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12 Best Detective TV Shows of All Time

January 25, 2019
8 min read

Detective TV shows have an essence of their own. People often associate the word with top-bawl fedoras and long overcoats, with the collar turned outward. The definition has metamorphosed over the years and has transitioned into slick, modern and cutting-edge individuals, with technology being the cornerstone of their profession. While the element of suspense has managed to sustain, the way it is built and furthered has changed.  As we all know, TV caters to the most diverse spectrum of people, which includes the masses. We decided to compile a list containing some of the top detective series ever that have cops, CIA or secret agents chasing the criminals. You can watch some of these best detective TV Shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.

12. The Blacklist

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A wanted fugitive mysteriously surrenders himself to the FBI and offers to help them in capturing deadly criminals. His sole condition is that he will work only with the new recruit, Elizabeth Keen. Featuring the charismatic and powerful James Spader as the lead, the show has garnered critical acclaim since its inception in 2013. The show has continuously received high ratings from key demographics, indicating its quality and appeal to the masses. The show has received numerous nominations and awards, with the performance of the leads and the stunt co-ordination getting special praise. One of the underrated detective tv shows.

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11. Bosch

Titus Welliver has been an ever present personality in both TV shows and movies. He has always been confined to supporting roles, and usually dwells in the shadows of the main cast. He finally got his breakthrough, starring in ‘Bosch’ as the titular character. The plot revolves around Harry Bosch, a detective working with the Los Angeles Police Department, who is accused of murdering a serial killer. At the same time, he is also involved in a murder investigation. Did he really murder someone, or is the victim the perpetrator? Watching the show will quench your inquisitive thirst and leave you exasperated at the end.

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10. The Bridge

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The show was well received throughout its run, garnering universal critical acclaim. The plot takes place on the U.S. and Mexican border where a murdered body on a bridge between El Pasoand Juarez(the Bridge of the Americas) bring together El Paso detective Sonya Cross (Kruger) who is mentored by Hank Wade (Levine) and Chihuahua State police detective Marco Ruiz (Bichir). The story parallels the investigation by El Paso Times reporters Daniel Frye (Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Rios). A seductive crime drama, ‘The Bridge’ draws viewers in with culturally conscious themes that combine intelligent mystery and spellbinding drama. The vast plains of El Paso make for a delirious setting, amidst the burgeoning crimes of passion and drugs.

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9. Longmire

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Based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, this contemporary crime drama stars Australian actor Robert Taylor in the title role, the charismatic and dedicated sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyo. Longmire patrols the county with a brave face and sense of humor, but deep inside he hides the pain of his wife’s recent death. With the urging of his daughter, Cady, and the help of Vic, a new female deputy, Longmire gains a new appreciation of his job and decides to run for re-election. He’s committed to putting his life back together, one piece at a time, and he often calls on best friend and confidant Henry Standing Bear for support. The show is one my personal favorite, and comes highly recommended. 

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8. Wallander

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The Swedish version is probably one of the best examples of dark humor and sinister crimes. It involves Kurt Wallander, a simpleton, kind-hearted, yet prodigal and brilliant, detective, who struggles to deal with the rising wave of crime in the backwaters of Southern Sweden. The visceral portrayal of the dwindling suburbs, and the gory crimes that are carried out, is a testament to a true documentary filmmaker. It feels real in terms of the way things are done and contemplated. An obscure show that isn’t anymore! Thank me later.

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7. Endeavor

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Good old fashioned crime solving, and the pioneering role of the CID (not the Indian one *sigh*) is an absolute treat to watch. I don’t know, there’s something about the city, and especially the lead character, Endeavor Morse, which draws me toward mimicking his idiosyncrasies and deft nuances. The extra-ordinary personality traits that divulge and unravel in an exhilarating fashion, are both intriguing, and ambivalently petrifying. The show’s unique style of presenting itself in series’ is a testimony to the great vestigial traditions Britain has had in solving crimes and execution and deliverance of justice. A remarkable show that deserves your time.

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6. Death in Paradise

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As the title subtly hints towards, the show is about a death. In the carrebian islands, or paradise. Therefore, death in paradise. Jokes apart, the show is extremely funny. Dealing with the gloomy subject that is death, it manages to create and atmosphere of peace and salubrity, with almost never feeling like a crime series. When it does feel like a crime series, the show is breath-taking, with twists that M Shyamlan would be proud and envious of. This sudden and spontaneous injection of suspense and crime is exorbitantly flavored and panned out.

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5. Broadchurch

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The killing of a young boy in a nondescript coastal town generates sharp media attention. The presence of investigators threatens to negatively impact the peace of the town and unveil its mysteries. The two souls of the show breathe life and zeal into an already satisfying and tormenting ride. Emotionally visceral with a soul-shaking score, the show is a winner all the way through. Literally. The show has been a perennial presence amidst the juxtaposed and pretentious awards circuit, often managing to come out on top and stand out. Almost everything, everything, is impeccably flawless and is an exulting experience.

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4. True Detective

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I am strictly mentioning the first season that starred Matthew McCaughney and Woody Harrison. The plot focuses on an ongoing investigation in a series of murders dating back to the time of the two main characters’ service. The story is presented to us in a syncretism of flashbacks and current interviews. The OUTSTANDING performance of the leads, coupled with the intriguing plot made the series a fan’s favorite, while also appeasing critics with its authenticity and realism. The series’ unwavering adherence to the deconstruction of human psyche and exploring different shades of the characters made it special. The leads were inundated with awards and nominations. The following season couldn’t match up the first, and naturally the ratings went down.

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3. Homeland

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‘Homeland’ became a national phenomenon when it first released. The pioneering action sequences and unprecedented depth in research caught everyone’s eyes and made it the most popular show around. It revolves around CIA operative Carrie Mathison, who is on the lookout for an American prisoner ,who may have joined forces with Al-Qaeda. Released from hostage after eight years, Marine Nicholas Brody becomes her suspect. The premise of the first season has obviously changed and developed. The outstanding work from the cast, especially that of Mandy Patinkin, has won the shows numerous accolades, also winning for various other aspects, including the Emmy for the best series.

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2. Twin Peaks

O Captain! My Captain! Walt Whitman’s famous eulogy, paying homage to the great Abraham Lincoln falls fittingly for David Lynch as well. An adroit operator of the crime genre, Lynch’s work has always dazzled, and left us scratching our heads. A crime drama mixed with healthy doses of the surreal, ‘Twin Peaks’ is about FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who travels to the small logging town of Twin Peaks to solve the murder of seemingly innocent high schooler Laura Palmer. Almost nothing is as it seems, however, and the show’s sometimes eerie visuals, oddball characters and wild dream sequences drive the point home. The master raconteur once again shows his prowess at reducing us to little smithereens with his eviscerating style. The word is that the reboot that the show got this year is equally good. Hail, Lynch!

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1. Sherlock

I certainly couldn’t let the last episode of the much-loved series affect its status as the greatest detective series of all time. Whatever people say about it, ‘Sherlock’ will truly live on to remain a trend setting TV series, that redefined the genre. While much of the limelight is obviously stolen by the leads Cumberbatch and Freeman, Mark Gatiss, the creator of the show, who also plays Mycroft, deserves if not less, then equal amount of credit. His avant-garde techniques and innovative way of letting us glimpse the world through Sherlock’s prodigal mind were truly inexplicably mesmerizing. Simply, the best!

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