A few years ago, it seemed that shows in which a group of characters encounter and neatly resolve a crime or court case in a single episode, a staple of TV since its earliest days, were the leap to the streaming future. Can’t apply. ,

In the 2010s, as Netflix emerged, several highly successful processes were shown the door. NBC unintentionally canceled “Law & Order”. CBS canceled “CSI,” the popular police show, as well as three “CSI” spinoffs. Many television executives felt that a story told over the course of an entire season, like “Big Little Lies” or “House of Cards,” would be better suited for Netflix-style binge-watching.

As it turns out, the old-fashioned processes are not only alive, they’re thriving in a new medium.

The network’s previous library of series such as “Criminal Minds” (2005–2020), “NCIS” (2003–present), “The Blacklist” (2013–present) and “Bones” (2005–2017) were among the most streamed shows from 2020, according to Nielsen’s Streaming Ranker, which totals series by the number of minutes watched.

In fact, “Criminal Minds” was the most-watched show on streaming in 2021, beating out cultural phenomena such as “Squid Game,” “The Great British Baking Show” and “Bridgerton.” In 2022, “NCIS” was watched more than “Ozark” and the movie “Encanto”.

And “Law & Order”? It started again last year.

One of the reasons the show ranks so high is because there are hundreds of episodes for viewers to watch. For example, “Criminal Minds” has over 300 episodes, and it seems that many viewers automatically play the next episode over and over again. Many of the most popular shows with story arcs that last a season or more have very short episodes. There are nine in the “Squid Game”.

Part of the appeal is that procedurals have a low barrier to entry. To a fault they’re simple – if viewers zone out or scroll their phones, they won’t be missing much; Nor is there a need for online recaps or podcasts to help decode complex plot points.

Veteran creator of series such as “Allie McBeal” and “The Practice,” David E. Kelly and now producer of a show for Peacock, “The Calling,” said it’s a big draw.

“It only makes sense that a viewer is going to say: ‘I want to watch something. I don’t have time to watch 100 hours of it or 10 hours, but I want to devote three, four hours to it. I want to feel like I ate a whole meal,'” he said.

He continued: “You feel like you have the full experience of storytelling in at least three or four episodes, and then you can choose to go back to that restaurant or not for another meal.”

With “Dragnet” in the 1950s, or “Murder: She Wrote” in the 1980s and ’90s, or “Law & Order: SVU” in the 2000s, procedurals survived earlier technological changes.

Steven Binder, an executive producer on “NCIS,” said he believed older procedurals and other network-style dramas had a “universal appeal” that allowed them to thrive in streaming libraries.

“When I look at other shows in history that have been as popular as ‘NCIS,’ going back to ‘Gunsmoke’ or ‘Star Trek,’ you have to have the characters on the show work together to solve problems. ,” They said. “Our show is not about fighting between characters.”

He explained that “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry had a concept: no conflict between Starfleet crews.

“It was important to have that moment when he said, ‘No, we’re not going to have our characters fight each other — they’re all a team, and the conflict is going to come externally,'” he said. “That’s what our show is: It’s capable, capable people working together to solve problems. I think that’s what people have always loved to see. They’re heroes.

In 2020, CBS President George Cheeks, who had previously been a top NBC executive, noted that “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds” were doing well on Netflix.

As a network executive, Mr. Cheek said, people often asked him why he wasn’t following the Netflix model of the mid-2010s, where he could charge $10 million or more per episode for premium serialized dramas. were.

“I would always politely remind them,” he said, “that shows that you think are no longer of value are demonstrating value on both broadcast TV and streaming.”

The most popular shows on Paramount+, home to popular streaming series such as “Survivor” and “1923,” processionals, with five series in its top 10 most-watched list over the past few months, according to internal Paramount+ data. dominance. It was reviewed by The New York Times.

Series like “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds,” “Blue Bloods,” “FBI” and “Seal Team” are all in the top 10. Similarly, on free streaming services like Pluto, procedurals tend to perform very strongly.

“There is a beginning, a middle and an end, and you don’t have to watch prior episodes to enjoy the current episode,” said Tom Ryan, co-founder of Pluto TV and president of streaming at Paramount. Town Podcast In October. “A lot of the material on Pluto that performed so well is exactly that.”

It also helps that the format travels well outside the United States. Mr. Cheeks said that “CSI,” “NCIS” and “FBI” have high interest in international markets “in a way that original streaming does not.”

When Mr. Cheeks saw that “Criminal Minds” was doing well on streaming, he urged Paramount+ to pick it up again. “Criminal Minds: Evolution” debuted in November, two years after the series was canceled on CBS. It will continue its weekly run on Paramount+ through January 12.

And while the show has been reimagined a bit, the main story line remains.

“When you turn on ‘Criminal Minds,’ you know we’re going to take you into the dark, we’re going to scare you — and then we’re going to save you,” said Erica Messer, an executive producer. said “Criminal Minds: Evolution” who worked on the original iteration. “A lot has changed during the show’s 15-plus years. But that hasn’t changed.

“I guess there’s a comfort in knowing that I’m going to be really scared,” she continued, “but I’m going to solve the mystery with these heroes.”

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