12 Classic and Manly Cop and Detective Shows

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 10, 2010 · 131 comments

in Movies, Travel & Leisure

For over a century, cops and detectives have been icons of American masculinity. Combining brain power and brute force, these gumshoes represent the myth of the lone hero who is forever faced with new challenges and puzzles, a man who must rub shoulders with the criminal element but maintain his integrity, a prototype of the old pioneer, courageously facing down fear to make the world safe for women and children. The cop/detective icon has such a powerful grasp on the American imagination that many of the most popular TV shows in U.S. history feature cops or private investigators as the main characters.

Although TV today abounds with plenty of cop and detective shows, I always find myself going back to watch the genre’s classics. A big reason is straight up nostalgia. I remember watching these shows with my dad on our huge wood encased TV with rabbit ears. I guess it’s a way to relive my childhood a bit.

But another reason I like the oldies is because of their simple rawness. Cop and detective shows today are too slick and glossy. There’s no heart to them. Shows like CSI and Bones like to wow audiences with fancy technology and buxom lab techs, but at the end of the show, I just don’t feel connected to the characters. The classics have a grit and straightforward simplicity that I find appealing.

Below, I put together a short list of my favorite classic cop and detective shows. I think all of them showcase men who encapsulate that rugged and edgy manliness that we often admire. (Oh, and you can watch many of these shows for free on Hulu.com. If the show’s available on Hulu, I provided a link to it so you can watch it when you need a dose of crime-fighting manliness.)


Mannix is a damn manly name. And Joe Mannix lived up to it. He started his sleuthing career working at a high-tech detective firm called Intertect, but decided that he could do a better job than a bunch of crappy computers with just his wits and a gun. So he left and started his own detective agency. Mannix worked hard and played hard. He drove convertibles with awesome 1967 car phones. He told the hot L.A. sun to go to hell by wearing heavily patterned tweed sports coats. Yeah, Mannix was all man.

Magnum, P.I.

Tom Selleck plays Thomas Magnum (apparently having an uber-manly name is a prerequisite in this business), a private investigator that lived and worked in Hawaii. Magnum solved cases while sporting his signature manly mustache, Detroit Tigers ballcap, Rolex GMT Master wristwatch, and Hawaiian shirts strategically unbuttoned to let his manly chest hair peek out. Magnum was so damned manly that after the writers killed him off in the seventh season, he came back to life just so he could make an eighth season. You can’t keep a good man down. Or dead.

You can watch full episodes of Magnum, P.I. for free on Hulu.


Kojak was the man. Just look at him. His big bald Grecian head struck fear in the hearts of criminals prowling the South Manhattan streets. Theo Kojak (played by Telly Savalas) was a tough and tenacious NYPD cop who dressed well and liked to suck on his trademark lollipop. He had a gravely voice with a tough New York accent that made the ladies melt, especially when he dropped his foolproof line, “Who loves ya, baby?”

You can watch full episodes of Kojak for free on Hulu.com.

The Rockford Files

Ex-con turned private investigator, Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) wasn’t your typical TV private dick. He’d just as soon avoid a fight and go fishing than bust down a door with pistols a-blazing. Rockford rarely carried a gun and instead relied on his wits, smooth talking, and patented Rockford Turn, executed in his gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit. Rockford didn’t make much money as a private eye, mainly because his clients weaseled out of his “$200 a day plus expenses” fee.  So Rockford lived in a trailer by the beach and bought off the rack clothing. But he did it with the kind of charm and style that richer men could only aspire to.

You can watch full episodes of The Rockford Files for free on Hulu.com.

In the Heat of the Night

Based on the awesome movie of the same name, In the Heat of the Night follows small town police chief Bill Gillespie (played by Caroll O’Conner) and detective Virgil Tibbs (played by Howard Rollins). The show takes place in a small town in Mississippi where as a black man, Detective Tibbs must solve crimes while contending with the locals’ deep-seated racism. It doesn’t help that you got Archie Bunker as your boss. I’ve got a lot of memories of watching this show. It was one of my dad’s favorites.


