The Five Best Classic TV Detectives

FalkIn trying to come up with the “five best” classic TV detectives, I used the following criteria: quality; longevity; and iconic status. And, of course, to be considered classic TV, the detective’s series must have originated no later than the 1980s. Thus, it was with heavy heart that I omitted later personal favorites like Cadfael and Christopher Foyle of Foyle’s War. I also left out TV series where the protagonists may have done some sleuthing, but weren’t necessarily detectives by trade (e.g., The Avengers, The Saint). Without further ado, here are my top five choices:

 1. Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Poirot (1989 – ). Incredibly, David Suchet has never won an acting award for his pitch-perfect portrayal of Ms. Christie’s Belgium detective. He captures all the nuances of the prissy, perceptive sleuth who uses his “little gray cells” to solve the most baffling cases. When Poirot proclaims he is the world’s greatest detective, he’s not being egotistical–he’s being honest. This series, which debuted in 1989, will conclude in 2013 after 13 nonconsecutive seasons. Its enduring popularity can be partially attributed to the fact that its episodes are based on Christie’s short stories or novels–which often feature ingenious plot twists and/or methods of murder. Many fans favor the one-hour episodes, but I have a soft spot for the longer “movies” based on Christie’s novels, several of which are set in exotic locations (Murder in Mesopotamia) or English country estates (The Mysterious Affair at Styles).

 2. Lt. Columbo, Columbo (1968-78; 1989-2003). William Link and Richard Levinson created this persistent police detective for a 1960 episode of the TV anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show starring Bert Freed. Thomas Mitchell played Columbo in a 1962 stage play, and Bing Crosby even once considered donning the now-famous crumpled raincoat. However, it was Peter Falk who made the part famous, first in a pair of made-for-TV movies and then in a subsequent long-running series. At the start of each episode, the viewer watched the murderer commit his or her crime. Then, Columbo–whom the killer always underestimated–would methodically unravel the mystery and catch the culprit (his trademark was leaving the the room after questioning the killer, only to pause with a variation of: “Just one more thing…”). Falk excelled in this cat-and-mouse game construct, often acting opposite quality guest stars like Patrick McGoohan, John Cassavetes, Laurence Harvey, Vera Miles, and Faye Dunaway.

3. Jessica Fletcher, Murder, She Wrote (1984-96). Link and Levinson were also responsible for creating the most successful female detective on American television. Personally, I think Agatha Christie ought to get a little credit, since there are similarities between middle-aged widow Jessica Fletcher and elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple. Ironically, Angela Lansbury played both characters, appearing as Miss Marple in the 1980 motion picture The Mirror Crack’d. Before Lansbury was cast as Jessica Fletcher, Jean Stapleton and Doris Day were considered for the role. Frankly, though, I can’t imagine anyone but Lansbury, who was Emmy-nominated 12 times, yet somehow never won. The series took place in Cabot Cove, a small coastal town in Maine…and apparently a hot spot for murders. Fortunately, the town’s most famous resident–bestselling mystery writer Jessica–was as astute as any of her fictional creations and never failed to unmask the culprit.

4. Jim Rockford, The Rockford Files (1974-80). A wrongly-accused ex-convict who lived in a mobile home, Jim Rockford had little in common with most of the detectives on the airwaves in the 1970s. However, his unique persona–plus the fact he was played by James Garner–kept fans tuning in for six years. Since the series was co-created by Roy Huggins and starred Garner, it’s often compared to their earlier offbeat Western show Maverick. Yet, other than being laid-back and preferring to avoid violence, I think Rockford is a solid departure from the slippery Bret Maverick. Rockford was often assisted by his father Rocky (Noah Beery, Jr.), a retired truck driver, and Angel (Stuart Margolin), a con artist Rockford met in prison.

