Thursday, August 9, 2012

Another List to Peruse: 20 Favorite Mystery, Suspense and/or Detective Television Series

FAVORITE MYSTERY, SUSPENSE and/or DETECTIVE TELEVISION SHOWS OF ALL TIME (Yeah, more lists. Can't help it. I'm just a list-making fool these days.) These are shows that I actually watched. Can't pick shows I've never watched - right?

20 Favorite Mystery, Suspense and/or Detective TV Shows:

1) N.Y.P.D. BLUE (1993 - 2005) Starring Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, Bill Brochtrup, Kim Delaney, James McDaniel and Nicholas Turtorro among many others.

2) AGATHA CHRISTIE'S POIROT (Beginning in 1989) David Suchet was born to play this part just as Hugh Fraser and Philip Jackson were born to play Captain Hastings and Superintendent Japp, respectively. (I would only list as favorites the first few seasons.)

3) THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (Begun in 1984) starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes (a part he too was born to play) and David Burke as Watson, then later and just as good, Edward Hardwick took over the role of Watson. (Only the shows based on actual Conan Doyle books and/or stories need apply.)

4) HOMICIDE - LIFE ON THE STREET (1993 - 1999) Starring Andre Braugher, Richard Beltzer, Yaphet Kotto, Clark Johnson, Kyle Secor, Melissa Leo, Reed Diamond and Daniel Baldwin (only in 33 episodes but memorable), among many, many other terrific actors.

5) AGATHA CHRISTIE'S MISS MARPLE (Only the Joan Hickson shows begun in 1984.)

6) HILL STREET BLUES (1981-1987) Starring Daniel J. Travanti, Taurean Blacque, Bruce Weitz and Joe Spano.

7) INSPECTOR MORSE (1987 - 2000) Starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately.

8) PRIME SUSPECT (Begun in 1991) Starring Helen Mirren, Tom Bell and John Benfield.

9) PERRY MASON (1957 - 1966) Starring Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper, William Talman and Ray Collins.

10) L.A. LAW (1986 - 1994) Starring Corbin Bensen, Jill Eikenberry and Alan Rachins.

11) THE FUGITIVE (1963 - 1967) Starring David Janssen, Barry Morse and William Conrad.

12) BOSTON LEGAL (2004 - 2008) Starring William Shatner and James Spader.

13) THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1966 - 67) Starring Robert Lansing and Dana Wynter.

14)  THE AVENGERS (1961-1969) Starring Patrick Macnee, Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman.

15) FOYLE'S WAR (Begun in 2002) Starring Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks and Anthony Howell.

16) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE (1966 - 1973) Starring Steven Hill, Peter Graves, Barney Morris, Barbara Bain, Martin Landau and Peter Lupus.

17) QUINCY M.E. (1976 - 1983) Starring Jack Klugman.

18) KOJAK (1973 - 1978) Starring Telly Savalas, Dan Fraser and Kevin Dobson.

19) MOONLIGHTING (1985 - 1989) Starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.

20) MYSTERY! (On PBS, beginning in 1980) An anthology of the best British mysteries, suspense and spy thrillers starring everyone who was anyone in Brit TV, theater and/or movies. Still going strong.

So, what do you think? What did I leave out? What would you add or subtract? I know I've probably forgotten one or two of my own personal faves - that's a given. 


  1. Good choices, but one I love that's not here is "Peter Gunn". Pleased to learn recently that the entire three-year series is going to be released on DVD this fall.

  2. I thought long and hard about PETER GUNN, Jacqueline. He would have been on the next list. :)

  3. Another wonderful list Yvette even if your last choice is an outrageous cheat! Since you ask, I would have to just say that it would be unimaginable for me to exclude COLUMBO from even a top 10. And THE ROCKFORD FILES would also have to be there frankly ...

    Also, a couple of small, tiny, pedantic corrections - the Suchet POIROT series began in 1989 (in the UK - no idea elsewhere but presumably not earlier, though that would be a neat trick). The MARPLE series began in 1984 in the UK (and ended in 1992) though the dates in the US were presumably different.

    Great food for thought - thanks very much.

  4. Skye: I would list them on my second list for sure. But only the main show in the first five or so years.

  5. Sergio I got those dates off IMdB, so are you positive of your facts? If so, I'll change them. I'm going to double check on this end.

    I knew I'd hear from COLUMBO and ROCKFORD FANS, Sergio. :) I maintain then and I maintain now that THE ROCKFORD FILES was more a guy show than a gal show. I liked it well enough, but I was not faithful.

    As for COLUMBO, I must demur. I rarely watched it because Peter Falk's act just grated on me.

