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1980s - My Favorite TV Cops Shows

Updated on June 7, 2015

There were always a number of games that I played growing up with my cousins and friends. My favorite were the action-packed ones like cops and robbers. Don't get me wrong, I loved to roller skate, jump double dutch, play hopscotch and dodge ball - just to name a few. However, there was nothing like playing the police officer who got to catch and handcuff the bad guy(s).

A number of television cop shows were prominent throughout the 1980s and I wanted to share which ones I loved to watch during that era. I am sure that those of you who were brought up during this era can appreciate my list and share great thoughts about these shows. I encourage you to sit back, read and enjoy the memories with me.


Sgt. Rick Hunter (Fred Dryer) and his female partner Sgt. Dee Dee McCall (Stepfanie Kramer) were always interesting for me to watch because they were homicide investigators working for the LAPD. They often had to go undercover and never really played by the rules completely which made them an interesting duo. This show aired on NBC for approximately seven years (1984-1991).

Hunter (Season 1) Theme Song

Magnum P.I.

Who doesn't love the scenery of Hawaii? Although, I haven't been there yet ... Magnum P.I. (Tom Selleck) made me feel like I was right there on the island during his many adventures. Robin's Nest was the fictional 200-acre beachfront estate belonging to Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. His sidekicks included pilot T.C. (Roger E. Mosley), Rick (Larry Manetti) and Higgins (John Hillerman). CBS played host to this series for eight years (1980-1988).

Cagney & Lacey

Detectives Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) and Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) provided seven years (1981-1988) of emotion-filled, action-packed television entertainment as NYPD police officers. Although Gless technically didn't join the cast until 1982, she made her mark in the series and you couldn't tell that she wasn't there from the very beginning. I loved the fact that this show was based on two female cops who had to balance their workloads, personal lives and real-life issues.

Miami Vice

Beaches, sand and fast-paced night life are some of the things attract folks to Miami, FL. The two television cops that caught my attention were Crockett (Philip Michael Thomas) and Tubbs (Don Johnson). For five years (1984-1989), these two undercover Metro-Dade Police Department detectives fought some serious crime lords in South Florida. These two gentlemen were also trendsetters in the fashion department during this era. I loved the high adrenaline action, fashion, cars, boats and the two characters who were always entertaining.

In The Heat of the Night

Sparta Police Chief Gillespie (Carroll O'Connor) and Detective Tibbs (Howard Rollins) made this show enjoyable for me to watch due to the dynamics of the cast. I loved the various story lines that were told throughout the televised seasons. Some of the episodes included dealing with prejudices, copycat murders, unsolved cases, love triangles and kidnapping - just to name a few. The show was first aired on NBC (1988-1992) and then on CBS (1992-1995).

Although I only shared five of the many television cop shows that I watched back in the 1980s, here are some honorable mentions:

  • Chips (1977-1983)
  • Columbo (1971-2003)
  • Knight Rider (1982-1986)
  • T.J. Hooker (1982-1986)
  • 21 Jump Street (1987-1991)

I hope that you've enjoyed my trip down memory lane as well as the listing of my favorite 1980s TV cop shows. I would love to hear about some of your favorite cop shows whether they are listed or not in this Hub. Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.


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      Joe 3 years ago

      Shortly after the warriors movie in 1979 a police show aired and it had swan in it being talked to by a detective and swan would not talk until ajax was released. Does anyone know the name of show

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 5 years ago from Indiana

      Don't forget Spenser For Hire.

    • UMHiram profile image

      Unique Hiram 5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks prospectboy, I appreciate the comments and am glad that you enjoyed reading this Hub. Also, thank you for sharing this on the other social media sites as well as the vote.

    • prospectboy profile image

      Bradrick H. 5 years ago from Texas

      I definitely enjoyed reading through your list. I'm an 80's baby, so I was a kid when most of these shows aired. I was a huge fan of "Magnum P.I."(loved the intro and how Tom Selleck looked at the camera and burned rubber driving out of the grass). I was a big fan of "CHips" as well. I loved Erik Estrada on there. I also watched "Miami Vice" from time to time, and "Knight Rider" as well. However, "In the Heat of the Night" is easily my favorite from this list. I actually wrote a tribute article for Howard Rollins recently. I loved this show as a kid, and I still watch it today. Great job on the hub. Voted up, and awesome. Also shared on Hubpages, Facebook, and Twitter as well :)

    • UMHiram profile image

      Unique Hiram 5 years ago from Midwest

      Alecia, thanks for reading my Hub and I'm glad that you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me. Europewalker, the music was indeed great for Miami Vice - one of the many reasons, outside of the lead actors, that I love this series. Thanks for commenting (although I'm not Alecia) Unique

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 5 years ago

      Miami Vice was my favorite cop show, never missed an episode. I especially liked the music in the series. Great hub Alecia:)

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm not an 80s kid, I'm a 90s kid but I did grow up seeing most of these shows in reruns. Magnum PI was awesome for several reasons and Hawaii as the backdrop being key among them.

      And In the Heat of the Night is probably one of the best television shows spawned from a movie.

      Great list! I enjoyed this trip into the past :).

    • UMHiram profile image

      Unique Hiram 5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks for taking the time to read this Hub pstraubie48 ... glad that you enjoyed it. CSI is definitely a great show to watch, there is never a dull moment.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Oh two of my favorites: In the heat of the night and Magnum PI...Tom Selleck was definitely easy on the eyes....

      This was an interesting walk down the not too far distant past. my favorites now are CSI and shows like that which I watch on roku ...reruns.

      Thanks for sharing with us.

    • UMHiram profile image

      Unique Hiram 5 years ago from Midwest

      Thanks carol777, I'm glad that you enjoyed reading and appreciate the vote.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I loved Hunter, Cagney and Lacey (we have watched all the reruns), andMagnum..My three favorites. They were well done without all the technological stuff. The stories were simple and enjoyable to watch. Voting up and sharing.