5. Sherlock Holmes, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-94). For many Holmes enthusiasts, Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Conan Doyle’s Baker Street sleuth is considered the definitive one (personally, I’m frightfully fond of Peter Cushing in Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles). The series debuted on Britain’s ITV network in 1984, with David Burke as Dr. Watson (he was subsequently replaced by Edward Hardwicke). It was developed by John Hawkesworth, who produced other noteworthy classic series such as Upstairs, Downstairs and The Duchess of Duke Street. During its 10-year run, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes featured 35 one-hour episodes, a two-parter, and five movies (which included adaptations of Conan Doyle’s novels The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four). In the U.S., the series became one of the most popular ones that appeared under the Mystery! banner on PBS. Brett, who died of heart failure in 1995 at 59, also appeared on stage as Dr. Watson–opposite Charlton Heston as Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood in 1981.

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!

 

 

  • Wayne P.

    Excellent renderings and lots of fine BBC TV/English connections on the list…Peter Gunn was pretty swell too and has the added advantage of one of the all-time best TV theme songs!

    • rogerscorpion

      Peter Gunn was the essence of ‘cool’.

  • Gord Jackson

    Thanks for this Rick. With the exception of David Suchet’s POIROT, they aren’t my own top five but they are all worthy titles.

    1. INSPECTOR MORSE – John Thaw aced it as Oxford’s sometime cantankekrous, often impatient but always razor-sharp mind whose deductive powers were without peer. But alas, he also drank too much and was far too independent minded and outspoken to succeed at the political games that could have ended with him as the CHIEF CONSTABLE of his district. An after hours recluse who dated occasionally but had no romantic relationships with women or friendships with men, the melancholy Morse was almost as tragic in his own way as Thomas Hardy’s towering Michael Henchard.

    2. IRONSIDE – I loved the chemistry of the ensemble cast, but it was Raymond Burr’s volatile lead character that made IRONSIDE work so well. You just never knew what sort of mood THE CHIEF would be in, but whatever it was you knew you were in for a great ride.

    3. A TOUCH OF FROST – Comedian David Jason went ‘straight’ as it were with his often rumpled but again fiercly independent DCI inspector with the comical name, Jack Frost. Always up to his neck in it with his superiors, Frost not only didn’t give a toss about breaking the rules, he seemed at times to go out of his way to do just that. Brilliant!

    4. PRIME SUSPECT – This one probably put Helen Mirren on the international map. A nother brilliant mind who experienced chronic loneliness and also drank too much, Mirren’s Jane Tennant, like Jessica Walter’s Amy Prentiss constantly had to battle not only the bad guys out there, but some of the equally misogenistic bad guys right within the precinct. But unlike Amy Prentiss our Jane had no diplomtic skills to guide her.

    5. MISS MARPLE – Margaret Rutherford’s fun, entertaining buffoonery in the four Marple movies notwithstanding, when I think of Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple, the only casting that really does it for me is Joan Hixon from the Masterpiece Mystery series. Like John Thaw with Morse and David Suchet with Poirot, she aced it. Like Columbo she was often under-estimated because behind the ‘dotty’ appearance lived an observant mind as sharp as a tack. And no one, but NO ONE was going to get away with anything when Jane Marple was on hand.

    Finally, I have to give honourable mentions to David Suchet’s POIROT (which I could even be persuaded to put in a tie with Joan Hixon’s MISS MARPLE) and the entire ensemble cast of HILL STREET BLUES, still one of the best police procedurals even made.

    • Tony Caruana

      Sorry to be pedantic, but it’s Hickson not Hixon.
      One of my all time favourites was Harry O with David Jenson.

      • Gord Jackson

        Thanks for this. You are quite right, it is Hickson.

    • Bruce Reber

      There was another BBC series (or mini-series I think) “The Singing Detective”. I forget who starred in it, and it was quite offbeat.

      • Gord Jackson

        I think it was a short-lived, rather offbeat series, but I am not sure as I haven’t seen any of it. I do know, however that it was highly regarded.

