Top Police and Detective Shows: Television's best

by theNeoplatonist | created - 24 Mar 2015 | updated - 05 Jan 2017 | Public

In alphabetical order...The police/detective shows that most appeal to the forensic sensibilities of theNeoplatonist. ----Excluding shows in which the crime-fighter is a superhero (Batman, Green Arrow), or operates in sci-fi mode (Flash, Fringe, The X-Files) or espionage/CIA mode (Callan, The Equalizer, Spooks). Most of these shows are grounded in the “real” world (relatively speaking!) of police/detective work. ....And I admit that many of them are rooted in childhood nostalgia.

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1. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985)

TV-PG | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson solve the mysteries of copper beeches, a Greek interpreter, the Norwood builder, a resident patient, the red-headed league, and one final problem.

Stars: Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Rosalie Williams, Eric Porter

Votes: 16,901

Jeremy Brett - the definitive Holmes, in theNeoplatonist's humble judgment. See also "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" (1986), "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes" (1991), and "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" (1994).

2. Poirot (1989–2013)

TV-14 | 100 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

From England to Egypt, accompanied by his elegant and trustworthy sidekicks, the intelligent yet eccentrically-refined Belgian detective Hercule Poirot pits his wits against a collection of first class deceptions.

Stars: David Suchet, Hugh Fraser, Philip Jackson, Pauline Moran

Votes: 30,995

3. Ashes to Ashes (2008–2010)

60 min | Crime, Drama, Fantasy

DCI Gene Hunt swaps the Ford Cortina for an Audi Quattro and joins the London Metropolitan Police to deal with the 'Southern Nancy' criminal scum.

Stars: Philip Glenister, Keeley Hawes, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster

Votes: 7,576

The sequel to "Life on Mars" (see below). Has a paranormal element but this is kept in the background most of the time. The heart of the show is the half-troubling, half-hilarious clash between British policing styles of the present day and the 1970s/80s. The latter is personified by detective Gene Hunt, a masterful screen presence, who gets his results by beating up suspects etc, in between boozing his beer by the gallon and behaving in a most politically incorrect way towards women.

4. Mystery!: Campion (1989–1990)

50 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama

In 1930s England, a man from an aristocratic family takes up the pseudonym Albert Campion and, with the help of his ex-burglar manservant, solves mysteries.

Stars: Peter Davison, Brian Glover, Andrew Burt, Moray Watson

Votes: 585

Starring the 5th Dr Who, Peter Davison.

5. Cannon (1971–1976)

TV-PG | 60 min | Action, Crime, Mystery

Frank Cannon is an overweight, balding ex-cop with a deep voice and expensive tastes in culinary pleasures; he becomes a high-priced private investigator.

Stars: William Conrad, Patrick Culliton, Tom Pittman, Charles Bateman

Votes: 2,136

A childhood favorite. The Fat Detective and his theme music are iconic.

6. Columbo (1971–2003)

TV-PG | 100 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Los Angeles homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo uses his humble ways and ingenuous demeanor to winkle out even the most well-concealed of crimes.

Stars: Peter Falk, Mike Lally, John Finnegan, Bruce Kirby

Votes: 22,740

Can't really comment, as I regard Peter Falk's Columbo as beyond perfection. Among guest murderers, my vote goes to three-times-appearing Jack Cassidy.

7. Crime Story (1986–1988)

60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The saga of a Chicago police detective's efforts to stop a young hood's ruthless rise in the ranks of organized crime.

Stars: Dennis Farina, Bill Smitrovich, Steve Ryan, Billy Campbell

Votes: 2,092

Two great seasons cancelled on a freeze-frame cliffhanger. Arghh!

8. Dixon of Dock Green (1955–1976)

45 min | Crime, Drama

Constable George Dixon and his colleagues at the Dock Green police station in the East End of London deal with petty crime, successfully controlling it through common sense and human understanding.

Stars: Jack Warner, Peter Byrne, Geoffrey Adams, Arthur Rigby

Votes: 166

Evening all. Another childhood favorite.

9. Father Brown (1974)

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Based on the stories of G.K. Chesterton, a British Catholic Priest solves mysteries.

Stars: Kenneth More, Dennis Burgess, David Buck, Graham Crowden

Votes: 257

Brilliant adaptations of the G.K.Chesterton tales. Endlessly rewatchable.

