This is a list of detective shows that I’ve watched and enjoyed. However, it’s not an all inclusive list, nor is it in a particular order.
Some of my earliest memories would include Peter Gunn and Dragnet. Although, watching the reruns helped me to see the humor in Dragnet that I didn’t see as a child. There was also, Kojak, Mannix, McMillan and Wife and Hart to Hart. Ah, those were the days of romance mixed with danger.
Then there was Murder She Wrote, Matlock who often poked fun at himself in some of the plot lines, Rockford Files and Magnum PI who had his detective start alongside Rockford before getting his own show. Then there was also Cagney and Lacy and Remington Steele where Remington actually had the opportunity to become 007 and the network forced him to stay with the show that we could never find from that point on because they kept playing hide and seek with us. But he got the last laugh and became 007, anyway.
There was also the Saint who also was 007, Perry Mason and Quincy ME who was constantly having an argument with someone. Jag, 77 Sunset Strip, Vegas, Simon and Simon and Hawaii Five -0 where the detectives wore improbable full suits in warm and humid Hawaii and never melted no matter how much they ran around. Ironside, Barnaby Jones, Banacek who’s George Peppard carried some of that persona over into the A-Team, Starsky and Hutch, and Walker Texas Ranger who got his bad guys with martial arts.
We also stayed up to watch Columbo, Charlie’s Angels, Mod Squad, Police Woman who was really cute and smart, Crazy Like A Fox, Shark, Law and Order and Da Vinci’s Inquest. There was, also, Hunter, Cannon, K-ville and the Commish. Then we discovered O’Hare US Treasury and the original Mike Hammer in reruns.
Our household went through a period where we didn’t watch TV. Then, on one trip my son and I spent quite a bit of time waiting in our motel room between meetings, so we ended up watching a lot of TV. He told me that we were watching Law and Order and CSI. At the time I couldn’t tell the difference until I spent some time watching them and found I preferred the quirkier CSI’s to the extremely serious and dark Law and Orders.
This following list is of my favorite detective shows for the ten years coming up to the turn of the first decade of 2000 with my reasons for those choices. Just as the previous list was in no particular order of preference, neither is this list.
Each of these programs do have one or two things in common with each other other than being some form of detective show. They all educate, teach something that we might not have known before and they require that we do some thinking. They don’t just feed us the facts and they often have some very interesting twists and turns on the way to their conclusions, which could be hung over into another show in the franchise or over the entire season along with everything else that may be happening in each of their locations. These selections are divided up into two types, the ensemble casting and the dominant single star with supporting or costars:
Ensemble Casting With Some Dominant Characters:
1. Without a Trace: (2002-2009)
I’m sorry they canceled this show, just as it was getting even better. It was wonderful tuning in each week watching people who seemed to care for those who needed their expert ability to help them and to protect them while also dealing with each other’s own needs. We got to see them going back time after time, peeling back the layers of deception and hazy memories to get at the truth and to locate those who were missing. There was a believable quality to their relationships and how they dealt with them.
2. Coldcase: (2003-present)
We’re into history, so this is a no-brainer for us, especially since it is so well done. I love the back and forth between the present time and the era of the victim. We get to learn about all different times in our country’s history as well as the history of other cultures. I can really relate to Lily Rush and her tortured relationship with her parents. She’s a very likable character and how she deals with her parents is very realistic. It’s also nice when the other characters are also given an opportunity to tell about their lives and their little quirks and we get to see the teasing that goes on between them.
I also love the way that they continue to go back and forth between all of the possible witness’s and put together what actually happened from so many different perspectives.
3. Criminal Minds: (2005-present)
I thought they wouldn’t be able to come back after Gideon jumped ship. But I was wrong. After he got over his little prima donna beginning, Rossi, has been a wonderful addition to this show. It has become even more about the entire team instead of everyone bowing to Gideon the superior guru on everything in criminal profiling. Rossi is much more a team player and he has brought out much more of Hotch’s human and caring side and the other qualities to the rest of the team. Every person on this team has been given an opportunity to develop and to
reveal more about themselves as they work together as a caring team to solve difficult situations as quickly as possible. Each character is so different with such divergent personal histories which really helps the team as a whole to function the way it does. The group dynamics really helps to drive this show.
Crime Scene Investigation: (2000-present)
We love all three of the CSI’s and we watch all three. Horatio Cain reflects the actual caring heart of David Caruso who plays the part. There have been several reports of his encouragement of fellow cast members in dealing with difficult situations just as his character does the same.
I wasn’t sure how Crime Scene would go after Grissom and Sara left the show. However, Ray Langston(Lawrence Fishburn) has been an inspired addition especially since he comes from the Mod Squad and gets to do an entirely different character who’s sympathetic and very realistically learning as he goes on the job.
NY and Crime Scene tend to have some the quirkiest, most imaginative and often most hilarious plot lines with some of the most convoluted routes to the conclusion, such as the time where several of the suspects tried to kill the victim but the actual culprit ended up being the lawn chair, or another episode where the penthouse was the killer.
5. Numb3rs: (2005-present)
This is an interesting combination of police work and academia with unexpected and often quirky results. There’s often tension between the two sides and among the friends and family who work together on this which definitely adds to the fun and interest of this show. It’s fun watching the contrast between the two brothers and how they resolve their differences in both their personal lives and on the job as they work out complicated crimes.
6. Mentalist: (2008-present)
Patrick Jane definitely has a very different way of solving situations. He’s constantly talking himself into and out of trouble. Even though this character is billed as the main character, the other characters are given time to also tell their stories and to reveal themselves, and that’s why I put it under ensemble casting.
The character combinations and interactions are what really drive this show, as well as some the unusual crimes and how they’re solved. This is fun to watch and to hear the interaction between the characters.
NCIS Los Angeles: (2009)
One of the things that’s really fun about both of these shows is the constant teasing and comments between the characters and the contrast with their very professional behavior in dangerous situations.
The personality quirks between the characters causes a lot of interest and fun in watching both of these programs. The interplay especially between DiNozo, McGee and Ziva in NCIS and Sam and Callen in Los Angeles and of course the character interactions with Hetty are very amusing. The plots are also very interesting. It’s especially fun watching the plots open up while the characters are very professionally dealing with the
situations while still making very interesting comments about each other.
Single Dominant Star with Supporting or Costars:
8. Monk: (2002-present)
I don’t know about you, but this is definitely a love/hate relationship. I could never live with a person who was like this character. He drives me up the wall every week with his constant list of neurosis. However, he’s also funny because of the situations he gets stuck into due those same problems. But he has this incredible gift and ability for understanding and deducing situations that come across as very convincing. His conclusions are very well explained and logical like the old parlor room who-done-its.
9. Jesse Stone TV movies: (2005, 2006, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010)
This isn’t a weekly series. But the movies are aired on TV. Jesse goes his own way in how he deals with solving the crimes and he doesn’t allow the politics of the town to stop him from doing his job. We also get to see his life develop as he works with solving whatever situation has been handed to him while he also works through personal issues which often get involved with whatever case he may be working on. We just like the way Tom Selleck does this character.
10. Diagnosis Murder: (1993-2001)
Part of the fun of this show was the real relationship between Dick Van Dyke and his son who played his son. The main character was constantly going off script or the reservation as far as his son was concerned who would complain about his meddling in affairs that didn’t concern him as a doctor and yet he would end up needing to either help him, facilitate his efforts or rescue him while rolling his eyes in exasperation while either defending him or helping him.