      • rogerscorpion

        It was Michael Gambon, who took over as Dumbledore, after the death of Richard Harris.

    • rogerscorpion

      I became aware of Mirren, when she played Morgana le Faye in ‘Excalibur, in 1981. I’ll bet thousands know her from that.

      Besides, ‘Prime Suspect’ debuted in 1991. The author said the list must be from no later than the 80′s. That’s why he didn’t include ‘Foyle’s War’.

      • Gord Jackson

        Good points about FOYLE’S WAR and debut date of PRIME SUSPECT. I thought the latter was late eighties.

  • Raymond

    You’re right about IRONSIDE…the chemistry of the ensemble cast and Raymond Burr’s volatile lead character is what made that show a solid Emmy winner for the eight seasons it was on the air at NBC from 1967 until 1975 in which 99 episodes were produced.

    • rogerscorpion

      LOL. Are you looking forward to the new ‘Ironside’?

      • Raymond

        rogerscorpion:
        LOL…..Am I looking forward to seeing the new “IRONSIDE”? Starring Blair Underwood??? The answer to that question is a big stern NO!!! I’ll bet money that this new version would be gone by Christmas. The original show was WAY better!!!

        • Bruce Reber

          That’s SO true, the originals are ALWAYS better, be it classic movies or TV shows! The new “Ironside” will be gone well before Christmas!

  • Raymond

    Another brilliant detective show a lot of people forgot was MANNIX. It made have been one of the violent shows on television but it was Mike Connors that made it work along with an impressive cast that included Gail Fisher and Robert Reed that made it a Saturday night staple at CBS for eight seasons ending in 1975.

    • Bruce Reber

      “Mannix” was also one of my TV faves growing up in the late 60′s and early-mid 70′s. Loved that great theme by Lalo Schifrin and that awesome montage-like opening sequence. A trivia question: What was Mike Connors’ real name?

      • david hartzog

        Ohanian, he was Armenian, once shot a p.i. pilot with that title.

        • rogerscorpion

          Krekor Ohanian. It is STILL his name. He’s still Armenian & still with us.

          • david hartzog

            Relax, i didn’t know there was gonna be a quiz later.

          • rogerscorpion

            David, it was Bruce who first referred to Connors in the past tense. I just wanted ppl to know he’s still alive.

          • david hartzog

            No problem, my point is that using was/is doesn’t really imply anything. Of course if you have the dvds of these shows, tomorrow never dies.

  • Raymond

    Others mention….

    David Janssen as HARRY O

    Buddy Ebsen as BARNABY JONES

    Gene Barry in BURKE’S LAW

    Burt Reynolds in DAN AUGUST

    Robert Stack in THE UNTOUCHABLES

    Mike Connors in MANNIX

    Dennis Weaver as MCCLOUD

    Tom Selleck MANGUM P.I.

    Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett on HAWAII FIVE O

    • Bruce Reber

      Burt Reynolds starred in another short lived series, “Hawk” that aired for only one season (1966). He played John Hawk, an NYPD detective of Native American heritage. Does anyone else remember that one?

      • rogerscorpion

        I remember ‘Hawk’. 1966. Iriquouis police detective.

        Selleck played ‘Lance White’ in several Rockford episodes.

        Also, Darren McGavin played David Ross, ex-con P.I. in ‘The Outsider’, a short-lived series, from Roy Huggins, who later re-worked the character, as Jim Rockford—with far greater success.

  • Raymond

    Let’s not forgot the great Telly Savalas as KOJAK one of the great detective dramas to ever come out of the 1970′s!

    • Bruce Reber

      I haven’t forgotten! Who Loves Ya, Baby?!

