January 14, 2011

014: Gutsy gumshoes

I love my fictional crime-fighters.  I grew up watching Murder, She Wrote with my family on Sunday nights and Poirot movies on PBS.  I've been reading mysteries, beginning with Agatha Christie and meandering forward in time, since I was in elementary school.  Ghostwriter was my favorite show in the early 1990s (so much so that I actually joined the official fan club and put together my own detective kit, complete with fingerprint powder).  Nowadays, I'll take a good whodunit over a nighttime soap any day.  Even if I can usually guess what's coming next, I still watch because the really good shows are the ones that manage to surprise me regularly (e.g. Castle).

Because I thought it would be fun, my top ten (or so) favorite TV detectives, in alphabetical order, are under the jump.

Kate Beckett | Castle
Beckett (Stana Katic) is a tough, savvy cop, but that doesn't mean she can't also be hilarious.  The writers and Katic manage to balance the serious and silly sides of the character perfectly, and I think -- more than the title character -- Beckett is really the central character on Castle.

Lennie Briscoe | Law & Order
The original.  Many have tried, few have succeeded in pulling off a one-liner like good ol' Lennie.  Jerry Orbach played the quintessential New York cop with a few skeletons in his closet.  It's impossible to pick a one-liner, so have a whole bunch.

Emerson Cod & Ned | Pushing Daisies
I just enjoyed that Emerson (Chi McBride) knitted to relieve stress.  He was probably a very good private investigator in his own right, but he was just unscrupulous enough to use Ned (Lee Pace)'s wake-the-dead-temporarily powers to turn a profit in reward money.  They had a great reluctant friendship -- it's a shame this show was canceled after the second season.

 Don Flack, Jr. & Danny Messer | CSI: New York
Great individually, better together.  Since the CSI:NY writers married Danny (Carmine Giovinazzo) off to TV's blandest character, his wiseass personality has been hobbled, but there are still great boys-will-be-boys moments between him and Flack (Eddie Cahill).  I have the sneaking suspicion they might both be better served by a different show.  Honestly?  I'd watch the Messer-Flack buddy cop show religiously.

Penelope Garcia | Criminal Minds
Kirsten Vangsness's determinedly upbeat FBI technical analyst isn't a detective in name, but she's undoubtedly a cyber-detective, able to dig up the smallest minutiae of a person's life with a few keystrokes (of questionable legality).  Without Garcia, CM would be unbearably dark; she's the bubbly, bright cornerstone of a show about twisted serial killers, which is probably why she will also appear in the CM spinoff this spring.

 Robert Goren | Law & Order: Criminal Intent
At times, Detective Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) is all quirks.  My mother still refers to him as "Crick," due to his habit of bending over sideways to meet a seated suspect's gaze.  His unconventional intuitive leaps exasperated his superiors -- and his partner, usually -- to no end, but in the show's early years, Goren was a reliably engaging and unique addition to the L&O franchise.  (We do not speak of his sad, slow decline in later seasons.)

 G. Lestrade | Sherlock
In the commentary for one episode of the BBC's Sherlock, one of the show's executive producers says that Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) is the man you would want investigating your murder if Sherlock Holmes weren't around.  This incarnation of Lestrade is a capable detective, if somewhat at a loss when faced with extraordinarily bizarre murders.  Whenever I watch Sherlock, I always think that Lestrade ought to have his own spinoff, à la Inspector Lewis.

 Eric Northman | True Blood 
 Vampire sheriffs count as detectives, right?  Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) doesn't do a whole lot of investigating, happy to spend his time intimidating and threatening the undead in his jurisdiction, but when he does start poking into things, he's terribly underhanded and deceptive.  He'll easily win the confidence of his enemies and use it to his advantage until he discovers what he wants to know -- and when he doesn't like what he finds?  Good luck.  You'll need it.

  Dr. Spencer Reid | Criminal Minds
Officially a genius, with the photographic memory, poor social skills, and three Ph.Ds to prove it, Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) is the unlikeliest FBI agent out there. He's not a particularly good shot, a terrible driver, and he dabbles in magic tricks.  But his super-powered brain is an invaluable asset to his coworkers, and Reid serves as the intellectual balance to the more macho elements on the show.  Also, his mother is Jane Lynch, which is just another factor in his favor.

Kalinda Sharma | The Good Wife
Kalinda is nothing short of fabulous.  She is also an enigma in kick-ass boots.  Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her performance as Stern Lockhart Gardner's secretive in-house investigator, and for good reason: everything about Kalinda is ambiguous, but while her reticence about herself could be annoying and pointless, she gives up just enough to be mysterious and fascinating.  Plus, her early-season-one efforts to get buttoned-up Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) to loosen up and do tequila shots?  Priceless.

And the runners-up:
Jo Danville | CSI: New York
Alexandra "Alex" Eames | Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Javier Esposito & Kevin Ryan | Castle
Tomas "TJ" Jaruszalski | Law & Order: Los Angeles
Cyrus Lupo | Law & Order


Post a Comment