13 Great TV Detectives

Having previously done 13 of my favorite Literary Detectives, it’s time for television’s. As you’ll notice, most of these shows were from the 80’s. It was hard to pull from other decades, as these were the years I was growing up; and I have a special fondness for most of those shows. So, here are my favorite 13 TV Detectives:

1. Remington Steele – He’s suave, British, and quotes old movies. Of course, he has to be number one. I’m also including Laura Holt here; as she’s the real detective. “The woman behind the man.” Laura just lets Steele “take all the bows.” She was the role model for young women back then. And Steele was just nice to look at.
Favorite Quotes: “Somebody always shoots at us when we’re kissing!”
And “Paramount, 1956, starring…”

2. MacGyver – He can make a bomb out of duct tape and a paperclip. He’s easily the coolest man alive, even with a mullet.
Favorite Quotes: “If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.”
And “You can do anything, if you just set your mind to it.”




3. Rick and A.J. Simon (from Simon & Simon) – Their brothers, but their complete opposites. While fighting over ladies and seemingly always on the brink of bankruptcy, they still manage to solve crimes. … Did I mention my huge crush on A.J.?
Favorite Quote: [A.J. flashes Ann McDaniels a badge to get inside the house.]
Rick Simon: Where did you get that?
A.J. Simon: Dime store.

4. Shawn and Gus (from Psych) – Shawn is a fake psychic with a photographic memory. Gus is his best friend and a pharmaceutical salesman. They team up to solve crimes and help out the police, and hilarity ensues.
Favorite Quote: [Gus] “You named your fake detective agency Psych? Why didn’t you just call it ‘hey we’re fooling you and the police department; hope we don’t make a mistake and somebody dies because of it.”
[Shawn] “First of all, Gus, that name is entirely too long; it would never fit on the window. And secondly the best way you convince people you’re not lying to them is to tell them you are!”

5. Magnum P.I. – He’s not afraid to laugh at himself. He’s a man’s man, Vietnam vet, drives a Ferrari, and lives in a millionaire author’s mansion in Hawaii. And he even looks good in a mustache.
Favorite Quotes: (It’s a toss-up among his different voiceovers) [narrates] “I know what you’re thinking…”
[narrates] “A little voice inside my head was telling me…”
[narrates] “When I write my book on how to be a world class private investigator, I’m going to include a chapter on…”
[narrates “I know what you’re thinking…but this time you’re wrong…”

6. Monk – Obsessive. Compulsive. Detective. He has every phobia known to man, and then some. But he is still the greatest detective in San Fransisco. He feels compelled to solve every crime since his wife’s tragic death, hoping to someday find her killer.
Favorite Quote: “You’ll thank me later.”




7. David Addison and Maddie Hayes (from Moonlighting) – She’s a former model and he’s a goof-off, so most of the cases they solve are actually out of pure luck. They have the strangest love-hate relationship, but their chemistry lasted 5 seasons.
Favorite Quote:Maddie Hayes: Well, let me remind you Mr. Addison, that one case does not a detective make.
David Addison: Well, let me remind you Ms. Hayes, that I HATE IT WHEN YOU TALK BACKWARDS.

8. Jessica Fletcher (from Murder, She Wrote) – She’s a sweet, grandmotherly, a famous mystery writer, and loves to stick her nose into ongoing murder investigations. And murders follow her wherever she goes. Who would I least like to go to a dinner party with? Jessica Fletcher. Come on. Someone is going to die.
Favorite Quote: “I think I know who the killer is, but I need some help to prove it. I just hope we aren’t too late.”


9. Columbo – An actual police detective and always chomping on a cigar. I love it when he questions the suspects.
Favorite Quote: “Oh, and one more thing…”

10. Perry Mason – I can hear the theme music right now. He’s defense attorney, who clears his clients by finding the actual criminal. Based on the classic novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Burr was the actor to bring the character to life. According to wikipedia, Perry Mason was the first detective show to use a chalk or tape outline to mark the spot of a murder victim.
Favorite Quote: “I object, Your Honor.”

11. Matlock – Much like Perry Mason, he clears his clients by tracking down the actual criminals. But while Perry usually got his clients cleared during the pretrial hearing, Matlock does his thing during a trial, in front of a jury. In other words, not a real difference. I should probably add Conrad too, since he was Matlock’s investigator. And I had a major crush on him too.
Favorite Quote: “Every year I look for the nastiest, hatefulest, meanest man to represent; and this year you’re it.”

12. Dr. Mark Sloan (from Diagnosis Murder) –The talented Dick Van Dyke shines in anything he does. He’s a physician who can’t turn away from a good mystery.
Favorite Quote: “Chim Chiminee, Chim Chiminee, Chim Chim Cheroo…” Oh. Wrong show.

13. Michael Knight (from Knight Rider) – “Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the powerless, the helpless in a world of criminals who operate above the law.” … Big hair, and an even bigger ego. To bad his car is cooler than he is.
Favorite Quote: “Gimme all ya got Kit!”

Special Mention: Harry Dresden, from The Dresden Files. It just hasn’t been on long enough to make it on the lists.

40 thoughts on “13 Great TV Detectives”

  1. You left out Jim Rockford of the Rockford Files! And what about Harry Dresden? (I haven’t seen the new show yet, though, so… *shrug*)

    I love most of these–haven’t seen Psych, and somehow missed Diagnosis Murder, but the rest are great. I’ve got the kids hooked on MacGyver and Knight Rider. I think I’ll introduce them to Monk next.