  • Leonard Ulman

    along wit

  • Bruce Reber

    A few others – “Baretta” w/Robert Blake and his pet cockatoo Fred, “Honey West”, a one-season only show w/Anne Francis, “Police Woman” w/Angie Dickinson, “Ellery Queen” w/Jim Hutton, four short-lived elements of NBC’s Sunday Night Mystery Movie – “Hec Ramsey” w/Richard Boone, “Banacek” w/George Peppard, “McCoy” w/Tony Curtis and “Cool Million” w/James Farentino – “McMillan And Wife” w/Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, “Madigan” w/Richard Widmark, “Mike Hammer” w/Stacy Keach. David Jansen also starred as a detective in two other shows – “Richard Diamond, Private Eye” (before “The Fugitive”) and “O’Hara, U.S. Treasury” (between “The Fugitive” and “Harry O”).

    • rogerscorpion

      Darren McGavin also played “Mike Hammer’. Loved Keach, though—plus Hec Ramsey & Banacek.

    • scribe_well

      Since you mentioned most of the MYSTERY MOVIE lineup, let’s add HEC RAMSEY, starring Richard Boone as the craggy title character solving crimes in the old west…

  • Antone

    I hate to admit it, but I believe the Brits have it all over us colonials in mystery shows. 1 & 2 are A Touch of Frost or Suchet’s Poirot depending on whether I’m in a gritty mood or a comedic one; #3 is Inspector Morse; #4 Brett’s Sherlock Holmes; #5 Hickson’s Miss Marple. Near misses [in no particular order]: Prime Suspect [Brit]; Midsommer Murders [Brit]; Foyle’s War [Brit]; Mannix; Rockford Files; Banacek; Richard Diamond, P. I.; Peter Gunn. Columbo was amusing for a while, but followed the same formula every episode. The killer was always a genius who was the world’s foremost expert in [fill in the blank].

    • rogerscorpion

      ‘Prime Suspect’ debuted in the 90′s.

      • Antone

        Sorry about that. I tend to answer after reading only the heading, to avoid being influenced by the moderator. So I missed the pre-90′s condition.

        • rogerscorpion

          It says ‘CLASSIC TV Detectives’. That was HIS definition of ‘classic’.

  • Toby Martin II

    “MONK”… As portrayed by Tony Shalhoub is one of the best characters ever!

    • Antone

      I also loved Monk initially. However, after a few years the writers spent less and less time developing clever murders and more and more time exploiting his personality quirks. This is a fatal mistake in a mystery show.

      • rogerscorpion

        Right! The first season was great! After that—meh!

  • roger lynn

    Columbo,Kojak,Barnaby Jones,Cannon,Mannix,,,these are my faves wish they would release the rest of Barnaby Jones on seasons dvd have season 1

  • C.J. Gelfand

    Definitely Columbo, hands down. Also Kojak, plus Matlock and Perry Mason, lawyers, but terrific detectives as we..

  • Gary

    I’d also register votes for: Gene Barry as LAPD Homicide Captain Amos Burke in Burke’s Law (~1963-66?), Jack Lord as head cop Steve McGarrett in the original Hawaii Five-O, Roger Smith as PI Jeff Spencer (playing opposite his partner Efrem Zimbalist Jr as Stu Bailey) in 77 Sunset Strip (early 60s), Richard Long as PI (playing opposite his partner Andrew Duggan as Cal Calhoun) in Bourbon St Beat (early 60s), Stacey Keach as Mike Hammer in the early-mid 80s TV series, George Peppard as Banacek, Mike Connors toting his handgun hidden behind his back in Tightrope (long before Mannix), and Don Johnson as Sonny Crockett in my all-time favorite TV show Miami Vice.

    • KarenG958

      Amos Burke and Banacek would be in my top 10 for sure. Good calls!

      • Bruce Reber

        Two part “Banacek” trivia question: 1-What type of detective was he? 2-In which city did he work?

        • Antone

          I think he was an insurance investigator [like Johnny Dollar from radio], which would make Hartford a good bet tho I don’t really remember.

          • Bruce Reber

            You were 1 for 2 – he was an insurance investigator, but in Boston, MA.

