That clanging you hear in the distance is the sound of Law & Order making its grand return to television. Almost 12 years after it signed off, the Dick Wolf procedural that started it all is back for Season 21, airing Thursdays on NBC. It's an exciting time to be a Law & Order fan, whether your loyalty lies with the flagship series, you named your pet after SVU's Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), or you never miss Stabler's (Christopher Meloni) adventures on Law & Order: Organized Crime — or all three. We live in a world where we can watch Benson and Stabler rekindle their chemistry at the same time original Law & Order favorites are returning to the courtroom. Plus, it's practically a law that at least one episode from a show in the L&O universe has to be airing on TV at all times (trust us).
If, however, you're in the market for something new to watch but still want a show that checks off some of the Law & Order boxes, we have a few recommendations that should fit the bill. Below, find nine dramas full of investigative and legal storylines, procedural formats, and central partnerships that ooze chemistry.
Looking for more recommendations for what to watch next? We have a ton of them! And if you're looking for more hand-picked recommendations based on TV shows you love, we have those too, as well as recommendations for Netflix (movies/shows), Amazon Prime Video (movies/shows), Hulu (movies/shows), Disney+ (movies/shows), HBO Max (movies/shows), Apple TV+, and Peacock.
If there's simply not enough courtroom drama on Law & Order for your tastes, it's time for you to check out All Rise. Simone Missick plays Lola Carmichael, a former prosecutor who, at the beginning of the series, has just been named Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, and begins to push boundaries the moment she accepts her new position. There's a lot of that case of the week flavor you're looking for from a show like this — All Rise deals with everything from police brutality to drug rings to alt-right extremists, so you won't be missing Dick Wolf's love of weighing in on buzzy topics — but it also delves into the personal lives of the district attorneys, court reporters, and bailiffs that make up the court's culture. The series was canceled by CBS after two seasons, but good news: It's been picked up by OWN for Season 3.
The truth is out there, folks, and the truth is, Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) basically invented investigatory duos who sometimes butt heads but ooze chemistry and always, always have each other's backs (at least in my world, they did). So, if you were into Law & Order: SVU for the Benson and Stabler of it all, you'll find a lot of common ground in The X-Files. You'll also find some uncommon ground: For the uninitiated, The X-Files is a science fiction drama about two FBI agents investigating cases that have to do with the paranormal. Mulder is the ultimate believer, while Scully is a tried-and-true skeptic sent to rein him in. The series is worth watching for their partnership alone. The X-Files — which originally ran for nine seasons starting in 1993, returned for two more in 2016 and 2018, and has a few movies tossed in for good measure — balances a procedural-like case-of-the-week format with a much larger mythology full of government conspiracies and little green men, and really sets the bar for absorbing and emotional science fiction television.
If we're talking about iconic investigatory duos, how can you not mention Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson? Yes, the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman pairing on Sherlock is great, but if you're a Law & Order fan and are looking for something that's Sherlockian but more of a procedural and you love that New York City setting, Elementary is for you. In this CBS drama, which concluded in 2019 with its seventh season, Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes is a recovering addict who consults on cases for the NYPD and, thanks to his father, is forced to take on a sober companion — enter Lucy Liu's Dr. Joan Watson, a former surgeon whose medical expertise and natural talent for investigation work become invaluable to Holmes. Their chemistry, as they go from a bit adversarial to partners to close friends, anchors the entire show. And the series will feel familiar to fans of the case-of-the-week format, but it easily dips into the Sherlock mythology (Natalie Dormer plays a major character who twists that mythology in a new direction) and cleverly pulls from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's source material.
So you're a fan of procedurals but you're looking for something other than cop shows and you're cool with things getting a little weird? Evil is the answer. The Robert and Michelle King creation is the best show currently on TV, and it effortlessly blends case-of-the-week stories while building the show's larger, absolutely wild mythology. Here, however, the cases aren't crimes being investigated by the police; they're miracles and demonic possessions being investigated by the Catholic Church through a ragtag team including priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter), forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), and contractor, tech guy, and extreme skeptic Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). The dynamic of our fearless trio is great from the jump, storylines range from trippy to absolutely horrifying, the writing is smart and bold, and if you're into Benson/Stabler sexual tension, wait until you meet Kristen and David. Anyway, this show is pretty good.
For those who tend to enjoy the courtroom aspects of the Law & Order franchise more than anything else, and are ready to deep dive into legal shenanigans, The Good Fight is doing it the best right now. Technically, the show, gearing up for a sixth season, is a spin-off of Robert and Michelle King's other legal and political drama, The Good Wife, but it almost immediately became very much its own thing. Led by Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald, Delroy Lindo, and Cush Jumbo, The Good Fight follows lawyers at a powerful, predominately Black law firm in Chicago. It's smart, offers up bold and thoughtful social and political commentary both inside and out of the courtroom, and can get wacky and meta when you least expect it. The Good Fight is a ride.
For a layered spin on the detective duos solving crimes together trope, how about a detective investigating and then working with a homicidal psychopath? When Detective Chief Inspector John Luther (Idris Elba) is called in to investigate the murder of Alice Morgan's (Ruth Wilson) parents, he knows immediately that something's off with her but is unable to prove it. Alice becomes obsessed with Luther, and throughout the series they move between enemies and allies and more. Luther already had a whole bunch of demons before meeting Alice Morgan, so it's safe to say this psychological thriller series gets dark and brooding at times.
Why not take a break from big city crime and instead trade it in for some English beachside town crime? The first season of the U.K.'s Broadchurch follows the investigation of one murder that rocks a small town community, and the two subsequent seasons expand the series from there. While the unfolding of the investigation itself is engrossing on its own, it's the characters that fill up this small town that will keep you watching. The cast is led by Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller, a local detective, and David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy, an outsider who comes to investigate and isn't the easiest to get along with. Colman and Tennant are excellent in their respective roles, but it's when they're on screen together that things really pop.
This eight-episode miniseries is based on real-life serial rape cases that took place in Washington and Colorado between 2008 and 2011. The show follows two storylines: first, that of Marie (Kaitlyn Dever), a teen and sexual assault victim who was wrongly charged with lying about her rape after a truly haunting set of circumstances in 2008. The second storyline, which takes place in 2011, focuses on Colorado detectives Rasmussen (Toni Collette) and Duvall (Merritt Wever) who decide to join forces once they realize there are connections between the sexual assault cases they are working on individually, as the two women close in on the serial rapist. Unbelievable is a tough series to watch, but it's a gripping, moving one that will stay with you long after you've finished it.
Serial killers and criminal profiling abound on Law & Order: SVU, but none of that would be possible without the work of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, which was formed in the 1970s after a rise in homicide and sexual assault cases. David Fincher's Netflix series Mindhunter tells the story of that division's origins. FBI Agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) run the unit in the late '70s and travel to prisons across the country to interview incarcerated serial killers — including Ed Kemper and Charles Manson — to learn more about how they think and then apply that information to current cases (the BTK killer case is a major throughline). It's full of quiet, absorbing visuals and haunting, memorable performances.