Screen detectives have gripped audiences throughout the world since the dawn of television. From the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes to the mean Paris streets of Spiral, these men and women are the fictional sleuths that matter and continue to influence popular culture, modern-day police methods and literature.
The Sicilian detective is a smooth talker and a snappy dresser. Based on the books by bestselling Italian author Some what moody, the heartthrob
John Thaw played the Wagner-loving, real ale-drinking Oxford-based Detective Inspector to perfection.
Agatha Christie’s Belgian (and never forget that) detective is partial to a tisane and a finely curled moustache. His attention to detail is borderline fanatical as he uses the “little grey cells” to unveil the killer. Many actors have taken on the challenge including Peter Ustinov and David Suchet.
Agatha Christie’s obsession with murder knew no bounds as she went on to create a second great detective. Miss Marple is an elderly spinster who enjoys putting down her knitting needles to investigate shenanigans in her local village or during visits to other equally quaint settings. Joan Hickson, Julia McKenzie, Geraldine McEwan are amongst the leading doyennes who.
The cigar, the dishevelled raincoat, the glass-eyed stare, only one actor could pull of the look and turn the series into one of the greatest detective dramas of all time – Peter Falk. Just one more thing… sadly, the actor left this mortal coil in June 2011.
Arguably the godfather of police procedurals, Georges Simenon’s creation has a legion of fans. The worldly, humane Parisian detective Maigret devotedly returns home to his wife each day, while unravelling ways to catch a killer.
Who hasn’t sat at their computer pretending to be Angela Lansbury’s wonderful crime writer character in Murder, She Wrote, while humming the theme tune? The mature lady sleuth wears a pussy bow blouse and rides a bicycle like no other. She even once teamed up with Magnum PI!
Idris Elba is the intellectually brilliant but emotionally impulsive murder detective John Luther. His whirlwind genius leads him to face a succession of psychological duels between hunter and hunted, predator and prey. As the stakes get higher and become more personal, his lonely path pulls him towards temptation.
Philip Glenister is the misogynistic, self-important, Audi Quattro-driving, Garibaldi-eating Detective Chief Inspector in Life on Mars (set in the 1970s) and its sequel, Ashes to Ashes (set in the ‘80s). The US remake cast Harvey Keitel as Gene but no-one can come close to Glenister, as far as we’re concerned.
Jean Darblay joins the all-male police force of a fictional Lancashire town as their first female inspector. The series, about her personal and professional struggles, was created by the team behind the equally successful Z Cars, Softy, Softly and Softly, Softly: Task Force. Guest appearances from newcomers Brenda Fricker, Kevin Whateley, Janet McTeer and Joanne Whalley.
Cagney & Lacey
Crime-fighting duo Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey were the first two women of the New York Police Department.
Tom Selleck’s moustache in the US TV blockbuster, Magnum, PI, won the hearts of housewives from Mississippi to Manchester. Set in Hawaii, the series ran from 1980-88 and followed the crime-busting adventures of Magnum and his three buddies. Did you know that Orson Welles occasionally provided the voice for the never seen millionaire Robin Masters!
Telly Savalas made his mark playing the bald, dapper lollipop-loving New York detective lieutenant. His catch phrase include ‘Who loves ya, baby?”
Helen Mirren (did you know her real name is Ilyena Mirnoff?) played Tennison, one of the London police force’s first female Detective Chief Inspectors, and today a formidable female icon. She was courageous, compassionate and flawed, and we loved her because she made us feel better about our own flaws! Prime Suspect is unsurpassable.
Spiral influenced the wave of Nordic Noir crime drama that followed in its wake, and remains one of the best contemporary detective series being made today. Laure Berthaud leads an undercover crime squad in Paris’s underbelly. She’s strong, unkempt and invested in her job and little else. Never one to shy away from taking risks, her unconventional approach often lands her in trouble but gets results and wins her loyalty.
Actress Sofia Helin is the woman behind the Porsche-driving, leather trouser-wearing, brilliant oddball that is Saga Noren. The Danish undercover cop has an Asperger’s-type condition leaving her incapable of empathy and therefore loyalty. Getting the job done is all that matters to her.
The name Sarah Lund (played by Sofie Grabo) is now synonymous with thick, patterned Icelandic jumpers, and, of course, The Killing (Forbrydelsen in Danish) the hit Nordic Noir crime series. Each series focuses on one case, and we get to watch the investigation progress in detail, with each episode devoted to a single day
DCI Jim Taggart
The world’s longest running crime investigation drama set in the tough streets of Glasgow, stars Mark McManus as Taggart. The character first appeared in Killer, the three-part ITV drama where he perfected his thousand-yard-stare when interrogating a suspect.
James Garner stars in the Rockford Files, centring on the cases of the cynical, super-smart private investigator in Los Angeles.
DI Jack Regan
"Get your trousers on, you're nicked!” The arrival of The Sweeney (ITV, 1975-78) completely overhauled TV police drama. John Thaw as the brutal no-holds-barred Jack Regan patrolled the mean streets of London in ITV’s with Dennis Waterman as his more congenial Flying Squad sidekick, DS George Carter.
One of the most iconic British crime drama’s ever, set in the picturesque island of Jersey, DS Jim Bergerac, the shows main character, a recovering alcoholic and divorced father of a young daughter is a true maverick who prefers doing things his own way, and nothing is different in his professional life to his boss’s dissatisfaction.
Law & Order
Filmed on location in New York, the police drama showcases the complex process of determining guilt or innocence, whilst those involved lives wait in limbo, often with everything weighing on the verdict. The narratives are frequently inspired by the latest headlines or topical news stories, the plots highlight legal, ethical or personal dilemmas making for a show that not only grips, but is relatable.
The British-Irish psychological thriller follows the lives of two hunters -- a serial killer and a female detective recruited to catch him. The local authorities have no suspects and no experience with cases involving sexually motivated serial killers; DSI Stella Gibson has. She heads a task force dedicated to solving the crime spree, whilst the unsuspecting killer leads a double-life, turning the investigation into a relentless game of cat and mouse.
Dressed in his trademark deerstalker and accompanied by his sidekick Doctor Watson, the violin-playing, pipe-smoking master of disguise makes brilliant deductions from the faintest of clues and solves crimes that baffled Scotland Yard.
Cormoran Strike, veteran turned private detective is the lead character in Strike, the BBC series based on a series on the crime fiction books written by British author J. K. Rowling best known for her famous fantasy books-turned films, Harry Potter.