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Top 10 TV Detectives

Updated on May 14, 2009


 The following is the Top 10 list for TV Detectives.  Here's the criteria for making the list.  

  • The selection must be the main character of the show
  • The main character can only be a detective or a private investigator - that means no doctors, lawyers, authors and such.

Feel free to share your top 10 list in the comments section.

#10 - Ellery Queen

Ellery Queen was a very accomplished book series and radio show. Eventually in the late 1950s Ellery Queen made it to television in several adaptations.

  • (1950-1952) - The Adventures of Ellery Queen
  • (1958-1959) - The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen
  • 1971 - A television movie - Ellery Queen Don't Look Behin You

But it's the 1975 tv series that stands out. This adaptation starred Jim Hutton and was a classic detective show. Each episode had a big Hollywood star make an appearance and gave the audience clues throughout the show so that they can solve the case.

#9 - Joe Mannix

Mannix aired for 8 seasons from 1967 to 1975. Mike Connors starred as Mannix, a former U.S. Army soldier who served in the Korean War. Mannix could be one of the toughest detectives on this list.

#8 - Mike Hammer

Another detective series with multiple television adaptations.

  • Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1958 - 1960 ; starring Darren McGavin)
  • Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (Jan. 1984 - Jan. 1985 ; starring Stacy Keach)
  • The New Mike Hammer (Sept. 1986 - May 1987 ; starring Stacy Keach)
  • Mike Hammer, Private Eye (Sept. 1997 - June 1998 ; starring Stacy Keach)

Stacy Keach became the face for Mike Hammer and really brought the character to life.

#7 - Andy Sipowicz

Andy Sipowicz was played by Dennis Franz on one of the greatest Cop shows of all-time, NYPD Blue. The character lasted the entire series and became the main star after David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, and Kim Delaney left the show.

Franz served in Vietnam before becoming an actor. Early in his career, he made notable appearances on shows such as The A-Team and HillStreet Blues.

#6 - Jim Rockford

The Rockford Files aired from 1974 to 1980 and starred James Garner as Jim Rockford.

Rockford served time in San Quentin for a wrongful conviction of armed robbery. After being pardoned Rockford became a private investigator. A self-described chicken, Rockford lived in a trailer on the beach of Malibu, California.

#5 - Kojak

Theo Kojak was played by Telly Savalas. He became a pop icon for his lollipos and catchphrase "Who Loves Ya Baby".

The show aired for 5 seasons from 1973 to 1978.

#4 - Adrian Monk

Adrian Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub, was a former police detective turned private investigator after the death of his wife Trudy. Monk has a nervous breakdown and develops a long list of disorders and phobias from OCD to being afraid of milk.

The show is currently in it's 8th and final season. It debuted in 2002 and broke the mold for detective shows with it's creative comedy style.

3) Thomas Magnum

Magnum P.I. aired for 8 seasons from 1980 - 1988 and starred Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum. Magnum was a former U.S. Navy SEAL who became a private investigator on the islands of Hawaii. Selleck became a star of the 1980s.

#2 - Columbo

 Peter Falk starred as the titled character Lt. Columbo. His first name has never been officially revealed. The show regularly aired from 1971-1978 and then several TV movies and special episodes periodically ran until 2003.

The show had a unique way of how it presented the mystery. Instead of ending with solving the case, the show opened up with the crime being committed and then proceeds to show Columbo finding the clues to catch the criminal.

#1 - Vic Mackey

 The Shield was a landmark series about police officers who played by their own rules. No cop created more controversy than Vic Mackey, played by Michael Chiklis. Mackey was the leader of "The Strike Team" and ran the streets of L.A. His brutal tactics were the theme throughout the entire series.

The Shield aired for 7 seasons from 2002-2008. The show was critically acclaimed for it's realism and controversy.

What did you think of this list?

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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 3 years ago from London England

      The television series 'Honey West' really needs mentioning on this detective theme. This P.I. series aired in over 30 episodes during 1965/66 and starred the gorgeous actress Ann Francis as Honey. Miss West as she was known then was the first female slueth to change the gender imbalance as the Women's Liberation movement was growing. She was assisted by Sam Bolt as her 'man friday' and 'Mr fix it. The Honey West detective agency took on some of the most baffling and bizarre capers in the crime genre including clients who turned out to be perpetrators. To add a family touch there was an Aunt Meg and as an eccentric touch a pet ocelot Bruce, actually a part of the agency too. When the series was cancelled after only one season, Honey West continued in pulp fiction and comic book form. Ann Francis continued acting, in the Satan Bug as a glamorous undercover spy and also as an exotic burlesque performer in Funny Girl. Ann Francis has her own star in the Hollywood walk of fame.

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 6 years ago from Indiana

      Don't forget Spenser and Hawk.

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      No doctors, leaves out diagnosis murder. That is good, I wondered how Mark sloan could be a successful doc and detective both. also Quincy. His first name never mentioned either, even when he got married.

      No lawyers leaves out Matlock and Perry Mason. No authors, Murder she wrote, why did people keep inviting her to parties and banquets, some one always died. A good hub.

    • profile image

      brnaby 7 years ago

      shut up

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      your butt 7 years ago

      THIS YEAR PLEASE: 2010!!!!!!!!!!!

      THANKS :D