A procedural drama is a genre of television programming which focuses on how crimes are solved or some other aspect of a law enforcement agency, legislative body, or court of law. Some dramas include a lab or conference room with high-tech or state-of-the-art equipment where the main characters meet to work out the problem. Shows usually have an episodic format that does not require the viewer to have seen previous episodes. Episodes typically have a self-contained, also referred to as stand-alone, plot that is introduced and resolved within the same episode.
The procedural format is popular around the world. In 2011, the director of a TV consultancy said, "The continuing trend is for procedurals because they use a predictable structure." Due to their stand-alone episodic nature, they are more accessible to new viewers than serials. Self-contained episodes also make it easier for viewers to return to a show if they have missed some episodes. In general, procedural dramas can usually be re-run with little concern for episode order.
Procedurals are often criticized for being formulaic. Procedurals are also generally less character-driven than serialized shows. However, some procedurals have more character emphasis than is typical of the format. Some may occasionally feature a storyline stretching over several episodes (often called a story arc).
A popular subgenre is the police procedural.
The procedural drama stars Harmon as police detective Jane Rizzoli and Alexander as medical examiner Maura Isles.