Which is the best TV police show ever?

by Lynn Connolly

Police shows have always been one of the most popular genres of TV shows; they’ve inspired thousands of people to join law enforcement, given rise to universally recognised catch-phrases – such as, here’s lookin’ at you kid – and given us an insight into how the police work, but which has been the best of all time?

There are a lot to choose from; American shows, British shows, police procedural or comedy parodies of police procedurals. Here’s my list of what I think are the top 10 police shows ever…

1. Prime Suspect
2. Hill Street Blues
3. Police Squad
4. The Thin Blue Line
5. The Sweeney
6. Taggart
7. Heartbeat
8. Miami Vice
9. The Bill
10. Kojak

So let’s take a closer look at my top five… Prime Suspect was pioneering in that it portrayed the reality of being a woman who’s a senior police officer and everything that goes with that. There had been other shows featuring women – such as Cagney & Lacey, Police Woman featuring Angie Dickinson and our own Juliet Bravo – but although those shows touched on the issues faced by women in a predominantly male world, they didn’t do it with quite the gritty reality that Lynda La Plante did for her character of Tennison.

She drank too much, smoked too much and fought for her place on the police promotion ladder while battling her personal demons. Here she is in action…

Hill Street Blues was a must-watch event in our house when I was a kid but I guess many of you reading this won’t ever have seen it. Damn whippersnappers! It was a brilliant show that didn’t pull any punches and dealt with the full spectrum of crime as well as letting us get to know the characters in their personal lives too. And it gave us the line, “Let’s be careful out there”. Here’s a clip of it…

Police Squad was also something of a first in that it parodied and ridiculed police work. Not since the Keystone Cops had there been such a popular comedy show about the police. The main character of Frank Drebin was played by the incredibly funny and talented Leslie Nielsen while OJ Simpson played Nordberg and in the spin-off movies – the Naked Gun series – Priscilla Presley starred as Frank’s love interest, Jane.

Here’s a clip of Frank being Frank…

Here in the UK, The Thin Blue Line was a show similar in format in that it took the mickey out of police procedure and police officers. Starring Rowan Atkinson, the show was written by Ben Elton and set in a police station but sadly, it only lasted for two series from 1995 to 1996. Nonetheless, it became a cult show and rightly so, it was hilarious!

Here’s a clip of it and watch out for Rudolph Walker who plays Patrick in EastEnders. This clip contains some swearing and allusion to sexual matters – which is half the reason why it’s funny!

My fifth choice is The Sweeney which was a hugely popular show that focused on two members of the Flying Squad, an elite branch of the Metropolitan Police Service who specialised in combatting armed robbery and violent crime in London.

The title derives from Cockney rhyming slang, in which the expression Sweeney Todd rhymes with Flying Squad. It starred the late, great John Thaw as Detective Inspector Jack Regan and Dennis Waterman as Detective Sergeant George Carter.

I had such a crush on Carter when I was a teenager! Here’s a clip from the show that includes the brilliant theme tune.

Ah the memories!

So what are you favourite police shows of all time? Let us know!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.