Sgt. Rick Hunter (played by Fred Dryer) was a rule breaking L.A. homicide detective who couldn’t hold onto a partner. On top of that, he had family in the mob. Needless to say, Hunter’s leaders weren’t too happy to have him around and tried to give him the boot.  Eventually Hunter partnered up with Sgt. Dee Dee ‘The Brass Cupcake” McCall (played by Stepfanie Kramer), a tough and sexy female crime detective. I guess having a broad around helped smooth out Hunter’s rough edges. He ends up staying with McCall for 8 ass kicking years.

You can watch full episodes of Hunter for free on Hulu.com.

Miami Vice

This was a quintessential 80s show filled with white suits, New Wave music, and of course, crime fighting. Don Johnson played Sonny Crockett and Phillip Michael Thomas played Rico Tubbs. The two team up as undercover detectives to fight drug trafficking and prostitution rings in Miami. Filled with epic car and boat chases, Miami Vice had plenty of action to go around. And, for better or for worse, Miami Vice had a big impact on men’s style. Come on, admit it. If you were a 20-something in the the 80s, you wore black t-shirts under a white blazer. Oh yeah….

You can watch full episodes of Miami Vice for free on Hulu.com.

Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues changed American TV dramas. Before Hill Street Blues, most TV dramas had very simple plots. Hill Street Blues was the first show to introduce multiple story lines and incorporate elements of the characters’ personal lives into their professional work. The show takes place in an un-named American city (it was Chicago) where the cops and detectives fight gang violence and other crimes. It’s a pretty straightforward, day-in-the-life-of-a-cop show. A memorable catch phrase from the show that other cop shows and movies have endlessly recycled came from Michael Conrad’s character, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus. He ended every briefing by lifting his finger and telling his officers, “Let’s be careful out there.”

You can watch full episodes of Hill Street Blues for free on Hulu.com.


Adam-12 spun off from the wildly successful 60s cop show, Dragnet. The show follows two LAPD patrol officers, veteran Peter Malloy and rookie cop Jim Reed. The stories in Adam-12 were pulled right from LAPD case files. One episode might feature an exciting chase with the help of a helicopter pilot while another episode would show mundane police procedures like bookings or debriefings. The plots are simple, but highly entertaining.

You can watch full episodes of Adam-12 for free on Hulu.com.


Dragnet is the Great Granddaddy of pretty much every cop/detective show in television history. Jack Webb created, produced, and starred as the iconic Joe Friday in Dragnet. The show began as a radio program, but made its way to television in 1951. Webb wanted to create a cop show that portrayed police work as realistically as possible. To do that, Webb attended police academies, went on night patrols with LAPD officers, and frequently visited police headquarters to research for his episodes. During its run, the main detective, Joe Friday, went through a few partners, but his most memorable partner was Officer Bill Gannon played by Harry Morgan. Gannon played the funny man role, while Friday played the straight man in this double act. An interesting fact about Dragnet is that while Joe Friday is often quoted as saying “Just the facts, ma’am,” he never actually uses that line during the series. The closest he came was uttering, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

You can watch full episodes of Dragnet for free on Hulu.com.

Hawaii Five-0

Five-0 is a special police force that takes orders only from Hawaii’s governor. Ex-Navy intelligence officer Steve McGarrett leads the squad. He battles murders, terrorists, and kidnappers on Hawaii with his guns, brains, and awesome hair. The show featured a bevy of bikini clad babes and awesome car chase scenes with Hawaii’s beauty in the background.  At the end of every episode, we could count on McGarrett telling his subordinate to “Book ‘em Danno!”

Highway Patrol

Broderick Crawford plays a gruff state police commander named Chief Dan Matthews. Every episode you’ll find Chief Matthews barking orders into a two way radio while wearing his signature fedora. In the show’s early days, the California Highway Patrol actually provided technical assistance to help make the show as realistic as possible. Nothing fancy here. Just good old fashioned storytelling.

You can watch full episodes of Highway Patrol on Hulu.com.

