Top Ten Television Detectives

The detective has been a staple of television since the beginning. We have witnessed a stunning variety of the detective over the years ranging from the hard boiled tough guy, through the smooth-talking ladies’ man and more. The hardest part about making this particular list was not finding enough people to put on it, but deciding who would actually make it. The television detectives who are on this list are ones that have in some way blazed a new path for their archetype.


10. Rick Hunter (Hunter)

The quintessential tough guy action hero of the eighties, Rick Hunter (played by Fred Dryer) was what so many men wished they could be. Tough-talking, hard-hitting and heroic, Rick Hunter crashed cars, shot guns and caused things to explode every week. Not only was the show full of action, but it was also full of the bad guys getting what they deserved. In the real world a cop like Rick Hunter would have never made the force much less detective, but he was great television.


9. Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote)

Jessica Fletcher (portrayed by Angela Lansbury) may have looked like she would be more at home baking pies in the kitchen then at a crime scene but she proved to us week in and week out that appearances can be deceiving. Jessica Fletcher was the mystery writer turned detective decades before Castle was conceived and somehow brought a feel-good element to the murder-mystery genre. While there may be more hard-hitting detectives than Fletcher, she brought a very unique spin to television.


8. Phillip Columbo (Columbo)

Phillip Columbo or was the first real quirky detective. Years before Adrian Monk, Columbo charmed television viewers with his absent-minded manner of being combined with a surprisingly sharp mind. Each week this television detective would convince the bad guys (and often the audience as well) that he was clueless and would never figure out who did it. However every week Columbo proved he was a very capable sleuth and always managed to catch the bad guy.


7. Vick Mackey (The Shield)

The change in character that Michael Chiklis made in between his work as Toni Scalli in The Commish over to Vick Mackey in The Shield might be one of the greatest feats of acting in American television history. Chiklis managed to make the transition of playing a mild-mannered, by-the-book police commissioner (Tony Scalli) to one of the most fascinating antihero detectives of all time. What made Vic Mackey unique in the television detective genre was that he was a corrupt and villainous character that you found yourself rooting for every week.


6. Thomas Magnum (Magnum P.I.)

Tom Selleck made his name, and type-cast himself because of it, as the cool beach bum turned private detective in the seminal 80’s detective show Magnum P.I. His combination of good looks and street smarts enthralled viewers every week as he tackled problems that for whatever reason the police couldn’t. What made Magnum special and earned him a place on this list was his laid-back style and charm, which was a nice break from the hard-boiled tough guy routine of many TV detectives before him.

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