I made to my tenth Thursday Thirteen, a milestone. This Thurday I will focus on my favorite crime fighters. At first I was going to say detectives, but some are police officers, millionaires, and even an author or two. As Mr. Peabody and Simon ("Rocky & Bullwinkle") would say, I am traveling in the "way back machine" to get these and you will notice I am being very inclusive of women who actually served as role models for myself, girls, and women. I will also provide a little bit of trivia on some of these shows. Now I know some people will say that I forgot this show or that detective. But I really didn’t. I have thirteen positions here and I am filling them with some of my favorites. I wish I had room for all of my favorites, but it’s not Thursday twenty or Thursday thirty-two. Enjoy!
1. The Adventures of Ellery Queen – Jim Hutton portrayed probably my all time favorite detective. He was an absent-minded author whose father was a New York City Inspector. Father would enlist the help of his son to solve the crime and when he solved it he would break the fourth wall (talk directly to the viewer) and ask if they had gathered all of the clues enabling them to solve the crime. John Hillerman was excellent as Queen’s nemesis. Jim Hutton's untimely death June 2, 1979 (of liver cancer) came just before his son Timothy would gain fame with a supporting role in Ordinary People.
2. Rick Hunter was an 80's Los Angeles police detective portrayed by former football player Fred Dryer. For six of the seven seasons the show aired he worked alongside female detective Dee Dee McCall (Stephanie Kramer). The first season was deemed a bit violent by the standards of the day and had to be toned down. What I liked about the show most is the genuinely caring and supportive relationship between the two leads.
3. Cagney and Lacey – Loretta Swit played the role of Christine Cagney in the original television movie (1981), but she was forced to decline the role in the series when the producers of MASH (also airing on CBS) refused to let her out of her contract. The movie was then picked up as series, first airing with six episodes as a midseason replacement in the spring of 1982, with Meg Foster playing the role of Cagney. The show was then picked up for a regular season beginning with the 1982-83 season, but Foster was replaced by Sharon Gless because CBS deemed Foster too aggressive and too likely to be perceived as lesbian by the viewers. Despite all of the backstage drama the show made for excellent television.
4. Columbo - a very popular detective series featuring Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo. The character (who never had a first name), and the series are a creation of the writing/producing team of Richard Levinson and William Link. Columbo ran as a television series from 1971 to 1978, but the character had appeared in a short story, a live-television broadcast, and a stage play before making his first network television appearance in the Made-For-Television Movie Prescription: Murder (1968). Originally written for Bing Crosby, the Columbo role went to Falk when Crosby opted not to end his retirement.
5. Murder She Wrote – Though technically Jessica Fletcher is not a detective, she does an awful lot of detecting. I always found it odd that every where Ms. Fletcher traveled someone would turn up dead. When she stayed home in Cabot Cove someone would invariably die there as well. She brought intelligence and warmth to the role. FYI: The role was offered to Jean Stapleton initially, but she did not want to return to network television so soon after leaving “All In The Family”.
6. Get Christie Love – “You’re under arrest sugah!” were the words uttered by policewoman Christie Love when she caught an offender. Christie was hip and tough as she swung her enormous pocketbooks at the bad guys - and watch out for her karate moves and confrontational dialogue like "I got news for you lieutenant Christy Love isn't a quitter, Sugah. She intends to fight!" Historically, this was the first series with an African-American woman in a dramatic lead. She ended up leaving the series when she began to seriously pursue her religious beliefs. She died in a house fire many years later.
7. Hart to Hart - Jonathan Hart was a self-made millionaire--the CEO of Hart Industries and his wife Jennifer was a freelance journalist. They were both amateur sleuths, and in every episode found themselves up to their eyeballs in murder, smuggling, theft and international espionage. They also managed to find time to snuggle together, as they loved each other very much. Max was their loyal, gravelly-voiced butler, cook & chauffeur, and Freeway their pet canine.
8. Homicide: A Life on the Streets - A one-hour drama inspired by David Simon's acclaimed non-fiction book "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets." It is at once a mundane yet compelling look in and around a Homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department, a group of determined individuals who are committed to their grim job at hand. Sometimes the storylines on this show would intertwine with those of “Law & Order”. It was fun to see the exchanges between the New York and Baltimore detectives.
9. Honey West – I watched this one when I was in elementary school. I even had the doll (or should I say ACTION FIGURE). I remember the doll being dressed in black and packin heat. Anne Francis portrayed Honey West, a judo/karate master that tooled around town in a cool little white sports car like a super-sixties Barbie doll, complete with scarves, sunglasses and leopard-print coats (costumes by Nolan Miller, later of 'Dynasty' fame). She even had her own mobile spy unit disguised as a TV repair truck and high-tech mini-cameras and microphones (thirty years early!).
10. Law and Order – A perennial favorite of mine for years and through all of the cast changes it has maintained its quality and integrity. I am a big S. Epatha Merkerson fan, now the longest starring cast member. The show follows a crime, usually adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points. The first half of the show concentrates on the investigation of the crime by the police; the second half follows the prosecution of the crime in court.
11. McMillan and Wife - San Francisco attorney Stewart MacMillan is named commisioner of the San Francisco police department. With his pretty, but somewhat cooky, wife Sally, his hard drinking housekeeper Mildred and his assistant, the somewhat dimwitted, Sargent Charlie Enright, Mac manages to solve some of San Francisco's most baffling crimes.
12. The Mod Squad - Young people in trouble with the law (wealthy Pete stole a car; Linc arrested during Watts riots; Julie ran away from her San Francisco prostitute mother) can avoid jail by infiltrating the counter culture and exposing bad guys who prey on other kids.
This was a really cool show for me as a young girl entering adolescence. I had a huge crush on big afro wearing Linc.
13. Police Woman - The pilot for this show aired on an episode of "Police Story" (1973) entitled "The Gamble". However Angie Dickinson's character's name in that episode was Lisa Beaumont with Bert Convy playing the role of her commanding officer. Convy was later replaced by Earl Holliman. Pepper was a sensual, brassy, compassionate, sincere, and beautiful divorcee. She resided at 102 Crestview Drive. Stories, which were adult and open-minded about sex and marriage, realistically depicted the life of a police woman.
Who are some of your favorite crime fighters?
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