What are your favorite classic cop and detective shows? Share them with us in the comments!

{ 129 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roach June 10, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Man, Hawaii Five-0 still has one of the best intros ever. On top of the fantastic music they’ve got all those great quick cuts and long, long zooms. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an entire episode, but I’ve loved that intro for years.

2 Heather June 10, 2010 at 11:09 pm

This was a complete stroll down memory lane.

I loved Harry Morgan as a small child, but that was because I was a huge MASH fan. I couldn’t recall seeing any notice of his death, so I looked him up on IMDB to see when he had passed. And he’s still alive! The man is 95 years old. Good for him. I hope he’s healthy.

Out of this list, I have to say my favorite, while the show was actually playing, was In the Heat of the Night. Unfortunately now I just keep recalling what happened to the O’Connors after the series ended: Hugh’s death, and Carroll’s PSA where he basically pleaded with anyone who had a family member on drugs to do whatever they can to stop them from taking drugs.

3 Paul June 10, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Can’t have this list without Baretta or even Starsky & Hutch.

4 Josh Knowles June 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Nice. Like you say, they just don’y make them like this anymore. Sure things are slicker now, and the effects are better and what-not. But something is lost. James Bond is the same: the old ones with Sean Connery or Roger Moore were way better. Star Wars is the same too.

Regarding classic cop shows, what’s everyone think of Barney Miller?

5 ced June 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Homicide: life on the street great series should have lasted longer than it did

6 Bruce June 11, 2010 at 12:07 am

When I was in fifth grade, I won a transistor radio in a school raffle. The very first song I heard on it was the Rockford Files theme. I just Wikipedia’d it: it went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy.

On theme alone, Rockford Files and Hawaii 5-0 are #1 and #2. But #3 is Streets of San Francisco.

7 roryk June 11, 2010 at 12:14 am

Columbo is missing from this list.

8 Tom June 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

Glad to see Dragnet got on the list! Just the facts ma’am

9 Dee York June 11, 2010 at 1:11 am

The list is missing a few:

The Wire
The Shield
Walker Texas Ranger
T.J. Hooker (meh)

10 JamesBrett June 11, 2010 at 1:56 am

so i’m not old enough to remember mannix. but my question is, “were there really high tech computers in 1969 with which to do detective work and fight crime — and car phones?” was this a maxwell smart type show, where these things didn’t exist yet in the real world, but were included in the show as being futuristic or what?

or maybe i’m just way off on my technology timeline…

11 Big Rob June 11, 2010 at 2:48 am

the list is definitely missing The Wire. Recent HBO drama. My pick for best tv show EVER! Oh yeah and thank you for not including Chips. I might have never visited the site again had it been mentioned.

12 Peter Gilmore June 11, 2010 at 3:15 am

How could you possibly have forgotten “Crime Story”???? Dennis Farina plays Lt. Mike Torello, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Chicago Police Dept in the early ’60s. Showrunner was Michael Mann, and this was basically a romanticized version of the Chicago he grew up in. (Chicagoans, Mann was Senn HS, class of ’62. Anybody who grew up in the city at the time (as my uncles and other neighborhood guys of his generation did) knows how well the show capture the feel of that time and place.

13 James June 11, 2010 at 5:12 am

HOW could you possibly have missed out Columbo???????? Always possible to watch re-runs of Columbo on telly (like ‘Friends’ I guess)


Because it was SO good.

14 Patrick June 11, 2010 at 5:23 am

Another vote for Columbo, The Wire, and Homicide: Life on the Streets – the last one in particular for “Three Men & Adena”. Nothing slick and glossy about that episode, and heart to spare!

15 Dave June 11, 2010 at 5:26 am

As others mentioned: Columbo. And Agatha Christie’s Poirot, of course.

16 Arnold Cohen June 11, 2010 at 5:35 am

How could you have left M Squad with Lee Marvin out of this list? Great cop show with a killer theme.

17 Terry Dinerman June 11, 2010 at 5:48 am

Add “Barny Miller” to the list….