          • Antone

            I only missed it by that much [----]! You only have to cross 1 state line to arrive in Boston [a tiny state at that]. Maybe he commuted?

  • ndebrabant1228

    These are all good, I’d like to add Nick Knight, of Forever knight. Not well known at all.

    • rogerscorpion

      I know Forever Knight well. He was played by Geraint Win-Davies—no? His nemesis was played by Nigel Bennent?

  • Doctor Doom

    Rockford Files hands down as my favorite.

  • Erin

    Here are my top five:
    1. Remington Steele
    2. Thomas Magnum
    3. Sherlock Holmes
    4. Jessica Fletcher
    5. Dr. Mark Solan (Diagnosis Murder)

  • evrrdy1

    How about The Avengers……John Steed and Emma Peel? Jolly good!

    • rogerscorpion

      The author precluded The Avengers.

  • rogerscorpion

    Remember, people—Foyle’s War was disqualified, because the character has to be created ‘no later than the 80′s. Ergo, great characters, like ‘Monk’, don’t qualify.

    My personal nominee is Harry Orwell, played by David Janssen, in ‘Harry O’.

    • Bruce Reber

      A “Harry O” trivia question: What was the name of Harry’s boat? (which he never sailed and stayed in drydock while he worked on it).

      • rogerscorpion

        I could research & pretend to know, but—what was it?

        Answer me a question: did the boat move with Harry, when he changed cities, in season 2?

        • Bruce Reber

          Actually, you got it right with your reply – it was “The Answer”! I don’t know if Harry took the boat with him when he moved – for the show’s first season he lived in (or near) San Diego, CA if I remember correctly.

          • rogerscorpion

            Right. He moved to L.A. I think they likely dropped the boat idea. It’s on DVD.

          • Bruce Reber

            I checked, and actually it was Santa Monica, CA.

          • rogerscorpion

            If you go on IMDB, under ‘Harry O’, it gives conflicting accounts of this. Different starting points & different relocations—all in California, though.

  • Cara

    Many excellent actors have portrayed Poirot, including Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov. David Suchet IS Poirot. Another great favorite of mine is John Thaw as Morse. I’m a sucker for British mystery series and iconic characters. I could, but will refrain from naming several more.

  • jpp452

    With the exception of Jessica Fletcher, the above could serve as my “all-time” list though not in that order. All-time, Christopher Doyle would be at #1. However, my Classic list would run 1. Sherlock Holmes, in part because of the wonderful chemistry between Brett’s idiosyncratic Holmes and both of the Watsons. The other reason I place it at the top is because it pioneered the highest quality “period” detective series which the British do so well.
    2. and 3. are a toss-up between Peter Falk’s Columbo and David Suchet’s Poirot. They are so different in style and substance I can’t compare them well enough to prefer one over the other.
    4. James Garner as Jim Rockford. Here, the ensemble works so well together. Garner, unlike the others, is not a super-detective. He wins through sheer hard work (not necessarily legal), good contacts and despite one good beating per show. And how can you not like James Garner?
    5. Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett. What makes this show stand out amongst the others is that sometimes McGarrett loses. I can’t remember — did he ever catch Wo Fat?

    • david hartzog

      He caught Wo Fat in the final episode.

      • Bruce Reber

        Wo Fat was played by Khigh Dheigh (spelling?), who also played one of the Red Chinese baddies who brainwashed Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra in “The Manchurian Candidate”.

  • CMcD

    Sorry to quibble, but “I also left out TV series where the protagonists may have done some sleuthing, but weren’t necessarily detectives by trade”

    Would this criteria not eliminate mystery writer Jessica Fletcher?

    • scribe_well

      Technically not detectives either: PERRY MASON and QUINCY. Still, worth mentioning…

    • Cougar

      Well yea she’s a novelist,not a detective,Magnum is a Private Investector

  • Bill Bartlett

    Magnum P.I. all the way!!!!!!!!

