There may not be any official rules of TV drama series, but ‘formula’ doesn’t have the same ring about it!
In the wrong job
The police are rarely able to solve crimes, unless it is a show about the police. Otherwise, they will be bumbling about, arresting the wrong person. The crime will be solved by the mystery writer/professor/coroner/pathologist/private detective/priest/gardeners… Who are all somehow far cleverer and more observant than the professionals.
If you are a friend or relation of any of the above, be very afraid. Change your name, emigrate, have nothing to do with them.
Because at some point, you will either: be murdered, or; be falsely accused of murder.
Innocent till the last 10 minutes
The first person arrested is innocent. In real life, the obvious suspect is usually the guilty party. And indeed, the only suspect.
In TV dramas, this would make for a very short programme. There have to be false pistes and others who could have ‘done it’.
Murders have to be solved within the hour-long slot the programme fills. Therefore, it will all be solved and wrapped up in the final segment after the last ad break.
That’s that, then…
After the guilty person is led away, there will be a couple of minutes that focus on the main characters of the series. This could be light relief, or the resolution of some personal issues.
A case will often have relevance on the main characters’ personal lives. They will Learn From This. Eg, a character is having issues with their father and along comes a case that is all about a family dispute. No one ever remarks on this coincidence.
In real life, as an example, the population of Wales is around 3 million. Welsh police forces recorded a total of 27 murders in the whole of 2018.
In TV dramas, tiny villages experience at least one murder a week. Often, there is a serial killer on the loose.
It’s a safe bet to say almost all real-life murders are spur-of-the-moment: certainly the domestic kind, or the kind where two people argue, fight, it goes too far…
However, in TV dramas, ordinary people spend a lot of time planning how to murder their spouse/business partner/whoever, including elaborate schemes to provide themselves with a false alibi.
In TV dramas, many murders turn out to actually be manslaughter. This invariably occurs when the accidental killer pushes the victim, who falls and cracks their head on something (eg a fireplace, a table), and dies instantly.
Food for thought
There is never time for breakfast. If one or more characters are sitting down to a meal, someone else will inform them of a new development in the case. This will lead to: “You haven’t got time for that” and the eater reluctantly pushing their half-full plate away, to dash off somewhere.
The new development is usually some new witness to interview, or something else that could easily wait ten minutes.
This is my first post in weeks, could very possibly be the last in weeks, and is totally random. And inspired by the fact I love a good drama series. As long as the murders are 'cosy', no one is tortured or eviscerated, and the detective isn't a tortured soul full of misery.