What TV Shows translate into great modern20 games? This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's some of the things I watch not only for adventure ideas, but just for inspiration when writing the game.
Also, the shows on this list are in no particular order. I think they're all great.
1. The Shield: simply put, the best cop show of all time, transcending even my beloved Homicide in Seasons 4 and 5, with guest stars Glenn Close and Forest Whittaker.
Also, unlike Homicide, which is a true procedural, something that doesn't make a good d20 game in my experience, the Shield is active. These cops aren't solving crimes during CSI montages in the evidence room.
They solve them by kicking down doors, running through walls (you heard me), punching dudes in the face and asking Miranda who?
2. Spooks: People keep telling me this show is getting worse, but 6 seasons in, it remains exciting, visceral and smart. This is what 24 should be. It's team based, and, even though there isn't quite enough dudes shooting dudes for MY taste, it's active which is the single best quality to look for when trying to figure out if a show will translate into a good game.
3. Dexter: This breaks one of my cardinal rules for media that I look to for game inspiration: it's not team/group-based. Still, this show combines brooding murder, CSI-like detective work and a vigilante serial killer.
4. Burn Notice: Burn Notice is sort of the bastard TV-child of MacGuyver and the A-team in that our hero, Michael Westin, uses brain more than brawn and our team of operatives always has a good montage to help them save the day.
A "burned" intelligence agent (of an unnamed agency), Michael Westin has settled in Miami where he does good for people with his friends, an ex-Navy Seal (played by Bruce Campbell) and an ex-IRA trigger-woman (played by Gabriel Anwar).
This show is great and constantly amazes me in how unselfconscious its characters are about doing the right thing. You might not think a spy, a SEAL and an IRA member would go around helping the good people of Miami every week and well, that might not even make any SENSE.
But it doesn't matter. Burn Notice is a TV show, and it's OK being a TV show.
5. The Academy: This Fox reality show about the LA County Sherriffs boot camp is constantly informative and entertaining, giving little glimpses into real police training.