5. Fox Mulder (The X-Files)
X-Files was a show for the conspiracy theorist in all of us. Whether it was aliens or government cover- ups we watched as Fox Mulder (portrayed brilliantly by David Duchovny) chased down bad guys ripped straight out of pulp fiction and slowly convinced us all that there was more to this world than met the eye. While there have been many shows that have tried to duplicate the X-Files, none have been nearly as good and the main reason for that is because none of them have Fox Mulder leading the charge.
4. Olivia Benson (Law & Order: SVU)
The Law & Order franchise has produced some very memorable television detectives and this list could have easily been filled with all of them. However, Detective Benson stands out among all of them because she has come to symbolize so much of what a detective that deals with sex offenders should be. Tough, compassionate, and dedicated are all qualities that someone working heinous crimes needs and Detective Benson has them in spades without shoving it in your face. The world could honestly use more people like Detective Olivia Benson.
3. Debra Morgan (Dexter)
There is something refreshing about a female character that acts and talks like a man but still maintains her femininity. Debra Morgan (portrayed by Jennifer Carpenter) is a foul-mouthed, ambitious young woman who has busted her hump since day one in Miami Metro and been rewarded by promotion after promotion. While she doesn’t win many friends because of her abrasiveness, she more than makes up for this in her dogged determination to find the bad guy and her stalwart beliefs in right and wrong. While she is far from perfect, there is no one I would rather have tracking down a killer.
2. Gil Grissom (C.S.I.)
Gil Grissom made being a science geek not only cool, but exciting as well. Grissom (portrayed by William Peterson) was the night shift supervisor for the Las Vegas P.D.’s C.S.I. unit and used hard science (combined with cool special effects) to bust the bad guys. While most of what you see him do is far-fetched, it did give us an idea of just how important the science behind the police work is. In a genre inundated with tough guy types, a character that used his brain more than brawn was a very refreshing change.
1. Joe Friday (Dragnet)
Joe Friday may not have been the very first television detective, but he was one of the first, and set the bar for American audiences on what to expect from a detective. Times have definitely changed since Joe Friday first graced the radio waves and small screens but his belief in justice, right and wrong, and catching the bad guy still runs deep in every good TV detective. It may be true that we would have the detective genre without Joe Friday, but it is likely the landscape would be a lot different without him. While he may not have been the most exciting detective, the reason he tops this list is quite simple, there is a little bit of Joe Friday in every one of the other people on this list.