For this last entry in the Love For The Badge series I present 10 more excellent cop shows that television gave us. I just want to say that this series has been particularly fun for me to do. Cop shows are as much apart of our lives as sports and well… breathing.
10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. 2013–2021.
In a sea of police dramas, Brooklyn Nine-Nine brought comedy back into the police procedural not seen much since the classic cop sitcom Barney Miller. The show boasted such beloved stars as Andre Braugher, Terry Crews and Andy Samberg. Very popular with its extremely loyal viewers, Nine-Nine survived cancellation for a few more seasons on NBC when Fox cancelled them back in 2019.
9. Police Woman. 1974–1978.
Angie Dickenson’s Police Woman was pretty groundbreaking in its time. A female lead in a action drama, specifically a cop drama was never done before, but thanks to Police Woman’s huge success we got Cagney & Lacey, Dee Dee McCall, Olivia Benson, Brenda Leigh Johnson aka “The Closer”, Rizzoli & Isles etc. It’s also to date one of last shows of its era to have every single major cast member still alive and well.
8. S.W.A.T. 1975–1976.
With two movies, one in 2003 and the other in 2011, and a recent CBS series starring Shemar Moore, the S.W.A.T. franchise has become very popular. But it all started with the 1975 action series on ABC that became the show many little boys would play outside with their buddies. Criticized for being too violent in its time, the show was prematurely cancelled, but its legacy is obvious as one of tv’s most exciting action series. It will also always be remembered for giving us one of the most memorable and iconic tv themes in television history.
7. Adam — 12. 1968–1975.
Adam- 12 is one of the most beloved OG cop shows and had one of the most beloved and iconic cop partnerships in Reed & Malloy. The show took a note from Dragnet with its “Just the facts, ma’am.” procedure but threw in a bit more action than what people were used to with police shows at the time. A favorite in syndication that hasn’t been off the air since it went off the air.
6. The Streets of San Fransisco. 1972–1977.
The show that made Michael Douglas a tv star before he became a major film star and producer. Before Law & Order there was The Streets of San Fransisco giving us a gritty look at crime and a more specific viewpoint of law and how it works. It was also an update of Dragnet with a bit more shootouts and action then that show ever did. Veteran actor Karl Malden and Douglas became another iconic cop duo for television before Starsky & Hutch and Crockett & Tubbs. Perhaps its greatest contribution to the genre is its amazingly busy and unabashedly funky intro theme. They don’t go in much harder than this.
5. The Mod Squad. 1968–1973.
The turbulent sixties had a lot of issues going on with the Civil Rights Movement, Early start of Women’s Lib, the Hippy Movement, the Vietnam War etc. but another undercurrent of the time was the Youth Movement where the younger generation found their voices and fought to be heard. This led to ABC’s iconic cop series The Mod Squad that had three young people as undercover cops with a police captain as their supervisor fighting all sorts of crime and injustice including rape, drugs, racism, sexism, domestic violence, gun violence and gang violence. The Mod Squad became a major hit and is still considered an all time classic to this day. Unforunately three of the cast members are no longer with us: Peggy Lipton: May 11th, 2019, Clarence Williams 111: June 4th, 2021, and Tige Andrews: January 27th, 2007. Only Michael Cole is left, but the legacy all these people gained from this groundbreaking series will live on forever.
4. Law & Order (Original). 1990–2010.
Law & Order has basically been around forever. With a billion spin offs and a revival of the mothership in 2021, the legacy of Dick Wolf’s groundbreaking procedural lives on. While it may not be considered the greatest cop show ever made, no one can argue that it isn’t the most influential cop show of the 21st century. Lennie Briscoe, Jack McCoy, Anita Van Buren, Abbie Carmichael, Adam Schiff and Ed Greene are household names and the faces of the franchise. Here’s to another 20 years of Law & Order ripping the headlines!
3. The Closer. 2005–2012.
The Closer was at one time the highest rated basic cable drama of all time, and it’s easy to see how with a character like Brenda Leigh Johnson aka “The Closer”. An interesting blend of a female Columbo and southern, grittier version of Jessica Fletcher, Brenda Leigh Johnson is one of television’s best female characters as well as one of the greatest tv cops. Kyra Sedgewick and her impeccable ensemble cast gave us plenty of thrills and laughs over the course of the show’s extraordinary seven year run on TNT. The show’s objective was to give television a female cop whose feminity and vulnerability was a crucial part of her character instead of just being a man with lady parts. The Closer more than succeeded in that regard with great writing, great casting and compelling cases.
2. Ironside. 1967–1975.
Raymond Burr became a television icon with Perry Mason before Ironside, but once he did Ironside it only furthered his television legacy creating one of television’s most groundbreaking characters. Raymond Burr is one of the rare actors to not just star in one iconic show with an iconic character, but to star in two. Ironside boasted impeccable scripts, strong mysteries, and a spectacular ensemble with chemistry that was natural and organic. The show is also famous for Quincy Jones’ legendary theme song as well as its unique opening title sequence.
- NYPD Blue. 1993–2005.
Steven Bochco and David Milch have created many iconic dramas both police centered and not, but NYPD Blue may be both great late men’s most famous contributions to both the cop show genre and television drama in general. When NYPD Blue premiered on ABC back in 1993 it shocked the world with its vulgar language, violence, and brief nudity (Dennis Franz’s bare butt is perhaps the most famous bare butt in tv history). But the show went beyond the shock value of pushing the envelope in more visceral ways. It also went really deep into the daily struggles of police officers trying to cope through their flaws and the complicated legal system. The show’s breakout character Andy Sipowicz is the embodiment of the show’s attempt to show a cop’s inner demons and turmoils, but also the hope and success of redemption. Sipowicz was as messed up a human being as has ever been seen on television: A bigoted drunk who endured many loved ones either dying or being killed throughout the series. But by the end of it all, Sippy came out a much stronger and wiser human being, and a exemplary leader of the squad. It’s no surprise that Dennis Franz won multiple Emmys for playing Sipowicz throughout NYPD Blue’s run. The show is certainly one of television’s most intense and poetic cop shows ever made which is why it ranks high on both my list and many others’ as a top tier cop show.
Dragnet. 1951–1959 and 1967- 1970.
Perhaps the show that started it all. This iconic police procedural created by Jack Webb that started off as a successful radio program became the first official police procedural… or at least the first one that set the template for what would endure in the genre since. Before Law & Order, there was Dragnet. The show originally ran from 1951 to 1959 but was still so popular that it was brought back in 1967 and ran four more seasons. The most famous line from the show was “Just state the facts, ma’am.” uttered by Sgt. Joe Friday, one of the most prolific tv cops in television history.
Baretta is one of tv’s more unique cops with various disguises, a cockatoo for a pet, and an unconvential way of policing. The popular show made star Robert Blake a household name and had an iconic theme song with lyrics sung by Sammy Davis Jr. Star Robert Blake passed away March 9th, 2023. Although he’s been in a bit of legal trouble, to say the least, the past decade or so his legacy as Baretta is everlasting.
Link to previous entry of Love For The Badge Cop Show Edition:
“Love for the badge” Top 20 Greatest Cop Shows Ever.
Let’s face it, most cop shows are a dime a dozen: you’ve seen one you’ve seen ’em all. What makes a great cop show to…
Till next time, folks!