  2. Monk is one of my favorite shows! And Psych is pretty cool too, very hilarious! Knightrider was one of my favorite shows growing up. They actually showed that overseas. Scarecrow & Mrs. King was another one I enjoyed.

  3. I loooove TV detectives! I don’t know #4 Psych, but I’d like to see that one too. Great TT!
    My list is about support this week.

  4. What a terrific idea for a Thursday Thirteen! Remington Steele used to be required television growing up, and Nightrider was not far behind. You’re most definitely right: Kit was way cooler than Mr. Knight. Talking cars always win!

    Psych is one of my new favorites. I try to catch it when I can. The one-liners are what make that show classic.

    Happy Thursday to you!

  5. I always loved watching Remington Steele and Magnum, P.I. Good stuff. As is Rockford files that was mentioned above.

    Mary and I watched Monk the other night for the first time in a loooong time. I had forgotten just how funny that show was. And I really like Traylor Howard..why am I not watching this every week?

  6. You know my softspot for MacGyver, but I forgot how many others of these I love. It’s funny that we don’t have this type of show as often on TV these days. Magnum and Colombo were two of my favourites.

    I also really loved Mike Hammer and The Equalizer.

  7. It is true.. they don’t make them like they used to…

    I was never a fan of Rockford Files.. I think it had something to do with me not liking James Garner.

    Another one I loved was Hart to Hart. But it didn’t quite make my top 13.

  8. No Angel? 🙁

    Love that quote from Psych, but I’ve never even heard of the show. Have fond memories of some of the others though.

  9. I love Monk and I love the quote (about his ability to notice and remember every little detail) “It’s a blessing…and a curse.”

    And MacGyver.Sigh. He can rescue me any day. 🙂

    My 13 are up.

  10. I’ll definitely agree with Shawn and Gus, and Monk. Love them both.

    But my fave detectives are Briscoe/Green from Law and Order, and Benson, Stabler, Munch & Fin from L&O: Special Victims

  11. thank you for the trip down memory lane. I watched all the old detective shows and used to love them. Probably why I enjoy reading mystery and suspense today.

  12. Oh Angela! I’m so with you on this list…

    I love Magnum P.I…. ohhhh and Columbo….ohhhh but most of all Matlock….ohhhh and Jessica Fletcher (MSW)….ohhhh and Michael Knight – insert the theme music/ show song – you know which one 😉

    I love them all!!! I still watch reruns!

    Plus, Angela. Your quotes are great. Funny, it took me till now to realize that Jessica Fletcher always said the same thing in every episode before she went to solve the crime! 🙂

  13. I adore Columbo. I absolutely love him!

    And that pic of Brosnan as Remington Steele…my word, is he YOUNG there! Wow.

    I also have been watching the old Moonlighting eps–I was so glad when they put them out on DVD. Bruce baby is such a cutie.

  14. I had a friend who had such a crush on Richard Dean Anderson in junior high that she bought a leather jacket and went around with a roll of duct tape in the pocket.

  15. Would you believe I’ve hardly seen any of these? (Based on previous comments, you probably would…) But I used to love Murder, She Wrote and Perry Mason. And now I really appreciate the uniqueness and humor of Psych.

    Great list!

  16. My favorite show as a teenager was “Moonlighting!” It’s hard to believe that Bruce Willis used to be on television. He was always so funny.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your list — and heh, the pictures. 🙂 I hadn’t thought of those guys and gals in a long time though I used to watch many of those shows in years past. Oh, the memories! What fun.

    Happy TT to you! 🙂

  18. I liked Magnum, and Remington Steele, and Moonlighting. I always expected at the end of the run of Murder She Wrote that we would find out that Jessica had actually committed all of those crimes she had “solved” over the years. Ever notice wherever she goes someone is dead?

  19. You just totally reminded me of the TV I grew up watching (thanks to the rents). I forgot about Simon & Simon, Moonlighting and Remmington Steele. I do remember Knight Rider and Magnum P.I., but how could you forget it when your grandma had a poster of Tom Selleck in her bedroom. 😉

  20. tvaddictgurl – Now that’s a fan! Too funny!

    Gyspy – Scooby’s gang.. that’s another good one!

    Amy – Wait. Your GRANDMOTHER had a Tom Selleck poster in her bedroom?! That’s hilarious!

  21. Vicky – I just watched the first season of Murder, She Wrote.. and tape the occasional episode on my DVR. I’ve seen so many lately, that I can impersonate her. She does say the exact same thing at exactly 5 minutes till the end of the episode!

  22. Sigh. I tried to comment earlier today, but my web-browser at work has a hate-hate relationship with WordPress.

    Anyway, my friends and I saw an old episode of Knight Rider recently. It was a bit of a shock to see how much bronzer and eyeliner they put on “the Hoff”. I remember thinking he was so handsome! LOL!

    And does anyone else find it disturbing that Kit had the same sound as the old Cylons?

  23. Angela, you’re lists are way better than anything that David Letterman comes up with. That man annoys me, must be his pokca-dot ties.

    I’ll do enjoy your lists…anything that mentions mullets and ’80s show is pretty much a guarenteed good laugh. Epecially if it includes pictures.

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