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Best TV Crime Drama Shows, Characters and Teams

Updated on October 30, 2012

 Of all of the different types of television shows that are out there, the only ones that really have the power to continually suck me in again and again are the crime dramas. From the long-established Law and Order to shows that are no longer on (like the Practice) to the new kids on the block (Raising the Bar), these legal/ courtroom/ crime investigation shows always compel me to tune in even when other types of TV just don’t do anything at all for me.

There are dozens of these TV crime dramas out there. Which ones are the ones that are actually worth the time that they take to watch? In my opinion, the best television crime shows are those shows that have the following qualities:

• Intelligence. I really love the crime drama shows that assume that their viewers have some kind of intelligence. The math in Numb3rs, the science in Bones and the psychological profiling in Criminal Minds are all examples of shows that appeal to the smart side of the viewer.

• Compelling stories. I love the crime shows that really feel like they are drawn from real life but also have some element that gives them a twist and keeps them interesting. Law and Order SVU has done a good job with that over the years – tackling numerous interesting social topics including female-of-male rape cases, transgender issues and political power plays within prisons.

• A great cast. As far as I’m concerned, none of these elements of a great crime drama show would be very good at all if the cast wasn’t great. There are some legal shows that just bore me because I can’t develop any interest in or empathy for the characters that come on day after day. Although the crime show should be primarily about solving crimes, there should also be some reason that you want these specific characters to succeed in their crime fighting jobs.

With that last point in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best characters that have been created for crime TV. I’m going to focus specifically on those shows that have done a terrific job of developing multiple great characters, creating superb crime-fighting partnerships and teams that really add to the psycho-social enjoyment of watching these shows. Here are some of my favorites:

• Bones and Booth.

Bones is a really interesting crime drama that’s unique from a lot of the other legal / crime shows on television today. It pairs the work of a forensic anthropologist and crime author (Temperance “Bones” Brennan) with the work of a tough FBI / military guy (Booth). These two characters play off of each other so well that they make for one of the most interesting crime fighting partnerships on TV. Bones is logical, scientific and socially awkward. Booth is tough, macho but with a charming sensitive side. They teach each other things and we get to learn from them as viewers watching them solve their crimes. The surrounding cast members also add to the great team on this crime fighting show but it’s the solid partnership and middling sexual tensions between the two main characters that make this a stand-out TV crime drama.

• Detectives Benson and Stabler.

Another great male/female team that really makes you want to keep watching a show for years on end is the core team from Law and Order SVU. They’re an interesting pair. She’s the child of a rape who has grown up with some serious issues around relationships and power plays. He’s a tough, Catholic father of many with issues of his own. These issues aren’t the core focus of the show but they get revealed over time which makes you more emotionally invested in understanding their partnership. And an interesting partnership it is – there never seems to be any question that it’s a platonic relationship but they are totally there for each other and helping one another to be better than they seem to be. Through this partnership, they fight crime and save kids. The rest of the cast pales in comparison to the two core folks on this long-running television crime drama.

• The Eppes Brothers.

A great crime fighting partnership doesn’t have to be made up of a male/female combo. The Eppes brothers from Numb3rs have a really interesting dynamic that makes the show fun to watch. Charlie is a math genius who was always overshadowed by his more normal, popular brother Don. Don, in turn, was always cheated out of being intellectually special. These two have worked for years to solve crimes using their separate skills sets and long-time viewers have watched their personal and professional relationship grow over time which really adds to the ongoing story of the crime fighting show. 

• The team from Criminal Minds.

This is one show in which there isn’t a partnership that really makes the show great but rather a terrific mingling of different personalities within the larger team. There’s the young genius with the photographic memory and socially awkward ways, the alt/sexy computer kitten who can flirt like nobody’s business but also get into any computer system in the world, the good looking muscle man with a bit of a rough edge, the team leaders who struggle with the politics of the job and their own inner demons and the female liaisons who work with the outside world in solving some of the most horrific crimes shown on TV. This is a show based on the psychology of crime so it makes sense that it only works because it has a psychology balanced (and fascinating) crime fighting team and its helm.

• The team from The Practice.

This show may not be on the air anymore but the old episodes are still fun to watch due in no small part to the fact that there was a cool team of people on this show. They all work as defense lawyers and each struggles in their own way with the ethics of that work. The leader of the show, Bobby Donnell, serves as the core character through which we see the other characters on the show develop. From the sexy district attorney and the cute constitutionally-knowledgeable lawyer that Donnell sleeps with to the tougher female and male lawyers in the office, we see personalities explode day after day under the pressures of dealing with criminals.


