Detective series have been a favourite on the box for years, with so many to choose from.
Detective series have been a favourite on the box for years, with so many to choose from. Here’s my countdown of the top 5 on the telly:
The classic American crime drama captivated the minds of millions from the very first moment the late Peter Falk slipped on that synonymous raincoat in 1968 to its finale in 2003.
Its format was fresh and innovative. It popularised the “inverted detective story” in which the crime, and usually the perpretrator, was shown at the beginning allowing the audience to marvel at Columbo’s sleuthing skills.
Lieutenant Columbo was authentic and kind, qualities that often contradicted his attempt to solve mysteries and jail criminals. He was an unlikely hero attired in a crumpled suit; sporting unkempt hair with a cigar fuelling his concentration.
It was the beauty of Columbo that, in spite of the reveal of the criminal, the episodes remained fast-paced, engaging and entertained generations.
4. Hercule Poirot
Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective has been portrayed by various actors for radio, film and the small screen, but it is David Suchet who has done the character the most justice. Having starred in the ITV role from 1989 to 2013, Suchet is widely-regarded as the quintessential Hercule Poirot. He got the detective’s mannerisms and physical appearance just right.
Suchet played the moustachioed ageing bachelor brilliantly. Often vain, always meticulous, Poirot had a keen mind and was comically arrogant in the classic mystery series.
3. John Luther
Idris Elba shone in British psychological crime drama, Luther. His role as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther saw him as a highly-charged, emotional man who was not above stretching the law in order to solve a crime or save a life.
Running for three series on the BBC, from 2010 to 2013, Luther showed a possessed, obsessive and dangerous man waging his own war on crime, often taking matters into his own hands. Elba was a powerhouse as the DCI, in a gritty and captivating dark drama that is well worth watching.
2. Jonathan Creek
David Renwick’s duffel-coat clad sleuth is up there with the best of them, not least because of its original and novel concept, focusing on how the trick was done rather than why or who did it.
Creek, a creative consultant to a stage magician, used his understanding of illusions and puzzle-solving, with mysteries involving locked rooms a frequent feature.
The series’ longevity is testament to its popularity. Fixtures such as Creek’s windmill and a stellar cast including Alan Davies, Caroline Quentin, and later, Sheridan Smith, secure it as one of the best TV detective series.
1. Sherlock Holmes
No TV detective countdown would be complete without Sherlock Holmes, and the world’s only consulting detective tops this one. Holmes has been portrayed by some of the best actors, the most famous including Peter Cushing, Jeremy Brett and Robert Downey Jr.
But it is the BBC adaptation, Sherlock, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch that has introduced a whole new generation to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic crime capers. Armed with a smartphone and his mind palace, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock has maintained Doyle’s canon old-fashioned Holmes and has done well to portray a very “real” Sherlock, a human who reassuringly gets things wrong.
The finest acting from Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson, paired with the vibrant and bustling modern-day London backdrop, grabs Sherlock Holmes the top spot.
See some of his best moments in the video below.
Who’s your favourite TV detective? Let us know in the comments below.