Follow TV Tropes


Crime Time Soap

Go To

A play on Prime Time Soap, a Police Procedural drama that focuses as much on the complicated personal lives of its characters as it does on the crimes themselves.

As a crime and punishment show ages and begins to exhaust the variations of its genre, the producers will start to crank up the soap elements of the show to compensate.


  • Against the Wall that followed a young woman from a cop family who to realize her dream of being a detective joins Chicago PD's Internal Affairs department, and the rift it forms within her family, particularly her anti IA father.
  • A notable UK example of this is The Bill between 2002 and 2005, after a lengthy run as a straight Police Procedural and crime drama show. The shift in focus was not universally appreciated, to put it mildly.
  • Black And White is a Taiwanese Series involving two detectives, the female Forensic Doctor, and the only daughter of the local crime boss.
  • Blue Bloods is a long runner of 11 seasons (and got renewed for a 12th season) revolving around the Reagans family and their devotion to the New York City law enforcement.
  • Half the episodes on Blue Heelers are not about the Victim of the Week or trying to arrest the local psycho, interstate drug dealer or serial killer. They're about Dash coming to terms with having cancer, Tess fighting for custody of Hayley and Evan and Susie's relationship.
  • Body of Proof follows a former Surgeon turned Medical Examiner after a car accident messed up her hands, while also trying to repair her relationship with her daughter.
  • Bones has always been a very character-driven show, focusing on their lives as much as the crime of the week.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine is both an affectionate and deconstructive parody of this, portraying the cops as bunny ears lawyers who spend more time getting into bizarre antics than solving crimes.
  • Castle: There haven't been any complicated soapy turns so far, but the focus definitely is on the private lives.
  • Without Brenda's truly wacky personal life, The Closer is a straight-up Detective Drama. With it, the show crosses the line into this.
  • CSI: NY headed into this territory as well, for a while, especially when Mac's ex-girlfriend Peyton returned toward the end of season 6 and it looked like they'd end up in a love triangle with the pretty doctor he'd just begun a flirtatious friendship with.
  • CSI: Cyber had a fair amount of personal drama for a show fresh off its first season. Things didn't really change much in the show's second (and final) season, with a couple of major personal subplots, including one about one of the teams suing the F.B.I. in relation to the case on which he was busted in, forcing him to join the Cyber team in the first place.
  • Day Break (2006) was this, with a twist: Detective Brett Hopper was framed for murder and stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, which allows him to unravel the conspiracy one angle at a time. Still, the series revolved as much about the personal lives of Brett and his family and colleagues as it did on the mystery.
  • Hill Street Blues is a 1980s series that follows the lives of the staff of a police station in a large city and has inspired many other shows of the same genre and theme. Possibly the Trope Maker and certainly the Trope Codifier for pioneering genre staples like parallel episode plots, one of them focused mainly on the police procedural side and often spanning multiple episodes and another, usually but not always more lighthearted one about the personal lives and relationships of the main characters.
  • House started as a Police Procedural about chasing diseases instead of criminals. Now it's a Crime Time Soap about chasing criminals instead of diseases.
  • The typically plot-driven of Law & Order veered into this territory for its 7th and 8th seasons.
  • Following the departure of the original showrunner René Balcer after season 5, Law & Order: Criminal Intent began to veer down this path for the remainder of its run.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit made its name by starting off as far more character-driven than its predecessor. How soapy it gets depends on the season and the episode, but the most recent seasons play it straight.
  • If it is possible for a book series to fit this definition, then Midnight Louie is it. The series is supposed to be a series of mystery novels with the twist that certain chapters are narrated by cats, usually Midnight Louie, occasionally his daughter Midnight Louise. However, the books are just as much about the messy personal lives of the major cast of characters, which includes Louie's female owner, her one-time magician flame, her new boyfriend, a stalker that is after them all, and a police lieutenant caught up in their adventures who's a single mother.
    Louie: So, there you have it, the usual human stew—folks good, bad, and hardly indifferent—totally mixed up and at odds with one another and within themselves. Obviously, it is left to me to solve all their mysteries and nail some crooks along the way. Like Las Vegas, the City That Never Sleeps, Midnight Louie, private eye, also has a sobriquet: the Kitty That Never Sleeps. With this crew, who could?
  • NCIS is about the adventures of a navy special investigations unit, led by a diverse cast of characters, and their ability to handle the job. PTSD is acknowledged by the show, but as per Hollywood, rarely lasts beyond the episode.
  • NYPD Blue is a Police Procedural drama that deals with the complicated, personal lives of a detective team in Manhattan.
  • Red Rock is set in the fictional Dublin seaside area of Red Rock, it focuses on the local Garda station as they deal with crimes both major and minor. As well as, initially, the activities of two local crime families.
  • Rookie Blue follows the ups and downs of the lives of five rookie cops from Toronto.
  • Without a Trace cranks up the drama to literally insane levels with the personal life of Jack Malone. When he's apparently murdered in one episode it actually comes as a relief, more than anything else.
  • London's Burning was a case of "same trope, different emergency service" for most of its run (naturally enough given that series creator Jack Rosenthal got his start working on Coronation Street before going on to be the biggest name in Kitchen Sink Drama), and like a lot of these examples would ultimately end up over-emphasising the soap opera storylines at the expense of its original premise, much to the fanbase's dismay.
  • Taiyo Ni Hoero innovated this for Japanese TV. The lives and personalities of a detective sometimes were the central focus in many an episode. The Character Focus detectives also tended to argue sometimes with their coworkers on multiple occasions.
  • Tokusou Saizensen also ran with this, sometimes for tragic effect. Episode 50 for example, saw the death of the head investigator's daughter at the hands of a Corrupt Cops, which forced him to go into Heroic BSoD mode for the next one. In fact, it's so traumatizing that said character forever holds a grude against corrupt police officials, something that turns up in the series finale.