  • Mike

    I’m tied, Columbo & Sherlock, of cours

  • Cheri

    How about Mannix?

  • Johnny Sherman

    James Rockford, with his gun in the cookie jar, his Pontiac Firebird parked by the beach, and his friend Angel cooking up his latest scam.
    And star James Garner also made a few decent films.

    • Bruce Reber

      “The Great Escape”, “Grand Prix”, “Boys Night Out”, “The Wheeler Dealers”, “The Skin Game”, “Marlowe”, “They Only Kill Their Masters”, “Mister Buddwing”, “Support Your Local Sheriff” and two with Doris Day – “The Thrill Of It All” and “Move Over Darling” the same year (1963). That’s more than decent – that’s pretty damn good!

  • Capoman

    Rockford all the way. Angel was the perfect semi slick sidekick. Rockford was where I first saw Tom Selleck, as Lance I think.

    • lovestorun

      I saw Tom Selleck on Rockford FIles but I saw him first in a men’s after shave ad where he looks at his back in the mirror and says “I must have used too much”.

      • rogerscorpion

        Yep. Lance White–as in ‘Lancelot, the white knight’. He was a storybook P.I., for whom EVERYTHING fell in place—after his ‘hunches’.
        My first memory of Tom, was in a Right Guard commercial, in which Tom is the big bro , giving advice to his baby bro, about what deodorant to use, before a date.

    • Bruce Reber

      “The Rockford Files” spunoff another detective show in the late 70′s – “Richie Brockleman, Private Eye” starring Dennis Dugan as probably the youngest PI ever on primetime TV – he was in his early 20′s.

  • IceStormer

    Jeremy Brett was a brilliant Holmes. In several interviews (before the interwebs), he stated that he read each and every original Holmes story before they filmed it. If Conan-Doyle wrote that Holmes spoke or moved in such-and-such a way, Brett would do his very best to duplicate what CD had placed on paper. That’s dedication.

    He also appeared in the “Dracula” touring play in the late 70s in the titular role. He. Was. Amazing! (as were the Edwin Gory sets)!

    • TYRONE

      Sherlock Holmes does not count because he was created in Literature first before tv but you are right Jeremy Brett was absolutely brilliant as Sherlock Holmes it’s a pity he died before completing the entire series!

  • Gayle Feyrer

    I liked Rockford, but I liked Harry O even better. Fun list!

  • Tom K.

    Back then: Columbo, of course. By the time he would return for ” Just one more thing . . ” . I was ready to confess ! More recently is has to be Adrian Monk. Even with his O.C.B., he was a brilliant crime solver. When he is having one of his obsessive ” moments ” you can just see the pain on his face as he does what he thinks he must do. Could I have another wipe, please.

    • rogerscorpion

      I’ve forgotten, Tom. What does O.C.B. stand for?

      • Bruce Reber

        Obsessive Compulsive Behavior

        • rogerscorpion

          Oh–ok. That’s similar to OCD—obsessive compulsive disorder.

  • MaryLouiseC

    I watched Ironside regularly back in the sixties.

    I also recall enjoying Anne Francis as Honey West back in the day. Maybe it doesn’t rate as a classic, but the show was one of the first with a female detective and that counts for something!

    • Bruce Reber

      Honey West fact: Anne Francis’s co-star in that show was John Ericson-they co-starred in the 1955 movie “Bad Day At Black Rock” as brother and sister Liz and Pete Wirth.

  • Movie Fan

    I loved Columbo! Matlock and Murder She Wrote were also favorites. I vaguely remember watching 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaii Five-O, but I can still remember the theme songs! Dragnet was a favorite as was The Streets of San Francisco.

  • Charles Billodeaux

    Cannon!

