That’s the TV term for television shows that, for the most part, have a singular story at the heart of each episode. It’s not a gigantic story arc like others.
So when people come to me completely aghast that I haven’t watched, say, Breaking Bad and don’t know their Walter White-isms, they seem completely taken aback.
“It’s the greatest show since The Wire” the TV show Family Guy satirized a few years back. Funny thing is I’ve actually had people say that. I did watch The Wire, it was in the days after my wife passed away, the days before her funeral. That was when I was on family leave and couldn’t really face the world.
But there are only a few things that stick that are those season-long story arcs. Doctor Who is a fixture in our home. I’ll watch it every Saturday and that makes it easy as it’s a weekend. Sherlock. Not the crappy CBS version that has Lucy Liu as Watson and is basically CSI with a British accent. No, the Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss version that’s on PBS. Why? It’s insanely well written, acted, shot, edited and is only 3 episodes long. It’s a hour and a half each, like a feature film, and isn’t on a weekday.
I have a DVR filled with old recordings I’ve never watched. I didn’t get past season 2 of The Walking Dead. I don’t watch 24. My daughter poked fun of me when she came home from college because I had on a crappy episode of CSI and followed that with another crappy procedural of Hawaii 5-o. My reaction to her was simple: I don’t have the time to put into those season-long shows. I don’t have the attention span. I don’t have the time and I have too many other things to do in the meantime. I can have on a crappy procedural with bad puns and poor writing while I cook dinner, make lunches or bake cookies. I can vacuum the floor for a 1/2 hour and still not have any problem keeping up with the plot line. It’s usually that simple.
So tonight I sit, the last of PBS’ Downton Abbey on the screen and I write. In about 15 minutes I’ll immerse myself in the one overlying story arc that taps my imagination. I’ll listen to the quick as a whip dialogue in Sherlock and allow myself the one day of the week I won’t get up at 5:30am and walk . . . tomorrow morning. After all, Sherlock is on until 11:30pm.
But it’s not about the shows. Maybe I was more like my mother all along and never realized it. Maybe I just changed a lot, but the time spent on the couch watching television is time where I could be planning ahead or doing my taxes or working on something else.
It’s the procedurals that give me background noise and take no attention that make the most sense. It’s not like I like the shows, I actually barely tolerate them. But with an episode of Bones playing in the background it’s barely more than having the stereo blaring, which I do quite often. More often than the television these days.
And that’s okay. The procedurals do what they’re meant to do . . . stay in the background. Others may sit in rapt attention, time wasting away . . . for me, they keep me from wasting precious moments, be they with the kids or keeping up with the daily rituals.