81 Responses

  1. Anne Iredale
    Anne Iredale at |

    Great list!

  2. Raghavendra
    Raghavendra at |

    A list of top 10 detectives without

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

    with Jeremy Brett is like having irish coffee without the whiskey. Nice, but doesnt quite cut it.

    1. Thomas Sinclair
      Thomas Sinclair at |

      Detective Colombo is not in the list!! shame on you…

      1. Shehnaz Khan
        Shehnaz Khan at |

        It truly is a shame for Colombo not to be included in the list!

  3. Atlanta Private Investigator
    Atlanta Private Investigator at |

    That’s a great list! I’d forgotten completely about Peter Gunn. Thanks for compiling it!

    1. Michelle Rodriguez
      Michelle Rodriguez at |

      Be my pi for tv series theft that may be connected to crooked cops and loser posing as good horse person. I am a former emergency vet tech that moved to ky to live out my dreams. I chose ky because horse would have best opportunity and knew I could write and play with my product ideas to change my income as I have been influenced by well known persons my whole life, only to be ripped off more than once with unlikely persons this was so shocking that I went to everyone it was a crime and still is a crime in progress luckily someone in law enforcement now but would like private investigator as witness due to cops that are unethical influence. I have nothing but problems need your help as one of my series for tv ideas stolen with one person having crooked cops and entertainment look alikes that just steal. They used old co workers is my theory and I called my former tenant an agent with a different jurisdiction but still a matter that time is of the element no pun intended. My series name Quantum Investigations: QI with Det Delphi the main character who has designed a program to predict murders, I saw an advertisement after reporting someone connected to cops and vet staff as well as other new participants gained access to my files. Asked criminal complaints person to assist me too…very creeped out. This is my own works I have many ideas that were compromised and reported immediately. I have two short scripts copyrighted and others were registered at SWG and other ip protection service as well for other ip. They still got accessed and thought you could assist me please true crime.

  4. Terry Bigham
    Terry Bigham at |

    Ellery Queen also had more than a few series of his own on 50s TV, though most may best remember Jim Hutton's nostalgic take on the character in the 70s.

    And what about Falk's Columbo, Savalas' Kojak, Blake's Baretta, Jack Webb's Joe Friday, Gene Barry's Amos Burke, Anne Francis' Honey West, et al?

    Heck, even McBain's 87th Princinct had a show in the 50s! And William "Cannon" Conrad played Nero Wolfe in a short-lived 80s series opposite future "Matt Houston" Lee Horsley!

  5. tchudson
    tchudson at |

    Stuart Kaminsky wrote two Rockford novels in the late nineties.

  6. ironflange
    ironflange at |

    Why was there never a stampede of people getting the hell out of every town that Jessica Fletcher came to visit? I could never figure that out, they must have known that Death followed her everywhere.

    1. columbo
      columbo at |

      ha this is what i have always been saying to people the whole time!!
      i could never get into this programme!

  7. Glen
    Glen at |

    Sorry, I can't buy into a Top 10 Detective list that doesn't include Peter Falk's Colombo.

    Who would I cut to make room? Probably "Veronica Mars" or "Murder She Wrote."

  8. John McDonnell
    John McDonnell at |

    Rockford was the best. The show looks dated now, because of the different clothes and hairstyles, and the lighting in TV is so different now (ever notice how old shows look like they were filmed at dusk?) but the characters are classics. Jim Garner had an easy way of acting that was very charming.

  9. YogiBarrister
    YogiBarrister at |

    Great list, you had me at Veronica Mars. I posit that VM is the best broadcast network show of the decade, here's why: Rob Thomas is a great writer, especially dialogue. Kristen Bell is drop-dead gorgeous and perfectly cast. The supporting cast is solid as well. Next to Mad Men, it is the most visually stunning television ever; the photography, the lighting, the sets, costumes, and make-up are all superb. Then there is the sound of the show, I've listened to a few episodes without the picture and it's incredible. The theme song is fantastic, as is all of the music, including the soundtrack, which they use for great dramatic effect. The voices are softened or deepened depending on the mood, and you have to be a total sound nerd to notice, the foley board work is excellent.

  10. Jay
    Jay at |

    I know they were disqualified, but just wanted to mention Starksy & Hutch. They seemed like the didn't work for the police at times.