Every Thursday evening, everything came to a halt at 7…

Hal Linden was superb as the watch commander, and Abe Vigoda as “Fish” was study in understatement…

I loved that show!

18 Gill Avila June 11, 2010 at 6:38 am

This stuff is too top heavy with recent stuff. I remember the Golden Age of the 50′s and 60′s. Naked City, M-Squad, Bourbon Street Beat, N.Y.P.D., Mr. Lucky, Peter Gunn, San Francisco Beat, Boston Blackie—too many to count.

19 Byron Williams June 11, 2010 at 7:56 am

Maybe it’s because I’m older, but I can’t believe you left out The Untouchables. Peter Gunn should also be on the list.

20 Jase June 11, 2010 at 8:09 am

For those in Australia, Water Rats and Stingers were relatively recent favourites for me, but when I was a kid I remember loving
Solo One, a spinoff of Matlock Police
and Bluey, fat cop, big moustache!

21 John June 11, 2010 at 8:22 am

I’m sorry, but no Manly cop show list is complete without Get Smart… Don Adams, his shoe phone, and a .38 snubby is all you need for a testosterone filled night of awesome Copliness.

22 John June 11, 2010 at 8:23 am

Missed it by that much…

23 Matt G June 11, 2010 at 8:34 am

What about Columbo?

24 Eric Williams June 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

I’m pretty sure “In the Heat of the Night” took place in Sparta, Georgia, not Alabama.

25 Native Son June 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

Adam-12 had one of the best promos I’ve seen on TV. One year the show followed the eponymous Andy Williams Show. At the opening of one Williams show, Martin Milner came out in full LAPD regalia, and put a parking enforcement chalk stripe across Andy Williams’ shoe, with the remark that Williams could only stay one hour.

26 Jerrick June 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

I grew up watching Dragnet and Get Smart on Nick at Nite. I loved those shows!

27 Luke June 11, 2010 at 10:14 am

Like Jerrick, I also grew up watching Get Smart and especially Dragnet on Nick at Nite. Great memories on both of those.

Dragnet remains the greatest cop show of all time in my mind and Joe Friday the most iconic “cop” of all time. The image of the straight-laced, no-nonsense police officer has stuck with me ever since I was a kid watching those reruns. Some of my favorite episodes of that show involved not-overly-exciting stuff, too. One involved a citizen who was impersonating an officer but was totally acting the role (I want to say at the end he was given probation and recommended for the LAPD Academy), one where Friday had to talk a suicidal man down, and one where they were investigating a drug ring which ended up with several girls ODed. The last one stuck with me because when they find the last girl, who has committed suicide, her note says “To Whom It May Concern” and nothing else.

Great list!

28 fool June 11, 2010 at 10:19 am

Best part about “Hunter”– he crashed a car almost every episode, and it became a joke in the show: the department would only give him crappy old cars.

29 Louis June 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

I love watching reruns of Mike Hammer. Most of these shows are on Retro TV if you get the station in your area. I thought :In the Heat of the Night” was in Sparta Mississippi?

30 R J Vincent June 11, 2010 at 10:40 am

I remember all of these shows. I also liked “Mike Hammer”, “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Columbo”.

JamesBrett, yes, they DID have computers and other “high tech” gear back in 1969, only they were large mainframe computers that took up entire floors of office buildings and had the equivalent computing power that your average pocket calculator does today. They also had car phones but they were radio phones rather than the cell phones we have now. A guy my dad worked with had one in his Corvette. It looked like a CB radio but had a rotary phone dial (!) instead of a frequency tuner. They were rather expensive to buy and use so most people made do with pay phones. Car phones became available not long after World War 2, with the advent of transistorized electronics.

31 Paul June 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

@JamesBrett – yes, there were car phones back then. There’s even an old episode of Andy Griffith (probably from around 1963-1964) where a guy passing through has a car phone.

