just when you think you’ve unraveled or resolved something, the plot takes you somewhere else.

With some of the best writing on network television, The Blacklist is a standout and has left a significant impact as one of the best shows of the decade.

Blindspot – NBC (2015-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (13)

A naked, tattooed woman with no memory found in the center of Time Square has given us seasons worth of conspiracies, political intrigue, and secret organizations.

The plot of the Blindspot hasn’t stopped spinning and, as a result, left fans tuning in regularly and clambering for more. It’s a new spin on the classic procedural where a “layman” of sorts becomes an asset or assists a law enforcement team.

The series has compelling characters with motivations that vary and people who live in the morally gray area.

There’s nothing one-note about the series or the character of which the stories are about.

Code Black – CBS (2015-2018)

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Featuring a stellar cast and focusing almost exclusively on the emergency room of a busy Los Angeles hospital, Code Black showcased innovative solutions to traumatic cases while allowing for generous growth for characters.

The cast included Marcia Gay Harden, Rob Lowe, Luis Guzman, Moon Bloodgood, and Ben Hollingsworth among others.

They gave terrific performances that helped understand the pressure doctors and other emergency personnel face when they’re always in crisis mode.

Major Crimes – TNT (2012-2018)

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Once Kyra Sedgwick left The Closer in 2012, TNT continued the series with sequel Major Crimes, using Mary McDonnell’s character Sharon Raydor to slide into the lead role.

While Crimes was not quite as potent as the beloved Sedwick series that focused on forcing suspects to confess, it consistently delivered solid crime whodunnit plots.

And the storylines that strung episodes together were especially interesting and often touching. The supporting cast was just as watchable as McDonnell herself, and the four-part series finale was impeccably executed.

Major Crimes lasted only one season less than The Closer’s successful seven-season run.

Covert Affairs – USA (2010-2014)

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Covert Affairs came about at the height of USA Network’s blue sky era, and it was an exciting spy thriller that felt like a mini-movie with each installment.

Viewers globe-trotted with Annie Walker, a smart, beautiful, forthright, and capable CIA agent who was dogged in her pursuit of justice and completing a mission.

Every episode was suspenseful as Annie thwarted terrorist attacks, worked assets, uncovered moles, and maintained an on-again/off-again romantic relationship with visually impaired, badass CIA analyst Auggie Anderson.

Elementary – CBS (2012-2019)

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Elementary is arguably one of the best Sherlock adaptations.

Jonny Lee Miller completely embodied the role of Holmes and took it to new heights, and Lucy Liu co-starring as a female Watson was one of the freshest takes they could make with the series and provided fans with one of the best crime-solving duos of the decade.

Cases of the week never stopped being interesting, but the personal arcs of both Sherlock and Watson are what kept fans hooked and coming back for more.

NCIS Universe – CBS (2003-present)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (18)

NCIS started off continuing the military justice of its parent JAG by instead tackling cases from the cop's point of view.

Mark Harmon's Jethro Gibbs became the franchise standard for the taciturn but wise leader. But engaging supporting characters such as coroner Ducky and lab rat Abby gave the show its real spark.

NCIS also followed the example of CSI with spinoffs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, who both drew from their colorful settings.

The spinoffs also enjoy different types of leaders, ex-spy Hetty in Los Angeles and homeboy Dwayne in N'awlins.

Bones – FOX (2005-2017)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (19)

It was a crime procedural that was never subtle. Not in its opposites attract, will they-won’t they relationships and certainly not in its over the top, the more gruesome, the better crime scenes!

When Bones wasn’t grossing us out, although, for some, that was probably the appeal, it was engaging us with intriguing crimes and a cast of quirky, oddball but lovable characters.

By using the tried and true procedural formula, Bones made sure there were enough twists, turns, and scares to keep us guessing.

Did anyone suspect Zack as a serial killer’s apprentice? Who didn’t sob when Lance was unexpectedly killed? In between the dead bodies, the show gave us love stories, weddings, babies, triumphs, and tragedies.

It mixed life along with death and did it well for more than a decade, and we still miss the crew at the Jeffersonian.

Hawaii Five-0 CBS (2010-present)

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Although it doesn't get enough credit, this was the first successful reboot, which hasn't proven easy to do (right, MacGyver?).

That started with replacing block-of-wood Jack Lord with hunky but humorous Alex O'Loughlin as McGarrett and continuing with skillful reimaginings of Danny, Chin, and Kono.

The series has done an admirable job of incorporating Hawaii's history and scenery into its storylines. It also has managed to survive multiple cast changes, which can be the death knell for long-running series. And no show does carguments better.

The Mentalist – CBS (2008-2015)

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Several crime procedurals have had protagonists who used unconventional means to solve crimes, but none quite so cleverly as The Mentalist.

Patrick Jane was a con man and former “psychic” who used all of his powers of observation and persuasion to track down the serial killer, “Red John” who murdered his wife and child.

Despite the dark concept, The Mentalist had wit, humor, intriguing crimes, unforgettable characters, romance, and a suspenseful mystery that kept viewers guessing, theorizing, and arguing for years.

It engaged fans in a way that few procedurals had before or since.

Castle – ABC – (2009-2016)

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Castle was the most fun you could have while investigating murders. Mystery writer, Richard Castle, found inspiration with his muse, Detective Kate Beckett, as the two teamed up to catch killers.

From the beginning, it had unusual crimes, quick-fire banter, witty dialogue and chemistry between the two leads that was so hot it could set the screen on fire. Castle took the will they-won’t they concept to new levels.

Alas, when the powers-that-be decided to scuttle the traditional wedding fans had been clamoring for at the end of Castle Season 6, things went downhill fast.

Castle Season 8, its final, was so bad that we’ve tried to block it from our memories, but before its downward slide, Castle was as entertaining as anything on TV.

White Collar – USA (2009-2014)

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (23)

No pedestal is too high for the show that finally showcased the charm and sheer gorgeousness of star Matt Bomer.

Sure, there was the fantastic nemesis-turned-bestie team-up of his Neal Caffrey with F.B.I. curmudgeon Peter Burke (Peter DeKay) but this was the Caffrey show top-to-bottom, and Bomer lit the screen with his every mischievous grin, smooth intro, and a tip of his fedora.

Rounding out the crew was the calm and caring anchor of a wife, Elizabeth Burke (Tiffani Thiessen), and good-hearted-despite-himself criminal wheeler and dealer, Mozzie (Willie Garson).

For six snappily-paced seasons, Caffrey and Burke rounded up white-collar criminals in the most entertaining and, for Burke, exasperating ways.

The relationships centered the whirling speed of criminal investigations, and as Agent Burke came to care for and take care of his star asset, Caffrey developed that thing that can prove fatal for career criminals, a conscience.

What is YOUR favorite procedural of the decade?

Our Favorite Procedurals of the Decade (2024)
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