When the surprise criminal is always listed in the first minute as the guest star you might just have a terrible mystery on your hands. Take heart, grab your magnifying glass and use your deductive powers to examine these 6 detective shows every sleuth should snoop out.
The story of a detective turned inmate and then returned to detective seems at first a simple premise, but with one devilishly talented cast and a driven, if not possessed, main story line, "Life" becomes everything you'd ever want from a detective show. The dichotomy of Crews’ outwardly Zen behavior with his unabating focus on revenge for his imprisonment and the murders of his friends creates a character that jumps off the small screen. There can be bonuses to having an ex-convict as your roommate as Charlie finds out in "Farthingale" in a scene as amusing as it is tense.
Robbie Coltrane plays Fitz, a consulting psychologist to a local police precinct who manages to drink heavily and gamble harder than most human beings in "Cracker." Brutal and unforgiving in its portrayal of both the heroes and the villains, this detective show doesn’t pull punches in its world. The beginning of a brilliant career for Robert Carlyle kicks off as he plays a blue collar worker who snaps and uses his intelligence to start a calculated killing spree in the episode "To Be a Somebody," which also features one of the best last second endings to any detective show ever.
"Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!"
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" broke down the bigoted barriers between shows for humans and shows for animals by giving Scooby Doo a sizeable speaking role. Watch the ingenuity and deeply seeded cruelty in "What a Night for a Knight" as Fred, oh so helpfully, uses a car jack to extend a ladder for Shaggy so the gang can break into a museum.
"Having a mustache will solve mysteries" is the motto for "Magnum, P.I."; or at least it should have been. Along with his two friends, T.C. and Rick, Magnum takes on all cases large and small, weird and vanilla, while managing to spend a significant amount of time dodging Higgins and his two surly Doberman Pinschers. The fun alone is reason to watch but the series has plenty of deep moments and moving storytelling, especially in the season four episode of "Home from the Sea."
A cop turned private detective, Jackson Brodie can't seem to stop himself from helping the hurting. He tackles the odd cases that the victims feel have been ignored, or left to rot quietly in a police file, and by doing so becomes a small source of light on the horizon that the disenfranchised seek out. Fall into the series as you watch Jackson go after the murderer of a young girl in "Case Histories" with an insight and pathology that escapes the lure of the bland detective show where the excitement for the audience lies in the gore and not the slow, gathering force of the pursuit.
"Line of Duty"
Featuring the near incomparable Lennie James as Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates, "Line of Duty" centers around Gates' golden boy status as top detective and the series of related misdeeds that might just bring him down. Gates is pursued by Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott who is convinced that there is something rotten in Gates' perfect image and doggedly pursues every little lead into the hidden morass behind the untouchable Gates. With the attitude that the audience is smart enough to follow along without being coddled, this detective show is hands above the rest as the battle of wits between the two detectives is filled with twists, well thought out plot lines, and a lorry full of cunning as evidenced in the search for a piece of missing crime scene evidence turns abruptly from a public to a private witch hunt.