I can’t imagine how expensive they were back then, though…

32 Ammon June 11, 2010 at 11:00 am

Some other classic manly Cop & Detective shows I enjoyed include:
- Spenser: For Hire
- Law & Order
- Cop Rock

Totally kidding about the last one, but the other two were great.

33 M. E. Arnett June 11, 2010 at 11:04 am

I’m a big fan of the older Law and Order episodes. When Chris Noth was still on there. Being born in `86, I grew up with those.

34 C.O. Jones June 11, 2010 at 11:25 am

At the time of his death, Jack Webb was planning on bringing Dragnet back for a 3rd incarnation, this time with Kent McCord as his partner. Few people know that Webb was responsible for quite a few of television’s innovations, including the close-up shot and the extensive use of teleprompters. The actors on the 1960s era Dragnet shows did not rehearse their lines, they read them from teleprompters off-camera. This kept rehearsal time to a minimum, and allowed Webb to shoot an entire season (26 episodes) in a matter of a few weeks. Webb was a stickler for detail too – the sets that replicated Parker Center were authentic right down the telephones and the extension numbers on them.

35 Brett McKay June 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

Colombo is a great addition. Can’t believe I missed that one!

The Wire and Law & Order are great too although I was thinking about more retro shows for the purpose of this post. But I guess they could be considered our newest classics.

Some of these suggestions I haven’t personally seen, but will have to check out.

36 wkl June 11, 2010 at 11:58 am

‘Crime Story’ (by Michael Mann of Miami Vice fame) was pretty cool – but didn’t last long on TV. Dennis Farina (now of Law and Order) William Smitrovch (sp?) and a host of others were members of the cast. It had cool ’50s intro music.

Followed the story of Farina’s group of detectives (sort of Untouchables like – speaking of which ‘The Untouchables’ with Robert Stack should also be added to the list) – were the protagonist to Sonny Luka (I forget the actor’s name) as Luka moved from the city (NY) out to Las Vegas. Was a good show.

Finally, this series is too contemporary but ‘Justified’ on A&E is kicka**.

37 Cody Dodd June 11, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I don’t understand what’s so manly about cop shows or being a cop?

38 CA June 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

The only show I’d have added to this list is “Tales of the Texas Rangers”.

I’d have to say that Dragnet is easily my favorite of all these shows. And Webb did a great job researching. My father-in-law is a retired cop, detective and hostage negotiator, and he hates cop shows with a passion because of all their inaccuracies, but he watches Dragnet every chance he gets. He says that not only is the show very accurate at showing how police work happens, but he says that Jack Webb’s Joe Friday is the model detective, from his strong moral compass even to his body language.

39 Kurt Garcia June 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm

How can you forget “Barnaby Jones” and “Cannon”? Your list, plus these two shows, would be my list.

40 CA June 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Oh! I don’t know if it counts as a TV “show” or more of a “miniseries”, but BBC’s Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett was awesome!

41 Hans Hageman June 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Loved this. I’m going to o back and look for Kojak (my father’s favorite) and Dragnet episodes. I have to put in my vote for The Wire and Homicide:Life On the Streets. I’m a consultant to the Baltimore Police Department and some of these guys really personify what’s best in men.

42 Brandon Harshe June 11, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I loved this post! I watched almost all of these when I was a kid!

43 Steve in Maryland June 11, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Like Kurt Garcia above, I vote for Cannon. He was always tough (and sounded it too – since he was Matt Dillon on radio’s Gunsmoke) and always drove up in a new Lincoln Mark IV (I thought that was cool, too).

I also miss Harry O starring David Janssen – another former cop turned detective.

44 John June 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I was a CA cop in the early 70s. When I was on the swing shift, we used to fight to get our lunch break during Adam 12. It was a great training show. Police Story, The Naked City and Crime Story were great shows.

45 Sean June 11, 2010 at 2:11 pm

If Hawaii Five-O and Miami Vice can make this list, then we certainly have to think about including CHiPs. Ponch and Jon were my idols when I was little (maybe I’m a little too young). I remember having to watch an episode before I would leave for school every morning, and thinking that Ponch could teach me everything I needed to know about how to deal with women.