So there you have it, some of my favorite television crime dramas and the cast behind them that makes me so interested in continuing to watch these shows again and again and again!


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Sara F 2 years ago

    I LOVE NUMB3RS !!!!!!!

  • michaelbell2013 profile image

    michaelbell2013 4 years ago

    Best is "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," hands down. The Goren character was based on Sherlock Holmes, and Eames as his Moriarty was a calming and intelligent influence. World-weary but wise Captains Deakins and Ross provided able support, and ADA Carver brought eloquence and class to the show. And L&O:CI had the best and most illusive villian of all of the crime shows: Nicole Wallace. The interrogations between she and Goren were riveting TV.

  • profile image

    jon uk 5 years ago

    breaking bad



    lie to me

  • profile image

    jake c 5 years ago

    What about Breaking Bad, awesome show!!!!

  • MelChi profile image

    Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

    Criminal Minds is an amazing show. I'm so glad they brought back JJ! I've only seen Season 1 of The Practice and was hooked on it. Hoping to get Season 2 soon.

  • SJKSJK profile image

    SJKSJK 5 years ago from delray beach, florida

    Good list. My favorites

    Criminal Minds

    Body Of Proof

    A Good Wife

    CSI Miami

    CSI New York

    Blue Bloods

  • sirens007 profile image

    sirens007 6 years ago from Tucson, AZ

    Excellent shows to watch or look up!

    1. Dexter

    2. Mentalist

    3. Fringe

    4. Lie To Me

    5. Criminal Minds

    6. Person of Interest

    7. Spartacus

    8. Prime Suspect

    9. A Gifted Man

    10. Game of Thrones

  • profile image

    Sarah Kay 6 years ago

    I love BONES, WHITE COLLAR, CRIMINAL MINDS and BEING HUMAN (not really a crime series, but great characters)

  • profile image

    sdfg 6 years ago

    1. THE MENTALIST!!!!

    2. NCIS!

    3. CIS!



  • profile image

    ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

    I don't watch Bones because she is such a know it all snot. The eppes brothers are interesting but I find it odd out of three grown adults,I'm including the father, none of them are married. I know the father is widowed but the brothers aren't.

  • profile image

    anon again 6 years ago

    However, I dislike Elle Greenaway. The only thing I hated about Criminal Minds is her.

  • profile image

    anon 6 years ago

    Criminal Minds and Dr. Spencer Reid. Yes.

  • profile image

    CriminalMindsaddict 6 years ago

    i agree i love criminal minds all the way from its ups to its downs 100% but you for got to mention one of the characters........ like Elle Greenaway or Emily Prentiss who happens to be my favorite character

  • profile image

    WILLIS EARL WILSON 6 years ago



    SE ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, DUPAGE COLD CASE


  • profile image

    Fred001 6 years ago

    I also love the cop/crime shows. Homicide: Life on the Streets was the best ever. NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues and L&O (original) and L&O CI are close.

    I even liked Chicago Code as well, but, I guess, others did not since Fox cancelled it.

  • trusouldj profile image

    trusouldj 6 years ago from Indiana

    SVU keeps my attention when I remember to watch, but I miss NYPD BLUE. I don't want to just see the case, I want to follow the cops home and see how their job affects their home life and relationships.

  • profile image

    SpencerReidsGirl 6 years ago

    CRIMINAL MINDS ALL THE WAY!!!!!!! Best show aver and totally unique (waaaaaay better than its spin off) Spencer Reid AKA the "young genius with the photographic memory and socially awkward ways". one thing to add though, its an eidedic memory not photographic, and most of the things that he does like his social akwardness is most likely Aspergers Syndrome. anyway great nub or thread or whatever :)

  • profile image

    exerciseball_guy 6 years ago from Ohio

    I'm with Jill, Castle is becoming one of my favorite TV crime drama shows. It's compelling, good story lines, great chemistry; and it's humorous as well.

  • profile image

    kmcneil 6 years ago

    i cant believe know one said third watch

  • kmcmichael profile image

    kmcmichael 6 years ago from Athens, Georgia

    crime dramas are my fave tv shows and i totally agree with your list. my faves are lie to me, l&o:svu, bones, and the closer.

  • profile image

    nuk 7 years ago

    you guys are all clearly american and have never seen ashes to ashes. watch online.

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    hey what about white collar?

  • AutumnLockwood profile image

    AutumnLockwood 7 years ago from Northern California

    Love your list. The Mentalist is one the most genius crime drama show I've ever followed.

