For over a
century, cops and detectives have been icons of American masculinity.
Combining brain power and brute force, these gumshoes represent
the myth of the lone hero who is forever faced with new challenges
and puzzles, a man who must rub shoulders with the criminal element
but maintain his integrity, a prototype of the old pioneer, courageously
facing down fear to make the world safe for women and children.
The cop/detective icon has such a powerful grasp on the American
imagination that many of the most popular TV shows in U.S. history
feature cops or private investigators as the main characters.
today abounds with plenty of cop and detective shows, I always find
myself going back to watch the genre’s classics. A big reason
is straight up nostalgia. I remember watching these shows with my
dad on our huge wood encased TV with rabbit ears. I guess it’s
a way to relive my childhood a bit.
reason I like the oldies is because of their simple rawness. Cop
and detective shows today are too slick and glossy. There’s
no heart to them. Shows like CSI
like to wow audiences with fancy technology and buxom lab techs,
but at the end of the show, I just don’t feel connected to
the characters. The classics have a grit and straightforward simplicity
that I find appealing.
Below, I put
together a short list of my favorite classic cop and detective shows.
I think all of them showcase men who encapsulate that rugged and
edgy manliness that we often admire. (Oh, and you can watch many
of these shows for free on Hulu.com. If the show’s available
on Hulu, I provided a link to it so you can watch it when you need
a dose of crime-fighting manliness.)
Mannix is a
damn manly name. And Joe Mannix lived up to it. He started his sleuthing
career working at a high-tech detective firm called Intertect, but
decided that he could do a better job than a bunch of crappy computers
with just his wits and a gun. So he left and started his own detective
agency. Mannix worked hard and played hard. He drove convertibles
with awesome 1967 car phones. He told the hot L.A. sun to go to
hell by wearing heavily patterned tweed sports coats. Yeah, Mannix
was all man.
plays Thomas Magnum (apparently having an uber-manly name is a prerequisite
in this business), a private investigator that lived and worked
in Hawaii. Magnum solved cases while sporting his signature manly
mustache, Detroit Tigers ballcap, Rolex GMT Master wristwatch,
and Hawaiian shirts strategically unbuttoned to let his manly
chest hair peek out. Magnum was so damned manly that after the
writers killed him off in the seventh season, he came back to life
just so he could make an eighth season. You can’t keep a good
man down. Or dead.
Kojak was the
man. Just look at him. His big bald Grecian head struck fear in
the hearts of criminals prowling the South Manhattan streets. Theo
Kojak (played by Telly Savalas) was a tough and tenacious NYPD cop
who dressed well and liked to suck on his trademark lollipop. He
had a gravely voice with a tough New York accent that made the ladies
melt, especially when he dropped his foolproof line, “Who loves
private investigator, Jim Rockford (played by James Garner) wasn’t
your typical TV private dick. He’d just as soon avoid a fight
and go fishing than bust down a door with pistols a-blazing. Rockford
rarely carried a gun and instead relied on his wits, smooth talking,
and patented Rockford
Turn, executed in his gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit. Rockford
didn’t make much money as a private eye, mainly because his
clients weaseled out of his “$200 a day plus expenses”
fee. So Rockford lived in a trailer by the beach and bought off
the rack clothing. But he did it with the kind of charm and style
that richer men could only aspire to.
You can watch
full episodes of
The Rockford Files for free on Hulu.com.
Based on the
awesome movie of the same name, In the Heat of the Night
follows small town police chief Bill Gillespie (played by Caroll
O’Conner) and detective Virgil Tibbs (played by Howard Rollins).
The show takes place in a small town in Mississippi where as a black
man, Detective Tibbs must solve crimes while contending with the
locals’ deep-seated racism. It doesn’t help that you got
Archie Bunker as your boss. I’ve got a lot of memories of watching
this show. It was one of my dad’s favorites.