“Elementary My Dear Reader”: TV’s Greatest Detectives

December 29, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

columboWe all love a good mystery. And we all love a good detective. That’s probably why ever since Sherlock Holmes first appeared in 1887, we’ve been hooked on whodunnits.

With the release of a rebooted Sherlock Holmes on Boxing Day (which has Sean bouncing up and down in his seat) and a new Poirot on Christmas Day, we thought it was time to put together a list of the most memorable detectives in TV history.

Magnifying glasses at the ready…

1. Columbo (Columbo 1968-2003)

Just one more thing…

Peter Falk’s squinty-eyed, bedraggled, mumbling cop is one of the most memorable TV detectives of all time. What was great about Columbo is that not only was he actually a detective (as opposed to just an interfering busybody) but in every episode he works out who did it in the first five minutes and spends the next hour and a half taunting the murderer. Psychological warfare at its best.

The show was also famous for its high profile guest stars which included Jeff Goldblum, Leslie Nielson and Leonard Nimoy. It was also the first ever televised role for Jamie Lee Curtis.

2. Robert T. Ironside (Ironside 1967-1975)

Ironside was one of the first series to feature a disabled protagonist. Robert Ironside was the Chief of Detectives at the San Francisco Police Department until he was forced to step down after a sniper’s bullet paralysed him. Appointed as a special consultant, he stayed in a apartment above Police HQ where he wheeled out in a van as a kind of secret weapon.

It’s definitely worth tracking the DVD box sets down; it’s cracking viewing and features a theme tune that Quentin Tarantino sampled for Kill Bill. Like Columbo it had a huge list of guest stars including martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

3. Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote 1988-1996)

This one is ridiculous. At least Columbo is actually a detective and Mark Sloan is a consultant doctor whose son is a police detective giving him some jurisdiction to be at a crime scene. Jessica Fletcher is a murder mystery novelist! You don’t see Ruth Rendell turning up on the 10 O’Clock news do you?

4. Dr. Mark Sloan (Diagnosis Murder 1993-2001)

Dick “Say no more Guvnor? Van Dyke stars as Mark Sloan, a consultant doctor whose son conveniently happens to be in the police force giving him ample opportunity to snoop around crime scenes. With his genial demeanour and gentle humour, it’s the perfect hangover cure and its 2pm slot right after Neighbours kept many a happy student from their lectures.

5. Inspector Gadget (Inspector Gadget 1983-1986)

The clumsy, slow witted cyborg has brought joy to millions of kids and adults worldwide (if you ignore the Matthew Broderick film which brought shame and misery to millions of kids and adults worldwide).

With one of the catchiest theme tunes around, Inspector Gadget brought the long arm of the law (literally) to Saturday morning television. Most of the hard work was done by his niece Penny and her dog Brain. Gadget himself was usually busy getting himself in and out of trouble with his assortment of anatomical contraptions and being pursued by the nefarious agents of Doctor Klaw.

I’ll get you next time Gadget, next time!