  • profile image

    Spazzo Monkey 7 years ago

    I must say that they are some epic crime shows...but my favourites are definitely NCIS, Bones and Castle! I do love Criminal Minds though...CRIME SHOWS ARE DEFINITELY THE BEST TV SHOW GENRE!

  • profile image

    Mitchacho 7 years ago

    Have you unfortunate souls who are trumpeting NCIS as the best crime show watched The Wire yet or what? It is much more enriching to follow a case that is worked over the course of a whole season (or more) rather than a mere one hour episode!

  • profile image

    Abi 7 years ago

    Law and Order:SVU, NCIS:LA CSI:NY, Burn Notice and Leverage are all brilliant but NCIS is definatly the best crime show there is!!! :D

  • profile image

    Jill Herschman 7 years ago

    Love Booth and Bones, and the CM team (though just a little less without JJ now). I'd also like to add Castle and Beckett (and possibly extend that to the rest of the team in Castle). Their chemistry is so spot-on, it makes the whole show fun to watch.

  • MR.POINT OF VIEW profile image

    MR.POINT OF VIEW 7 years ago from Planet Earth

    You made a good point but I want you to step into real life me...

  • jennshealthstore profile image

    Jenn 7 years ago from Florida

    I agree! Those are great shows. I am a Law and Order junky. Cant get enough.

  • profile image

    nmmmmmmmmm 7 years ago

    NCIS is definitely the best, then Criminal Minds

  • Brandon McNair profile image

    Brandon McNair 7 years ago


  • profile image

    Grace N 7 years ago

    what about JUSTICE? Canceleld by Fox in... '05 or '06 I believe. Phenomenal show.

  • reagu profile image

    reagu 7 years ago from Los Angeles

    Criminal Minds and The Mentalist are my favorites.

  • profile image

    Dr. Mafia 7 years ago

    This is a great list. Lots of the shows that started it all. However, my favorite remains NCIS. Best show ever...

  • profile image

    rhartlandsberg 7 years ago

    Anyone like Lie to Me? or The Unusuals. Those are two good ones.

  • profile image

    Mitchacho 8 years ago

    Any list of Best TV Crime Drama shows that does not include The Wire cannot be taken seriously.

  • profile image

    ncisluver33 8 years ago

    well NCIS is the best show and its not even mentioned here what's up with that it has beat brothers every week it should be on here that's all im saying

  • profile image

    Jimmy Mac 8 years ago

    Hi, i might be a bit late with this conversation but i recommend some English ones: Wire in the blood, Waking the Dead. Plus i like: Dexter, Criminal minds, cold case.

    But my favourite of all is Robson Greens wire in the blood! nothing comes close!!

  • jared.munson profile image

    jared.munson 8 years ago from Auburn/Cheney, WA

    I don't know, I think the team from "Boston Legal" the spin-off of "The Practice" gave Bobby Donnell's team a run for their money. I love both shows, but I think the lawyers at Crane, Poole, & Schmidt were just a bit more cunning!

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    Like minds think alike. I'm totally with you on your choice of the best type of shows on TV. I've been following L&O -- all three versions -- for years. Agree with your pick of Bensen and Stabler as the most interesting duo. Although I dig Goren (esp) and Eames as well from Criminal Intent. Goren is like a quirky, updated "Columbo" character.

    In addtion to Cold Case and Without a Trace, I also indulge in The First 48.

    And let's not forget "Crime Drama Lite/Comedy" options like "Psych" and "Monk" which are fun, too.

    Must ask -- does anyone else have this problem at home? My husband does not share my enthusiasm for this genre. He will "tolerate" watching L&O with me if it's a new one. Unfortunately, he has a better memory than I and can usually tell within 5 mins if we've seen an episode before. I say, "Who cares? It's a classic!" He also refuses to watch anything like this type of show right before bed, which severely limits my ability to see some of the best ones!

  • kerryg profile image

    kerryg 8 years ago from USA

    Nice hub! I am not a huge crime drama fan, but I really love Law and Order and Bones, and just started season one of Criminal Minds after a bunch of friends recced it to me. Enjoying it so far!

  • bgpappa profile image

    bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

    Good Hub. I get sucked in as well. House does it for me as well.

  • Triplet Mom profile image

    Triplet Mom 8 years ago from West Coast

    Kathryn - Great selection. I enjoy Bones because of its humor although I don't get to watch it often. I also enjoy Cold Case and Without a Trace, both of these shows in my opinion have great teams on them as well. Thanks for sharing.