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Top 10 TV Detectives

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. When they've got their eye on you... You're in trouble. The small screen is at no shortage of great sleuths who track criminals and solve the crimes no one else seems capable of unraveling. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 TV detectives. For this list, we’re talking about those TV sleuths who pound the pavement and wear trenchcoats or some reasonable facsimile thereof. So, sorry Batman fans – you`re not gonna find the Caped Crusader here. Special thanks to our users roxy, Freshwater Kid, dannybo64 and Maurizio Antonio Borgese for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 TV Detectives

When they’ve got their eye on you…you’re in trouble. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 TV detectives.

For this list, we’re talking about those TV sleuths who pound the pavement and wear trenchcoats or some reasonable facsimile thereof. So, sorry Batman fans – you`re not gonna find the Caped Crusader here.

#10: Olivia Benson
“Law & Order: SVU” (1999-)

The special victims unit deals with victims of sex crimes, and tough, determined detective Olivia Benson is the voice of those victims. She doesn’t just investigate these cases; she lives them. Combine that deep personal involvement with the eyes and insights of a top-notch investigator, and you get a force that criminals don’t want to reckon with. Really.

#9: John Luther
“Luther” (2010-)

Lots of TV detectives are a wee bit, shall we say, obsessive. And then there’s John Luther, who takes obsessive to a new level. Luther is brilliant and possessed of an exceptional analytical mind: when he takes on a case, he learns to think like the criminal and uses that ability to predict their moves. Luther’s also not above being a bit vindictive – so bad guys better beware when Luther’s on their trail.

#8: Jimmy McNulty
“The Wire” (2002-08)

Self-confidence is crucial for a detective, but “The Wire”’s Jimmy McNulty can be downright arrogant. And why not? His attitude may irritate his colleagues, but damn, the man’s good! True, he can be lacking in social skills, can’t always control his impulses and is immature – but his flaws are what make him such a captivating character.

#7: Jane Tennison
“Prime Suspect” (1991-2006)

There’s no-nonsense, and then there’s “Prime Suspect”’s DCI Jane Tennison. Brilliantly played by Helen Mirren, Tennison is generally humorless, but she has to be: she’s a woman playing in a man’s world and there’s no time for distractions. She’s driven to succeed, both in terms of solving cases and advancing her career, and if she’s not all warm and giddy, she’s still someone who will get the job done – no matter what.

#6: Vic Mackey
“The Shield” (2002-08)

Talk about a study in contrasts: at home “The Shield”’s Vic Mackey is a loving father who’s tender with his family. At work, he’s a brutal, corrupt investigator who breaks the law as often as he upholds it. Even murder is not out of line for Mackey, as he will do anything to get what he wants. A Machiavellian hero-villain, Mackey is hard to classify – but he’s all the more fascinating for that reason.

#5: Jessica Fletcher
“Murder, She Wrote” (1984-96)

No such moral ambiguities trouble the adorable Jessica Fletcher. A best-selling mystery author, she resides in a tiny little town in Maine, which somehow provides her with an endless stream of murders to solve. Warm, chatty and friendly, Jessica is also an incredibly perceptive thinker who can weave complicated webs in which to snare criminals – as well as the hearts of viewers.

#4: Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV
“Magnum, P.I.” (1980-88)

If you were a private investigator living in Hawaii, you’d probably be as fun-loving and easy-going as Thomas Magnum – especially if beautiful women couldn’t seem to stay away from you. Don’t let Magnum’s humorous good nature fool you, though; his Navy training, innate athleticism and keen observational skills make him a formidable opponent – even in a Hawaiian shirt.

#3: Adrian Monk
“Monk” (2002-09)

It’s hard to be a detective when you suffer from both obsessive-compulsive disorder and a list of phobias that is…well, endless. But Adrian Monk was born to the job: his obsessiveness makes him notice the things others would miss. Though his compulsions and phobias may derail his thought processes, once he gets back on track, bad guys better watch their backs.

#2: Columbo
“Columbo” (1968-2003)

He’s eternally rumpled. He wears a trench coat no matter what the weather. He has a way of wandering around a subject for what could be forever. Oh, and he can be a pest. But just one more thing: Columbo may seem like he’s a bit scattered in the head, but it’s all a game – he lulls suspects into underestimating him, then springs a trap that captures them but good.

#1: Sherlock Holmes
“Sherlock” (2010-)

By the 21st century, it seemed like Sherlock Holmes had been done to death – and then came BBC’s “Sherlock.” Suddenly, the character made sense in a contemporary setting: a self-centered, vain sociopath with absolutely no social skills and no seeming desire for them. And brilliant – utterly, utterly brilliant. Sherlock can be cold and uncompromising – but the way his mind works is so compelling you can’t help but get caught up in his world.

Do you agree with our list? Which TV sleuth do you think’s the best detective? For more top 10s about your favorite shows, be sure to subscribe to

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