    Don't hate me. :)

  6. Sergio, you were right. I double checked. I must have read the thing too quickly. Thanks for the correction. :)

  7. I watched nearly all of these shows, just the Agatha Christie's not so much.

    But nearly all of the rest of them I regularly watched; many were sacrosanct.

    I did watch Columbo and The Rockford Files, too -- love James Garner.

    This is a real walk down memory lane. I'll have to review this list more carefully. Perry Mason was never missed in our family household.

    Later, I watched The Avengers and had crushes on everyone.

    The only show I can think of that we never missed, which was my first viewing of serious issues and legal dramas was The Defenders with E.G. Marshall and the other guy whose name I can't remember. (Why am I thinking of Robert Reich at this moment?)

    That show helped me develop a social conscience -- and made me cry on occasion.

    P.S. I love lists, too. (And I still have to take notes on the last list of 50 favorites. It's actually in my To-Do list.)

  8. Yvette,

    I agree with most of your list but would add

    The Defenders with EG Marshall and Robert Reed (think he later was the father in the Brady Bunch)

    PD James' Inspector Dalgliesh

    Midsomer Murders

    Peter Gunn (greatest TV musical score ever)

    My all-time favorites from your list would include

    Miss Marple,

    Inspector Morse,

    Foyle's War,

    Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes,

    The Avengers (Steed and Rigg naturally)

  9. I love all those shows butI was especially happy to see that you included The Avengers. That show was my obsession. I wanted to be Emma Peel! I watched it so much, and later bought the tapes / DVDs, that I could even quote dialog. I still watch them.

  10. Of these, the Avengers was my favorite, and Columbo (even though you don't list him) would be a contender for the first spot. I was in love with Diana Rigg, and amused by Steed. If I recall correctly, there was also something slightly futuristic about the Avengers sets. Maybe it was simply because they were so minimal.

  11. Kathy, THE DEFENDERS would have been my next list beginning at 21 or 22. I remember that show very well. It was terrific.

    As I mentioned, I was never a big fan of COLUMBO hence his non-appearance on my list. I'm in the minority I know. :)

  12. I like your choices too, Fred. They would have appeared on a continuing list, for sure.

    I think INSPECTOR DALGLIESH showed up as part of the 'Mystery' anthology on PBS - didn't it? So in a way I've included it.
    But if not, it would definitely have been on any follow-up list.

    I'm surprised to find no fans of NYPD BLUE and HOMICIDE, LIFE ON THE STREETS. Two of the best police procedurals ever to show up on television. Not to mention, HILL STREET BLUES.

  13. Joan: I think we all wanted to be Emma Peel. She was the epitome of 'cool'. :)

    That show was just so much fun. So odd and yet so engaging.

  14. Mark, lots of Avengers fans here. I have such good memories of that show.

    And lots of Columbo fans as well.

    Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
    As I said, I'm in the minority on this, but it wouldn't be the first time. :)

  15. Hi Yvette - appalled, appalled that COLUMBO is not your cup of java :) Love that show, utterly and completely myself - and I feel the same about HOMICIDE, probably the best American cop show ever, especially, as you say, the earlier seasons. Did you ever see the reunion movie? Wonderfully, horribly dark ...

  16. Debbie, my favorite MONK was the one where we met the agoraphobic brother. But other than that, I don't remember MONK much. Maybe I didn't watch it very often.

    Hey, I can't watch EVERYTHING!? :)

    It's on NETFLIX now, I'm pretty sure.

  17. Sergio, don't remember seeing the 'reunion' film.....was that the one where we saw everyone who had died? This was a show that grew on me. I loved it more and more as time went on.

    Andre Braugher should have won many Emmys.

    As for COLUMBO, I just found him very annoying. Sorry. Hey, nobody's perfect. Ha.

  18. A fine list, Yvette, though Nos. 13 to 20 are alien to me yet. I have seen several episodes of the top dozen and nearly everything of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, and Perry Mason. I might probably have added REMINGTON STEELE to your list.

  19. Yvette,

    You had listed Morse and Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, so I thought it was OK to list Dalgliesh, since all three were part of the Mystery Theatre series.

    Or, at least they were where I live.

  20. Yvette,

    NYPD BLUE, HOMICIDE, LIFE ON THE STREETS, and HILL STREET BLUES would be in my second 20 listing.

  21. I adore Perry Mason, so I'm really happy it made your list. Did you know the Hallmark Movie Channel shows two episodes every weekday now?

    I like a lot of the shows on your list, I'm just glad Simon & Simon and Magnum P.I. didn't make your list.