46 Brian June 11, 2010 at 2:15 pm

How did we miss Car 54 on this list? Andy Griffith too.

47 Carlos Infante June 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm

An other intresting note about Dragnet, my favorite cop show, is that when the first series came out a lot of the scripts used for the TV show were adapted from the radio scripts. Jack Webbs precision used went a step further in the original radio program as he actually counted the steps between the different rooms. If anyone wants to listen to the radio program, go to archive.org. They have free downloads of all the existing radio episodes or go to itunes and download the Dragnet Podcast. They haven’t updated in a while, but there are plenty of episodes to enjoy over and over again.

48 Howie A. June 11, 2010 at 4:35 pm

One more thing…you left out Columbo?

49 Rockozt June 11, 2010 at 4:47 pm

The list of those left off that maybe should not have been:

Crime Story
Simon and Simon
Spenser: For Hire
The Shield
The Commish
and, even though it’s not necessarily a “cop” show, but close…
The Equalizer

50 Dave Lewis June 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Another vote for Columbo. Dragnet was great too – Joe Friday with his cheap suits and Detective Special. I know that he always shot 100 on the qual course and drank straight bourbon on his day off.

And lets not forget our guys in Mayberry – Andy and Barney. I wouldn’t say that the show was realistic by any stretch of the imagination but they were actually very good cops – even Barney. They knew their people and understood how to deal with the problems of small town police work. They knew how to talk to people and understood that a smile and a little sympathy can go a long way. They were willing to use force when it was needed and Andy in particular gave you the impression that he would have been deadly in a gun fight. Maybe some of the paramilitary young officers these days with their mirror sunglasses and black nylon “tacticool” gear should take a few lessons from Andy.

51 GrahamW June 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

What a shame. The hulu site only works in the US. Most of the shows were screened in the UK but we can’t see these online versions.

Ah well, one day.
Cheers, Graham.

52 Robert June 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Definitely need T.J. Hooker on the list! Things are always better with a little Shatner.

53 Alvin June 11, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Magnum PI and Miami Vice were the good old days……

New adds:
1. Shaft
2. @robert – T.J. Hooker

Cool post, it brought back old memories of racing home to watch Miami Vice…

54 Roger Shankel June 11, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Apparently I’m the only one here old enough to shave, or perhaps Social Security. :)

I would like to add:
“77 Sunset Strip”
“Surfside 6″
“Peter Gunn”
“Richard Diamond”

55 Chad June 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Thought Magnum was it back in the 80′s and that stash lives on!!

56 nick June 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm

good list… but what about COLUMBO?

57 Noah M. Bauer June 11, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Mike Hammer and Simon & Simon should definitely be on the list. I also agree the radio version of Dragnet was much better.

58 Keith June 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Probably the grittiest, most realistic police show I know was Homicide: Life on the Streets. Great characters, a number of whom were killed in action. men who tool care of business as a matter of life. Down and dirty in Baltimore. Definite pucker factor. Andre Braugher and Yaphet Kotto were standouts.

The Retro TV station around here runs the Trifecta – Mike Hammer, Magnum and Rockford.

59 Herr Doktor June 11, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Herr Doktor is dating himself, but really the M-Squad really is missing. Lee Marvin and that jazz score! My prescription is M-Squad on Hulu, stat!

60 Gill Avila June 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Roger Shankel said:
Apparently I’m the only one here old enough to shave, or perhaps Social Security. :)

I would like to add:
“77 Sunset Strip”
“Surfside 6″
“Peter Gunn”
“Richard Diamond”
Ha–you’re not the only one on Social Security—I remember all the ones you mentioned and my list too. And more:

The Roaring 20′s
Hawaiian Eye

61 mark stieber June 11, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Great list. especially, Magnum. To add a little humor to the mix, I would like to nominate “sledge hammer” as #13 to the list.

62 Dan June 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Definitely CHiPs

63 Jack Hager June 11, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Just a reminder that Fred Dryer was a former NFL player…Rams, I think? Great list…but, whenever you make a list, someone will gripe that theirs didn’t make the cut. Thanks much for putting it together!

