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The Best TV Detectives

Television mystery shows have been a staple of my existence since, well, as long as I can remember. They are one of the few commonalities my father and I shared, and so they hold an extra special place in my heart. And with yesterday having been Father's Day and what not, I was thinking about all the mystery programs on TV that I currently (and used to) watch and, of those, which ones featured the best detectives. You know me, dear reader.... never one to miss an opportunity to do a 'best of' list. So, here goes: my favorite television detectives!

1. Columbo

The every-man, the quintessential American copper. With his rumpled raincoat, absent-minded demeanor, junky-looking car, his dog with the name Dog, and overall genial nature, Columbo was aces at putting a suspect off their guard -- until it was too late. I could watch his mysteries all day.

2. Endeavour Morse

An Oxford graduate-turned police detective, Morse used his education, his love of words, his intellect, his passion for seeing things through, to help solve the murders on his patch (not without the help of his sidekick Robbie Lewis). His mysteries are a perfect blend of classical music, a beautiful (yet sinister) academic setting, and a troubled man.

3. Tom Barnaby

From the pen of Caroline Graham to the screens of ITV viewers in the UK, the character of Tom Barnaby held down the fort on Midsomer Murders for 14 years, investigating over 200 deaths along the way. True, the body count was rather high for such an idyllic-looking place, but with Barnaby on the job, the criminals were always caught. Or were they? At times, he could be lenient on those whom he felt were generally good people. He also had a stable home life, which makes for a nice change from most of the frustrated detectives that grace our TV screens.

4. Jessica Fletcher

Whether she was solving crimes in her quaint hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine, or on the French Riviera, Angela Lansbury as J.B. Fletcher was always the consummate lady: polite, curious, and never afraid to stand her ground. She made 12 years of classic television so enjoyable for so many people.

5. Ellery Queen

Sure, the cases were somewhat obvious, the dying clue was pretty contrived, and the period setting was done up rather hokey, but Jim Hutton as Ellery Queen had a charm and charisma that carried the show. It was just plain fun to watch.

I could go on, of course. There have been so many exciting and enthralling detectives on television over the years: Joe Friday, Andy Dalziel, James Hathaway, The Equalizer, Sherlock Holmes, etc., but the aforementioned five rank as my favorites. If you haven't had a chance to check them out, they're all available on DVD, and even some can be streamed. So, get to sleuthing!


  1. I think we could watch tv together with no problem. Not as familiar with the Brits, but take your word on them. My only addition would be the quirky Monk. ;-)


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