10. The F.B.I. (1965–1974)

60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The cases of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Stars: Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Philip Abbott, William Reynolds, Stephen Brooks

Votes: 726

Great theme music.

11. The Following (2013–2015)

TV-14 | 43 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A brilliant and charismatic, yet psychotic serial killer communicates with other active serial killers and activates a cult of believers following his every command.

Stars: Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, Valorie Curry

Votes: 79,600

Has the most charismatic villain of all time, Joe Carroll, a serial killer with an uncanny flair for attracting a cult-like following (hence the title). Played to perfection by James Purefoy.

12. Hawaii Five-O (1968–1980)

60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The investigations of Hawaii Five-0, an elite branch of the Hawaii State Police answerable only to the governor and headed by stalwart Steve McGarrett.

Stars: Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, Herman Wedemeyer

Votes: 4,863

Err, great theme music again...!

13. Ironside (1967–1975)

TV-PG | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Wheelchair-bound detective Robert T. Ironside battles the bad guys on the streets of San Francisco.

Stars: Raymond Burr, Don Galloway, Don Mitchell, Barbara Anderson

Votes: 2,539

Another nostalgia-inducing childhood favorite.

14. Juliet Bravo (1980–1985)

50 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Newly-promoted Inspector Jean Darblay takes charge of the police station in the fictional Lancashire town of Hartley. She is the first woman to be placed in charge of the station and ... See full summary »

Stars: David Ellison, Noel Collins, Stephanie Turner, Anna Carteret

Votes: 163

Police work in realistic mode, with the charm lying in the characters rather than any spectacular crimes.

15. Kojak (1973–1978)

TV-PG | 60 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A bald, lollipop sucking police detective with a fiery righteous attitude battles crime in his city.

Stars: Telly Savalas, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas

Votes: 5,308

Comment would be superfluous. Just buy a lollipop.

16. Law & Order (1990–2010)

TV-14 | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Follows a crime (usually a murder), usually adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points, the police investigation and the prosecution in court.

Stars: Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina, S. Epatha Merkerson

Votes: 28,165

17. Life on Mars (2006–2007)

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

After being involved in a car accident in 2006, DCI Sam Tyler wakes up to find himself in 1973, the era of 'Sweeney' type policing, Mark III Cortinas, and flared trousers.

Stars: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White, Dean Andrews

Votes: 26,262

See "Ashes to Ashes" for comments.

18. Longstreet (1971–1972)

90 min | Action, Crime, Drama

The cases of a blind insurance investigator.

Stars: James Franciscus, Marlyn Mason, Peter Mark Richman, Ann Doran

Votes: 337

About time this came out on DVD... A childhood favorite.

19. Miami Vice (1984–1990)

TV-14 | 48 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Resplendent with authentic 1980's music, fashion and vibe, "Miami Vice" follows two undercover detectives and their extended team through the mean streets of Miami.

Stars: Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago, Olivia Brown

Votes: 19,711

Classic, of course. The best episodes are stunning evocations of the 1980s and just stunning on all counts.

20. Millennium (I) (1996–1999)

45 min | Crime, Drama, Horror

A former FBI profiler with the ability to look inside the mind of a killer begins working for the mysterious Millennium Group whose interest lies in cases involving doomsday cults and killers obsessed with the end of the millennium.

Stars: Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher, Terry O'Quinn, Brittany Tiplady

Votes: 8,771

Frank Black, the gloomy retired FBI agent now back in action as an outsider, is brought to life so compellingly by Lance Henriksen, he should get a special merit award. Some great conspiracy themes too.

21. Monk (2002–2009)

TV-PG | 47 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

Adrian Monk is a brilliant San Francisco detective, whose obsessive compulsive disorder just happens to get in the way.

Stars: Tony Shalhoub, Jason Gray-Stanford, Ted Levine, Traylor Howard

Votes: 57,227

Monk and Columbo - the most endearing of the intellectual sleuths.

22. Police Woman (1974–1978)

60 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Follows Sergeant "Pepper" Anderson, LAPD's top undercover cop. A member of the Criminal Conspiracy Unit, Pepper works the wild side of the street, where she poses as everything from a gangster's moll to a streetwalker to a prison inmate.