64 wkl June 12, 2010 at 4:38 am

Just a correction ‘Justified ‘ is on FX. It is a terrific show. Great season ender last Tuesday.

Fred Dryer played defensive end for the Giants and Rams. Also on ‘Crime Story’ Del Shannon’s “RunAway” was the intro music – really good and cool.
Anthony Denison played Ray (not Sonny) Luca (not Luka). Also Dennis Farina was a member of the Chicago police force. Great show but got too expensive for NBC.

Also honorable mention goes out to ‘Millenium’ with Lance Henriksen (Aliens 2) and Terry O’Quinn (Lost). That was a good show – started out in rainy Seattle, WA area as Black was a ex-FBI agent and profiler. It had a great apocalyptic season ending show the 2nd season, if I recall.

Anyway it was produced by Chris Carter (Mulder and Scully) and just lost audience interest, I guess- but I loved it-made Friday nights worth watching the boob tube.

65 bob June 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

I remember watching the FBI with Ephrom Zimbalist jr. Sunday nights with my dad.

66 Sir Lancelot June 12, 2010 at 8:16 am

“What a shame. The hulu site only works in the US. Most of the shows were screened in the UK but we can’t see these online versions.”

According to the site they’re in the process of buying international rights to the videos.

67 Terry June 12, 2010 at 11:21 am

Nice selection. I really liked Rockford files and Magnum PI. But you missed one of the best. Starsky and Hutch.

68 Andrew June 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Banacek – THE polish dective

69 Gill Avila June 12, 2010 at 11:45 pm

I gave up on Starsky & Hutch after several episodes. Nothing but shootouts, car chases and crashes. Total crapfest Same with the A-Team–the same plot over and over..

70 John O'Connell June 13, 2010 at 9:25 am

For British readers, substitute any of the above with The Sweeney – the toughest British cop show ever, that police officers themselves watched. First police show on European TV to show cops drinking alcohol, smoking, swearing and getting into real fights with real blood – and not always getting the villain.

Having said that, for US shows it has to be Rockford. Glad to see him on the list.

71 Bruce H June 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

The most obviously missing show is Peter Gunn. Gunn was cool, smart, tough, and confident. He could have been the model for Connery’s Bond. And then there was Edie.

72 Steve Crane June 13, 2010 at 11:51 am

Homicide: Life on the Street is my favourite. There are some great shows from other parts of the world too; The Sweeney from the UK, Van Der Valk from Holland and Derrick from Germany were all good.

73 gevin shaw June 13, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Police Story, Naked City, and Streets of San Francisco all deserve a star on this walk for character and, especially the first two, for story. (Do we really have to exclude Pepper Anderson just because she was a woman?)

74 Jeremy June 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I saw no “The Untouchables” on that list, how can this be? It stars Robert Stack!

75 Emil Outzen June 14, 2010 at 4:24 am

In my opinion you miss the great britsh “Inspector Morse”. Truely an english gentleman who knows how to solve mysteries.

76 John Beeler June 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm
77 boomer babe June 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I, for one, hate the modern detective shows, the ‘buxom babes’ act more masculine than the whiny boyish actors that are supposed to be MEN next to them..I always loved dragnet, mannix, and the rest—men acting like REAL MEN instead of either ‘boys’ or macho pigs.

78 Matt June 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

What about Chips? That is a classic of cop shows!

79 Sean June 14, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Anyone remember the ABC “cop drama” Life on Mars?? A great remake of a Brit show. C’mon! Harvey Keitel.. Nuff said!
Ed O’neill and the remake of Dragnet was awesome too..

80 Charles June 15, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Banacek. Banacek is missing probably the greatest post lecture-post lunch-post afternoon nap entertainment. with such glorious lines as “Though the hippopotamus has no sting, the wise man would prefer to be sat upon by the bee”; “A wise man never plays leapfrog with a unicorn”;

George Peppard – a true great in the stakes of manliness.