  11. Rob
    Rob at |

    No love for Rick and AJ Simon?

  12. m water
    m water at |

    The Monk ?

  13. Hall of the Wendigo
    Hall of the Wendigo at |

    There's only one Columbo. He was so good that he always knew who the murderer was before he'd even seen any evidence.

  14. Donzie
    Donzie at |

    Shawn Spencer from Psych. Helps police in investigations but not an actual police detective. Great show and awsome list.

    1. Kate
      Kate at |

      Ah, Shawn. I agree that Shawn (and Monk, for that matter) should be on any list of great TV detectives, but I think being hired by the Santa Barbara PD puts him out of the running.

      (although, on a list of TV police detectives, Monk and Shawn [and Gus…can't leave out Gus] have to be included).

  15. JC
    JC at |

    What happened to Jack Bauer and Jim Phelps? How come they are not in the list?

  16. Trust the Gene Genie
    Trust the Gene Genie at |

    This list is really missing DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) from Life on Mars (UK version) and Ashes to ashes.

  17. Kaska
    Kaska at |


    1. Tanya
      Tanya at |


  18. The Blackbird
    The Blackbird at |

    Agents Mulder and Scully are FBI so they don't count, but I love them. And Columbo. I think you need to start a new list Tanya. 🙂

  19. nived30
    nived30 at |

    where are shaft and jimmy kudo

  20. Zman
    Zman at |

    The Rockford Files was the greatest show! Jimbo was the best!

  21. sportsgal
    sportsgal at |

    My personal faves – Rick and AJ Simon

  22. Dalek14
    Dalek14 at |

    What about DCI Tom Barnaby from Midsomer Murders (From UK)

    What about another list for TV detectives adapted from novels or one for TV detectives from other countries

  23. Kevin Burton Smith
    Kevin Burton Smith at |

    Nice list, but…

    First of all Jessica Fletcher and the Harts are NOT private eyes — they’re amateur sleuths. In their place you might hve inserted HARRY O or CANNON or CITY OF ANGELS or EYES or TEN SPEED & BROWNSHOE or…

    And while it’s flattering of you to mention thrillingdetective.com so frequently, it bothers me that you’d mention MagicDragon at all, since a staggering amount of that site was simply ripped off from mine.

  24. TMJ
    TMJ at |

    Interesting list. I do have one minor quibble. Joe Mannix never drove a Mercury Comet. He had a customized Olds Toronado in the first season, but never drove a Mercury.

  25. Toby Martin II
    Toby Martin II at |

    A list of TV’s greatest detectives… no COLUMBO?… no MONK?…

  26. John
    John at |

    So no steve mcgarrett or sherlock holmes.

  27. poeticmakaveli
    poeticmakaveli at |

    I know you are always saying that columbo is LAPD or whatever but u have to be sorry now for not putting him number 1 🙂 everybody is just so angry now including me 🙂
    AH but all joking aside, COLUMBO is my favorite programme of all time and im a younger generation, i should be into csi,criminal minds,etc but im not! i love the columbos and have the complete boxsets and i always watch them over and over again, great replay value!

  28. Kurt Hunt
    Kurt Hunt at |

    Ummmmm…… COLUMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Easily number one.

  29. Amor Fati
    Amor Fati at |

    Does Dexter count? He does it as a hobby.

  30. Brian
    Brian at |

    Wheres L

  31. younger
    younger at |

    what a pity. i think this is the worst 10 detective series.
    who ever posted this is trying to joke.
    how can you even imagine the detective series without the tought of “the adventures of sherlock holmes” led by jemmy brett. the best sherlock holmes character played . how disgusting there is no mention of it.

  32. Barry
    Barry at |

    You have Veronica Mars ahead of Jessica Fletcher???
    This list is a crime against humanity!!!!

  33. Roddy McCorley
    Roddy McCorley at |

    Hm. I suppose longevity is one of the major factors for determining who makes this list. But I think an honorable mention should go to Harry Orwell, played by David Jansen in the series Harry O. It only lasted two seasons, but was one of the best detective shows ever. In terms of quality, it rates close to Rockford Files.

  34. Buddhika
    Buddhika at |

    I think the writer has not watched The Mentalist. It is the best detective story I have ever watched.

    1. senmi
      senmi at |

      I totally agree with you cuz I really love the show too!!!!