  • Bruce Reber

    I’ll mention another couple of short-lived Detective/Police shows – “The Smith Family”, which aired on ABC-TV from 1971-72 (I think), starring film legend Henry Fonda and Ron Howard, just before he would star in “Happy Days”. Fonda played a veteran police detective, with Howard as his son. Also, “Kaz”, starring Ron Liebman as an ex-con turned PI, which aired on CBS-TV for one season (1978).

    • Raymond

      “The Smith Family” was Henry Fonda’s second and last attempt at a weekly TV series that ABC-TV put on around mid-season in January of 1971 and lasted until May of 1972.
      The show was produced by Don Fedderson,yes,that Don Fedderson of “My Three Sons”,and “Family Affair” in his only attempt at crossing a situation comedy with a police crime drama show. Interesting series if it were on DVD.

  • Sean

    My all time favourite: Joan Hickson as the definitive Miss Marple

  • J. E. Swainston

    Once upon a time , there were 6 girls, who worked fore the Charlie T detective agency. Charlie’s Angels-Kelly, Kris, Sabrina, Jill, Tiffany, & Julie. Also liked Murder She Wrote, Mrs Columbo, Remington Steele & Ironside.

    • Bruce Reber

      Too bad Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Jill) got so uppity and demanded more money to stay on “Charlie’s Angels” – they dropped her from the show after one season, and after that she practically dropped off the radar – she did a TV movie (“Extremities”) in the 80′s.

    • Bruce Reber

      Three part “Charlie’s Angels” trivia question: 1-Which of the original three Angels co-starred in a previous TV series? 2-What was the title of that show? 3-Which actor supplied the voice of Charlie Townsend?

      • Antone

        1. I dunno. 2. I dunno. 3. I dunno, but as I remember his voice, it sounded like John Forsythe from The Trouble With Harry.

        • Bruce Reber

          Answers: 1-Kate Jackson (as Angel Sabrina Duncan) 2-”The Rookies” 3-You got it right-John Forsythe!

          • Antone

            I was going to guess Kate because she looked a little more mature and experienced in acting; but I could have made 100 guesses and never come up with The Rookies. I was one of the 1% of men who found Kate the more attractive of the trio. Looked like she might have a brain in that lovely head.

  • John

    Agree with Raymond’s list, but I have to add the delightful and unique Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, although her only TV appearance was a one-time cameo, her films are shown on TV from time to time.

  • Bruce Reber

    “The Snoop Sisters” was also an element of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie in the early 70′s – it starred Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as two elderly amateur lady detectives who helped the local police solve cases.

  • Bruce Reber

    “Longstreet” (ABC-TV 1971-1972) – James Franciscus starred as a PI blinded in an accident, but was still able to continue working as a detective despite his handicap.

    • Raymond

      “Longstreet” was ABC’s answer to “Ironside” that lasted one season from 1971-1972 producing 32 episodes. Bruce Lee was also a supported role on this series for 10 episodes. Yes,the master of martial arts Bruce Lee in his second attempt at a weekly Tv series since his debut opposite Van Williams in “The Green Hornet”

    • Antone

      Sounds like a tip of the hat to Edward Arnold’s Duncan MacLain and his trusty seeing-eye dog, Friday from 1942′s Eyes in the Night.

  • kingpong

    How about “Richard Diamond, Private Detective” starring a pre-”Fugitive” David Janssen? His
    secretary was only known by her sexy voice and legs and named “Sam” – who was played by
    Mary Tyler Moore (1959 season).

  • dirkwrestler

    I would Add TV’s Joe MANNIX just cuz he was so Kool; and even though he was an insurance investigator (so not a Real detective) BANACEK cuz he could deduce those unsolvable insurance Frauds!!

  • helen willis

    Jack Lord and the incomparable sidekick, Dano. I still watch those reruns.

  • Ron Stephenson

    How fortunate that I was able to cast two of your top five detective shows.
    Murder She Wrote and Columbo.
    Angela and Peter were two Teleivision giants and two wonderful people to work with.