81 boomer babe June 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Most of these shows are on hulu.com if you want to watch reruns

82 Clark June 16, 2010 at 7:38 am

The best show ever made about firefighters, “Emergency!” was a spinoff of Adam-12. Jack Webb was a TV genius.

83 BonzoGal June 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

My dad was a parole officer. He said the cop show that all the guys in the parole and sheriff’s department thought was the most like real-life was “Barney Miller.”

84 Josh June 17, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Cool shows, can’t wait to watch them! Maybe you should make a post like this for cop movies?

85 Jack June 18, 2010 at 1:16 am

They certainly don’t make these shows like they used to…nowadays most of them are ripoffs of CSI…

86 Jesper H. June 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Hands down, the perfect gentleman detective and probably one of history´s best dressers. Different, though, from the more brute and rough american P.I./cop-shows.


87 Rich Landers June 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Overall a great list. I think 2 shows that should be added are The Rookies and Police Story.

88 Dave June 22, 2010 at 8:14 am

I know you’ve tried, but I still say the Sweeney beats all of those.

89 Lum June 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

Hate to tell you but coming from a cop, the most realistic shows are.
1. Barney Miller
2. Mayberry RFD
3. And how could you leave off Reno 911? Far more realistic than most of the shows on here.

90 rick m June 22, 2010 at 11:48 am

If you like cop shows you might like old radio shows like “Gangbusters” “Tales of the Texas Rangers” and “Dragnet” to name a few. You can listen to them on several itunes radio stations or find them at this web site:

Oh, and “Gunsmoke” is available at those sites, but you can watch old episodes on TVLand.com. Amazing how these shows could be entertaining and exciting without being graphic and off-color.

91 Brian June 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm


92 Winifred June 23, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Harry O for me every time! My all time favourite American detective.

Of the UK ones, Foyle’s War, Inspector Morse, Lewis, A Touch of Frost and George Gently get my vote.

93 Kevin June 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

It must be my generation, I didn’t watch any of these shows. They were a little before my time, even the newer ones were on when I was only 4-8 so I didn’t get them. I tried watching a few on Hulu, but they seem campy and A-Team like to me. For me, the best Cop show (or closest to that genre) is 24. Gritty, no-holds-barred, terrorist killing Jack Bauer is the man. For modern campy, I like Monk and Psyche.

94 tlpalmer June 26, 2010 at 12:16 am

Adam 12 every week.

Watched it as a kid and thought it true to life. As young adult a number of police officers that I met (socially and at a business I worked for, not being arrested) shocked me by being more like the bad guys on the shows. I liked the tv officers much better.

95 Planet Leslie June 26, 2010 at 12:40 am

Nobody mentioned Police Squad’s Detective Frank Drebbin! LOL

96 RS Sten June 26, 2010 at 12:46 am

Hands down: The Shield

97 Will Grigg June 26, 2010 at 1:05 am

This is a good list, and others have mentioned some unfortunate omissions. The most glaring oversight was the criminally neglected mid-80s detective series “Spenser: For Hire,” starring the late (and much missed) Robert Urich in the title role and the incomparable Avery Brooks as Spenser’s fearsome ally (NOT “sidekick”), Hawk. Based on the novels by Robert Parker (who passed away earlier this year), S:FH was an unusually well-wrought hour-long drama. Sharp characterization and consistently superior acting more than compensated for the occasionally trite and predictable storylines. It would be WONDERFUL to see Spenser brought to the big screen: George Clooney as Spenser, Katherine Zeta-Jones as his love interest, Susan Silverman, and Michael Jai White as Hawk.

98 David June 26, 2010 at 4:01 am

Haven’t seen The Streets of San Fran mentioned, always liked Car 54.

99 Capt Mike June 26, 2010 at 5:39 am

Geez, Will, I thought you didn’t LIKE cops! :)

100 James June 26, 2010 at 6:21 am

In the early 70′s there was a great Thursday night double header with Streets of San Francisco and Harry O.

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