I am hooked on four great crime drama shows, and I thought I'd try to piece together some things that they all have in common so we writers can glean insight. First, here's my list:
1) The Mentalist
4) Body of Proof
These shows all have major plot points in common, yet they differ from each other in major peculiarities that make the shows unique. Here's my breakdown analysis of each.
Basically, these shows all have similar skeletons based on a male and female lead, various love triangles and love interests, and deeply scarring personal backstories for one, if not both, of the leads that drives them to their work. Even the secondary characters fall into archtypes of the power-wielding boss, socially-awkward underlings, and the trusted sage.
The above description could be tweaked to fit any genre of any TV drama (just about). It's why the shows are on, because it's what people want to watch. But honestly, it's the peculiarities that make each show memorable.
In The Mentalist, Jane's mental acuity and powers of observation make him indispensable to the CBI in solving murders, enough so that his antics are tolerated, but are still a source of tension for Lisbon and her superiors.
In Bones, Brennan argues for science, evidence, atheism. Booth argues for faith, God, and the unproven. Their polar opposite ways of dealing with investigation causes tension and even humor.
In Castle, Castle's knack for storytelling actually comes in handy for the detectives because he thinks outside the evidence box and often compliments Beckett's deductive reasoning, making their jobs more fun and infusing the show with comedic relief.
In Body of Proof, Megan learns life lessons from the corpses she examines, and these lessons are always put by Peter as her sounding board and then applied to her personal relationships with her daughter or mother or side romantic interest somehow.
We have to look for the "peculiarities" in our work, the things that make our general story structures stand out. In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon wrote, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." But when we take an aspect--just one is all it takes--and tweak it, like the above shows have, and we'll have fresh, innovative fiction.
Let's Analyze: What other TV shows might fit into this same story structure?