Stars: Angie Dickinson, Earl Holliman, Charles Dierkop, Ed Bernard

Votes: 1,343

23. Public Eye (1965–1975)

60 min | Crime, Drama

Cynical, dour and world-weary, private eye Frank Marker is frequently the unwitting stooge in bigger criminal wheels in his attempts to make a tenuous living on the outskirts of London.

Stars: Alfred Burke, Ray Smith, Pauline Delaney, Brenda Cavendish

Votes: 137

Perhaps the best for giving a genuine "feel" of the life of a private investigator. Often grim and sleazy and definitely unglamorous. Alfred Burke is brilliant as Frank Marker, the intelligent but (shall we say) unprosperous detective of the back streets.

24. Sexton Blake (1967–1971)

30 min | Adventure, Family

Adventures of the handsome, fencing detective Sexton Blake and his sidekick Tinker.

Stars: Laurence Payne, Roger Foss, Dorothea Phillips, Meredith Edwards

Votes: 11

Sexton Blake is a lesser-known, more muscular "Sherlock Holmes" type. He or other characters always seem to be plunging into a stygian pit of unconsciousness. The original stories are well worth a read.

25. Softly Softly (1966–1969)

50 min | Crime, Drama

Softly Softly was a drama series about a West Country police force solving local crime. It was a spin-off from another BBC drama series, Z Cars.

Stars: Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor, Norman Bowler, John Barron

Votes: 75

A British masterpiece. The crimes and criminals terrified me as a child far more than any space-aliens ever could.

26. Softly Softly: Task Force (1969– )

50 min | Crime, Drama

1970s BBC police drama with experienced cop DCS Charlie Barlow. and DS John Watt who lead a task force charged with tackling the toughest chases Thamesford has to offer.

Stars: Frank Windsor, Norman Bowler, David Lloyd Meredith, Terence Rigby

Votes: 37

See comments for previous entry.

27. Special Branch (1969–1974)

60 min | Action, Crime

Ground-breaking British police drama series following the exploits of the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police. An elite group of officers tasked with protecting London from spies, terrorists and subversives.

Stars: Derren Nesbitt, George Sewell, Morris Perry, Fulton Mackay

Votes: 60

Watch out for the two latter seasons in 1973 and 74, where a fine double act is made up by George Sewell and Patrick Mower as Inspectors Craven and Haggerty. The direct predecessor to "The Sweeney".

28. Star Cops (1987– )

55 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The adventures of the International Space Police Force, led by Nathan Spring, in 2027. The Star Cops are made up of officers from all over the world: the British Colin Devis, the Australian... See full summary »

Stars: David Calder, Erick Ray Evans, Trevor Cooper, Linda Newton

Votes: 148

Not exactly sci-fi --- merely science. How an investigative agency in the near future might "police the spaceways". No aliens in sight....!

29. The Streets of San Francisco (1972–1977)

60 min | Action, Crime, Drama

A veteran cop with more than twenty years of experience is teamed with a young Inspector to solve crimes in San Francisco, California.

Stars: Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, Reuben Collins, Richard Hatch

Votes: 4,247

30. The Sweeney (1974–1978)

60 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

Jack Regan is a hard edged detective in the Flying Squad of London's Metropolitan Police. He pursues villains by methods which are underhanded and often illegal themselves, frequently violent and more often than not successful.

Stars: John Thaw, Dennis Waterman, Garfield Morgan, John Alkin

Votes: 1,383

Wonderfully violent stuff. John Thaw before he became Inspector Morse.

31. Ultraviolet (1998– )

300 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Michael Colefield is unwillingly thrust into the nightmarish world of vampires when he discovers a secret government organisation operating undercover within the police when his friend Jack... See full summary »

Stars: Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker, Idris Elba, Philip Quast

Votes: 2,384

Perhaps I cheat a little: the "criminals" are vampires. But otherwise a solid police-procedural series.

32. The Untouchables (1959–1963)

50 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Special Agent Eliot Ness and his elite team of incorruptable agents battle organized crime in 1930s Chicago.

Stars: Robert Stack, Walter Winchell, Nicholas Georgiade, Paul Picerni

Votes: 1,925

To heck with the weird anti-historical movie - watch the series!!!

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