    I would add Murder, She Wrote as I'm still addicted to the show.

    I also enjoy a lot of the newer shows.

    The Glades
    The Mentalist
    Hawaii 5-0 (the new one)
    Due South
    Prime Suspect (UK Version)
    Chicago Code (was cancelled way too fast)

    Then of course there are the "cozy" shows that were fun to watch but wouldn't say they were great:

    Father Dowling Mysteries
    Diagnosis Murder

    Of course I like a lot of mixed shows like:

    Warehouse 13

  22. I liked L.A. Law, never missed it and Boston Legal--the zany characters and the terrific speeches in court on social issues ... my cup of tea.

    And I see Mission Impossible, which I liked with the original cast.

    I didn't really like U.S. cop shows, set in the stations, not really.

    And with British police procedurals, I do like the ones you list, but Foyle's War with Michael Kitchen is a favorite.

    And, of course, Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren--in fact, anything with Helen Mirren I like.

    My earliest memories of TV dramas were of Perry Mason and The Defenders. Legal mysteries, on TV or in books have always been favorites of mine.

  23. I see there are a number of _Law and Order_ fans here. I just discovered that there's a _Law and Order: UK_ series. Anybody know anything about that?

    The DVDs are now available on Netflix, which is how I found out about the series.

  24. I've never heard of THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS w/ Robert Lansing. (Not one other confession and I know it's not *that* well known) Way before my time obviously and not a show that was ever rerun in syndication when I was a lad. Time to investigate over at and elsewhere.

    No ELLERY QUEEN with Jim Hutton? Nuts.

    I seem to be the only person in the world who disliked Joan Hickson as Jane Marple. I thought she was too restrained. I always thought Jane was feisty, more manipulative and judgmental. But I did like Geraldine McEwan's incarnation in MURDER AT THE VICARAGE and one other.

  25. Prashant, I hardly ever watched REMINGTON STEELE so I have no real opinion one way or the other. I believe there was something else on at the same time that I preferred.

  26. Fred, you are correct, of course. I was just being pickayune. :)

  27. Fred I might make up a second list one of these days. Why don't you make up a list on your blog? Then I can hop on over there and compare notes.

  28. Ryan, PRIME SUSPECT is on my list too. I don't watch any of the newer shows because I don't have cable anymore.

    I wait for Netlix to stream them. I have so many on my queue that I'll never get around to watching them all.

    Plus, I have to be in the mood. :)

  29. Ryan, meant to add that MURDER SHE WROTE would have been on my second list. :)

    Though I liked it better way back when than now, I must admit.

  30. I loved BOSTON LEGAL, Kathy. What a fabulous ending too. :)

    The cop procedural shows were very gritty so if you don't like that sort of thing they wouldn't be your favorites. But the acting was top-notch and while it's true that I usually prefer something a little less 'intense' I got hooked on these shows and caught up in the lives of the characters.

  31. Yes John, you are the only person in the world who doesn't like Joan Hickson's portrayal of Miss Marple. I'm not sure where you got the impression that Miss Marple was 'feisty'. For me, she was anything but.

    THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS is not available, far as I can tell, ANYWHERE. It's one of those shows that came and went in one season and yet I haven't forgotten it to this day.

    It's all about a spy (Robert Lansing) who gets trapped somehwere in East Berlin and while trying to get away meets up with his doppelganger. A man who is his exact double. The double is a rich dilettante up to no good who is shot dead. (I think Lansing kills him in self defense, not sure though. It's been a long while.)

    Anyway, the surviving spy (Lansing) decides to take the dead man's place and assume his life.

    The man has a wife played by Dana Wynter, and a sophisticated, somewhat mysterious lifestyle.

    It was great fun and since I was a BIG Robert Lansing fan, I loved it. He was also fabulous in a show based on a movie called, 12 O'CLOCK HIGH.

  32. Yvette,

    OK, let me work on it for a bit.

  33. Totally agree with your views on Columbo...I've loved Peter Falk in other roles (The Great Race, The In-Laws [1979 version]), but somehow Columbo always made me sort of root for the bad guys (which felt so wrong).

    I have to cast a vote for Remington Steele...not exactly a cerebral show, but I loved the humor and the romance. Also big fan of Psych, which is hilarious.

  34. Hi Blakeney. For whatever reason I never watched REMINGTON STEELE regularly, but I do remember liking what I saw.

    Maybe there was something else I was watching at the time. Can't remember.

    I don't watch a lot of the newer shows, but with Netflix, I suppose I'll catch up at some point. So much to see, so little time. :)


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