Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Procedural: Perfect Knitting Television

two separate
yet equally important
Like many serious knitters, I am an inveterate consumer of television.

(It's not just TV, for the record... am also a huge fan of intelligent radio documentaries, plays and readings.  BBC Radio 4 I'm looking at you.)

I joke sometimes that I'm not sure if I knit so that I can watch TV, or watch TV so that I can knit.

And my favourite kind of knitting TV is the procedural: the various Law & Orders, the CSIs and their ilk.  You name it: Homicide, Castle, Criminal Minds, Bones, The Mentalist, Spooks (MI-5), the original Prime Suspect, Cracker, The Wire in the Blood, and so on. The TV shows that feature detectives solving a crime.  (Any good recommendations?  Leave 'em in the comments!)

Hey, if someone dies before the opening credits, I'll watch it.

It doesn't have to be a murder - I enjoyed Law & Order: Criminal Intent during its run, and sometimes those stories were about fraud and robbery - but it most often is.

I find this kind of TV both engaging and satisfying - there's a puzzle, and there's a conclusion.  (Not to say I don't like TV without a conclusion; am currently totally obsessed with Fringe. Although on the surface it's also a procedural, there is a larger story arc that's fabulously complex and open-ended.)

And it's also very easy to watch while paying attention to something else. The point about the procedural is that they follow a procedure. The solving of the mystery follows a procedure; a set of rules the cops much (roughly) follow. The drama itself also follows a procedure. The procedural shows follow the same structure: a crime is committed, detectives are called. Evidence is collected. Suspects are interviewed. Someone is arrested. This person is proven to be innocent and released.  Evidence is reviewed. The right person is arrested. And then the cops go out for breakfast/coffee/beer.

This repetitive aspect is what makes them so very satisfying - but also very easy to watch while knitting.

If I miss a few key lines of dialogue because I'm counting stitches, I'm not going to get lost. If I need to leave the room to get a new ball of yarn, I know that the suspect they have in interrogation in the first 20 minutes is not guilty. If there's a particularly grisly crime scene (Criminal Minds, The Wire in the Blood) or autopsy (CSI), I've got something to distract myself with.

I can happily watch my "murders" all afternoon, knitting away. When I've got a knitting deadline, my TV supplier Norman knows he needs to ensure that I've got a bunch of DVDs or episodes stacked up on the DVR. It doesn't really matter if they are old or new, if they are set in the present day or the past, if it's a serial murder or a story about insurance fraud; if it's got a crime and detectives, I'll watch it.

Sure, if the detective is charming, funny and handsome (Castle), or the social analysis particularly intelligent and thought-provoking (Homicide), or the setting fabulously interesting (Wallander), even better.  But honestly, all I need is a crime and some cops.

The funny thing is that I've tried watching some of these without knitting in hand, and it's not nearly as much fun. The shows dealing with the more grisly or nasty crimes are difficult to watch and discomfiting. The lighter shows are often uninteresting or silly. The dated look or style of some of the older shows grates.

And I do enjoy other types of TV (Fringe, as mentioned above); and costume dramas like Downton Abbey, and of course, the single most engaging and intelligent piece of television ever made, The Wire.  And there's movies on DVD, too, of course.  (And I have pretty good access to those...)

But I watch at lot less of the "good stuff": the movies and high quality, intellectually challenging and visually engaging television.  Why? Because if I do miss a few key lines of dialogue, I could be in serious trouble.  And the engaging visuals demand to be looked at.  And foreign films require me to read the subtitles.

So it's not just that the procedural is good knitting television: I'd go so far as to say that knitting is really the best way to consume these shows, and these are really the best things to knit to.


Anne said...

I'm hooked on many of the shows you mention. Might I add "Person of Interest." It's any interesting twist on the procedural: they have to figure out what the crime (or generally evil act) will be and try to prevent it. It requires a little more attention to the dialogue, but the rhythm is similar (their first solution won't be correct). Also, I'm sure you're already familiar with "House" which is just a classic procedural set in a hospital. We always look at the clock when they make a diagnosis; we know it won't be correct until it's within the last 10 minutes. But maybe the medical stuff doesn't interest you.

Jocelyne said...

Leverage! White Collar! Luther!

(I am also a huge fan of the procedurals and find that the only thing I get more knitting done with is live sporting events. Although sometimes the shouting of numbers gets in the way.)

Sally BC said...

A woman after my own heart. Add Midsommer Murders (there are something like 18 or 20 series) - a mystery, not too grisly deaths (or not shown), and an engaging detective. Plus beautiful settings in the mid-England countryside, but perfect to glance at while knitting.

Oh and any of the Inspector Morse - my all time favorite. Set in Oxford, wonderful scenery but a great mystery and relationship between Morse and Sargent Lewis.

Meg said...

I agree completely! In fact, if I try to watch TV without knitting in my hands, I have a really hard time. We like the same shows, too!

Maryjean said...

I'm a huge MI-5 fan, and may--just may--have watched each episode twice! Guilty.

My recommendations are: Sherlock, Damages and The State Within (I'm going to double-check that title as it could be wrong.).

Now, I need to watch these all while huddled over my computer (no TV!) so I think that explains all knitting mistakes.

Melissa said...

Inspector Lewis (of Morse fame) has his own series now, with a dishy young and tall side kick. And Inspector Lynley makes for a good watch. I'll second Midsomer Murders, available on Netflix!

I am a sucker for sci fi as well as procedurals, and knit my way through Firefly (with Nathan Fillion of Castle) and 10 seasons of Stargate SG-1.

Rayna said...

"Hey, if someone dies before the opening credits, I'll watch it."

Then you MUST watch NCIS: LA. I can't vouch for the original, but I love the LA version!

Dana said...

For something a little more local, try Murdoch Mysteries. It's set in Toronto in the 1890s.

Bonnie said...

Agreed! We've started watching Unforgettable, and I enjoy it while knitting but think it would move too slowly if I weren't otherwise occupied. We also watch Eureka, Warehouse 13, Leverage, and White Collar. I like all of those and have no problem knitting during them.

StitchyAlli said...

Oh I'm so with you on Criminal Minds! Did you know that A&E often has a marathon of episodes back to back on Sundays?? And NCIS is definitely fabulous too, as is NCIS LA!

Unknown said...

It's nearing the end of a long run, but Psych is an often funny almost-procedural. Someone usually does die, and there are definitely cops doing cop work, but the star of the show is a detective who claims he's psychic but it's a psych (a way to get around breaking-and-entering, or something else harmless but illegal, in almost every episode).

Mary said...

You and I could sit down for an afternoon of TV! I crave my afternoons of knitting. I'm a police procedural and costume drama fan. Some of the other commenters hit on some of my other favorites--Midsomer Murders and Inspector Morse (plus the new ones featuring Lewis). Knitters TV club! I'm also loving all the Desperate Housewives episodes streaming on Netflix. I'm in to Season Three. There is plenty of murder and mayhem in that series, plus some laughs and a few tears. It is definitely not a soap!