We’ve all seen countless procedural and spy shows where the main characters are highly competent. And while that’s fun and all, it’s often even more entertaining to watch procedural-adjacent movies and TV shows where the characters are chaotic and/or not-so-stellar at their jobs.
Slow Horses seasons 1-3 are streaming on Apple TV Plus
The British series Slow Horses, starring Gary Oldman, features a ragtag group of disgraced MI-5 agents. Their missions don't usually start out with high stakes, which is a nice change of pace from the typical carbon copy procedurals we can’t get enough of. Of course, after a few twists and turns, the agents find themselves in hotter water than they anticipated.
Slow Horses isn’t the only series that features some, shall we say, eccentric groups of sleuths and spies. While you wait for season 4, check out some shows like Slow Horses.
Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez) and Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) might take home the pineapple when it comes to chaotic crime-fighting duos. The series Psych hinges on fake psychic Shawn Spencer, who assists the police in solving homicides alongside his more pragmatic, yet no less eccentric, sidekick Gus.
The show has a much more on-the-nose goofy comedic styling than the dry humor of Slow Horses, but Shawn and Gus get into an equal amount of trouble. Though plenty of characters question their methods, Shawn and Gus almost always solve the case — they’re just really dramatic about it. Steve Franks created the show that stars Timothy Omundson (Carlton Lassiter), Corbin Bernsen (Henry Spencer), and Maggie Lawson (Juliet O'Hara).
You can’t get much more of an unconventional crime-fighting team than convicted felons who get time off their sentences to catch down escaped convicts. Breakout Kings is an offshoot of Prison Break — and even features OG character T-Bag’s second escape from prison (and subsequent recapture).
Naturally, the team recruited by two U.S. marshals doesn’t always play by the book, making for an interesting twist on each week’s capture. The Matt Olmstead and Nick Santora-led series only lasted two seasons, and it’s one of the lesser-known genre shows. However, it’s still worth a watch. The show stars actors like Domenick Lombardozzi (Ray Zancanelli), Jimmi Simpson (Lloyd Lowery), Malcolm Goodwin (Shea Daniels), Laz Alonso (Charlie Duchamp), and Serinda Swan (Erica Reed).
Sherlock Holmes is the king of out-of-the-box detectives. Like Slow Horses, BBC’s Sherlock takes an unconventional approach to the procedural genre with plenty of dry British humor. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes is a certifiable genius — but he’s also an addict. There’s certainly a method to his madness, but his personality quirks don’t tend to win over the people in his life, and his lone-wolf approach often alienates him from his sidekick Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman).
Doctor Who duo Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat created the series that stars Una Stubbs (Mrs. Hudson), Rupert Graves (DI Lestrade), Mark Gatiss (Mycroft Holmes), Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty), and Louise Brealey (Molly Hooper). Though the series ran from 2010 to 2017, the show only has 15 episodes (though each is movie-length).
Watch on Pluto
The concept of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor naturally lends itself to some maverick-type characters. Each episode of the show Leverage follows a heist led by grieving dad and alcoholic Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) who is a former insurance investigator.
The team consists of grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), retrieval specialist and muscle Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), and thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf). To boot, Spencer has a very British-like dry demeanor (with a bit of a hot-headed streak). Chris Downey and John Rogers created the series that scored a resurrection on Prime Video nearly a decade after its 2012 ending.
Watch on Freevee
The British series MI-5 (formerly known as Spooks) is basically a more competent version of Slow Horses, as it centers around a team within the same MI-5 agency. David Wolstencroft created the fairly traditional procedural show in 2002, which lasted a whopping ten seasons until 2011. However, like most British shows, there are only a handful of episodes each season, leading to a total of 86 episodes.
The show hinges on more do-or-die terrorist threats to national security than its fairly spoofy counterpart Slow Horses. The spy team is led by Peter Firth’s Harry Pearce and includes notable British actors including Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes and David Oyelowo. Firth is the only cast member that appears in all 86 episodes.
Watch on BritBox (via Prime Video)
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Xandra is an entertainment journalist with clips in outlets like Salon, Insider, The Daily Dot, and Regal. In her 6+ years of writing, she's covered red carpets, premieres, and events like New York Comic Con. Xandra has conducted around 200 interviews with celebrities like Henry Cavill, Sylvester Stallone, and Adam Driver. She received her B.A. in English/Creative Writing from Randolph College, where she chilled with the campus ghosts and read Edgar Allan Poe at 3 am.