  35. Shawn Wells
    Shawn Wells at |

    You are kidding, right? How can you have a top ten TV detectives list without Columbo?

  36. Len Bankes
    Len Bankes at |

    Len Says,

    What about Miami Vice.
    Crocket and Tubbs – Cocaine Cowboys.

  37. senmi
    senmi at |

    Where the heck is Patrick Jane From The Mentalist He is really awesome and so is the show!!

  38. EMG
    EMG at |

    Any top TV detectives list that does not include Columbo isn’t worth squat.

    In addition to that, yours include Magnum and Hart to Hart, which is downright insulting.

  39. Kevin Burton Smith
    Kevin Burton Smith at |

    So, a few years later I respond. Frank Cannon was in fact a private eye. He had been a cop once, but during the entire run of the show he worked as a private eye.

    The generally accepted definition of a private investigator is a professional investigator who works for a private client. For money. Hence my confusion over your inclusion of amateur sleuths such as Jessica Fletcher and the Harts who don’t so much hire themselves out as stick their noses in.

  40. Tanya Bennett
    Tanya Bennett at |

    Hi Kevin, thanks for your response – it’s nice to see this list still generating some discussion after all these years!

    Re: Cannon – the fact that he was a cop disqualifies him from this list – I kept it to detectives who were never police officers; otherwise I never would have been able to pick just 10. There are so many different TV detectives, I could have done a list just about professional P.I.’s or just about amateur sleuths… I would still love to see a list of Top 10 Police Detectives – particularly if it was international. I’m fairly certain I would include Rebus, Wallander, and Morse on that list – but it would very difficult to select a top 10.

  41. Kevin Burton Smith
    Kevin Burton Smith at |

    Part of the problem here, Tanya, is that your title (“Top 10 TV Detectives”), your sub-head (“Shamus, sleuth, gumshoe, P.I., private eye, private dick…”) and your introduction (“private investigators, not police detectives”) all promise a list of slightly different things, hence the confusion among so many people about who should/shouldn’t be included. No wonder people are confused.

    (Although some just didn’t even read your intro at all, obviously)

    But so it goes. Columbo is a cop, Cannon was once upon a time a cop, but works as a private eye, and Jessica Fletcher was never a private dick. But Columbo, Cannon and even Jessica were all detectives. Police, private and amateur, respectively. So they all count, and they all don’t count.

    Whatever. I love lists like this. Next time, just nail down the criteria a little tighter.

    And glad to hear you’re digging REPUBLIC OF DOYLE. It’s the perfect antidote for those who miss the 1970-80s glory days of TV private eyes, although it would never make this list because a) both father and son are ex-cops, and b) the show’s Canadian, not American. I think they’re working on their sixth season in Canada; they just aired the first down here.

  42. Tanya Bennett
    Tanya Bennett at |

    Hi Kevin, It’s been a long time since I wrote this list but I just looked at the intro and refreshed my memory.

    Inspired by another writer’s list of literary detectives, I based this list on the Museum of Broadcast Communications’ classification of TV detectives into three classic characters inspired by fiction: the hard-boiled detective, the clever puzzle-solver, and the amateur detective duo.

    I also added the following criteria:
    1. they are not (and have never been) police detectives
    2. they were created for TV (not originally from a book series or movie).
    3. I have also restricted this list to US programs only.

    I agree my opening paragraphs could have been nailed down better – the description of the list and the criteria are quite wobbly. My apologies to those of you who have had to get past it – and thanks to all who have taken the time to read this list. It was a pleasure to research and write, since it is one of my favourite topics!

  43. Kevin Burton Smith
    Kevin Burton Smith at |

    It’s one of my favourite topics too, obviously. Any time you do another that revolves around P.I.s, let me know…

  44. Tanya Bennett
    Tanya Bennett at |

    You bet! 🙂

  45. Charles Campbell
    Charles Campbell at |

    Leaving Columbo…one of TV’s greatest characters off this list ,was ridiculous!

    1. Shell Harris
      Shell Harris at |

      I guess you didn’t read the criteria. Here it is again just for you. “The detectives listed all meet the following three criteria: they are private investigators, not police detectives (sorry Columbo and Cannon, we still love you) and they were created for TV (not originally from a book series or movie… disqualifying Mike Hammer, among others)”


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