You're busy and only have time for so many murders per week. So which TV procedurals are actually worth your time? We consulted the plot descriptions for this week's grisliest dramas and, below, offer our best advice on how to manage your viewing schedule.
NCIS (CBS), “ Engaged (Part I)” (Tuesdays at 8 p.m.)
The NCIS team uncovers a discrepancy with DNA remains when investigating the crash of a military plane that had been transporting caskets.
CSI: Miami (CBS), "Dead Ringer" (Sundays at 10 p.m.)
When Horatio finds another corpse with missing eyes, everything points to his nemesis, "The Taunter" — except he has an airtight alibi.
Nothing in particular wrong with the plot lines for either O.G. NCIS or CSI’s sunniest spin-off this week. Promised up top: political intrigue, the skirting of sensitive international affairs, the grim stares of tall men in uniforms. Promised down below: eyes sockets that do not have eyeballs in them. Here’s the problem, then. Neither “Engage” (which is a "Part 1" episode) nor “Dead Ringer” (which references “The Taunter,” a previously established killer) are not standalone episodes. This kind of thing does, unfortunately, happen from time to time with procedurals. But we come here, primarily, for grisly visuals and stories that can be resolved in 42 minutes. Context? Multi-episode arcs? Fleshed-out characters? It’s just not the same.
NCIS: LA (CBS), “Greed” (Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)
When a Navy ID is found on a dead body tied to a hazardous material smuggling case, NCIS is granted permission to investigate in Mexico and asked to help locate the missing materials.
Most procedurals are lucky if they can leave their usual set for the occasional scene set in a highway underpass. NCIS: LA, however, seems to charge down to Mexico willy-nilly. As always with our neighbors to the South, the implication of heightened drug-war violence is a big selling point.
Criminal Minds (CBS), “There’s No Place Like Home” (Wednesdays at 9 p.m.)
When a series of tornadoes hits Kansas, the BAU is called in to investigate bodies of young boys that turn up in the aftermath of the storms.
More exotic locations! This week, the BAU team goes to … oh, erm, Kansas. Because homicidal tornadoes are on the loose. Weather as a procedural villain? Not too shabby, Criminal Minds.
CSI (CBS), “Brain Doe” (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)
When the CSI team arrives at a car crash, they find three casualties and a human brain that doesn't belong to any of the victims.
Boom! Exposed brains promised right off the bat. You could tune into just the first five minutes, watch Ted Danson hilariously handle a hippocampus, and get your fill of bloody body parts. But we also really want to know how that extra brain got there. Was it driving the car?!
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS), " Lapa'au” (Mondays at 10 p.m.)
The FIVE-0's investigation into the suspicious plane crash and death of a customs agent takes an unexpected turn when it is revealed that the victim was dead before takeoff. Meanwhile, Danny finds himself the proud caretaker of an orphaned dog. Greg Grunberg ("Heroes") reunites with Masi Oka when he guest stars as Jeff Morrison, a customs supervisory agent.
Is this a subtle homage? The last time a suspicious plane carrying Greg Grunberg crashed in Hawaii it was on a show called Lost. If it's a faithful tribute, this episode will be awesome for its first 39 minutes, then flub the last three.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC), “Russian Brides” (Wednesdays at 10 p.m.)
A murder in Brighton Beach reveals a thriving but deadly foreign bride business. When a young woman is found brutally murdered, the SVU detectives use her distinctive tattoos to identify her as a recently engaged Russian mail-order bride. Upon questioning her distraught fiance (guest star Timothy Busfield), they learn that she was kidnapped and held for ransom the night of their engagement party. While the detectives follow the money to a deadly blackmail scam run by the Russian Mafia, Captain Cragen goes undercover as a sad and lonely suitor to lure out a killer.
Everyone in New York knows Russian-dominated South Brooklyn neighborhood Brighton Beach is the most hilarious place in the city, but an attempt at its own Jersey Shore, Russian Dolls, has mostly failed. You know why? Not enough subplots involving mail-order brides! We haven’t even seen this SVU episode yet, and we already want it spun off into its own movie franchise (also starring Timothy Busfield, of course). This week’s runaway winner.