by Aaron Schatz
My wife and I watch a lot of episodic television. I know there are people who have Netflix subscriptions and watch movies all the time, but we basically just use the DVR and watch hour-long procedural dramas, mostly cop shows.
Our favorite show right now might be CBS' Flashpoint. It's a standard formula cop show about the "Strategic Response Unit" in a big city, basically the SWAT team mixed with a lot of hostage negotiation, but the formula is done well and the characterization is interesting. In addition, there's a little added quirk that makes things a little different from your average cop show: The city in question is not New York or Los Angeles. It's Toronto. Part of what makes the show fun is spotting the little differences between American and Canadian culture... the shot of the CN tower whenever they set the scene with overhead shots of the city, the importance of hockey, referring to certain policemen as "constable," one character talking about her prairie upbringing out in "The Hat," and so forth.
You don't need to make your show in Canada to get that interesting spin, of course. We all know that the city of Baltimore was itself a major character in both Homicide and The Wire. The religious stuff in Saving Grace got really hokey at the end, but I loved how the show writers made sure we always knew we were in Oklahoma City. (Yes, people in Oklahoma really are that obsessed with Sooners football, and just like on the show, there's always one quiet guy who has to be different and root for Oklahoma State.)