Top 10 Quirky Detectives
by Robert Edelstein
What does it take to be a TV detective? An eye for detail helps. A trench coat can't hurt. And a certain personality type is essential. Call them inconoclastic, eccentric or just downright weird, but the best TV snoops prove that although Monk might have perfected the fine art of neurosis, he certainly didn't invent in.
1. Lieutenant Columbo, Columbo, 1971-77, NBC
What six words struck terror into the hearts of high-class criminals with perfect alibis? "There's just one more thing, sir." With that refrain, Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk), who never went anywhere without his rumpled raincoat and purposely naive nature, kept yammering and hammering his point - when he had one - until ending his cat-and-mouse games with a cockeyed grin. Falk won four Emmys for the role.
2. Adrian Monk, Monk, 2002-Present, USA Network
Monk hopes to clean up crime, and he has just enough Handi Wipes for the job. The phobic, obsessive-compulsive detective brings new meaning to neat freak (he gets his wallet buffed and dishwashes his doorknobs). The humorous - and vastly human - portrayal of the OCD PI has earned Tony Shalhoub two Emmys.
3. Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks, 1990-91, ABC
Like many TV detectives, Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) loved damn fine coffee and cherry pie. But unlike other TV detectives, Cooper was Boy Scout exuberant, dreamed of a backward-talking dancing dwarf and trusted clues he got from a lady who carried a log. He was ideally suited for David Lynch's perverse Twin Peaks universe.
4. Jim Rockford, The Rockford Files, 1974-80, NBC
"Two hundred dollars a day, plus expenses" bought you the services of Rockford, a man who hated working, never ran without a limp (courtesy of star James Garner's four knee operations) and kept his gun in a cookie jar. He used a roster of offbeat sidekicks he'd met in the joint (before his full pardon) and always got his man.
5. Dep. Chief Brenda Johnson, The Closer, 2005-Present, TNT
To handle its most delicate murder cases, the LAPD turns to Brenda Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick), an abrasively eccentric Southerner with an uncanny skill for eliciting confessions from crooks - and respect from her male colleagues. "If I liked being called a bitch to my face," she says, "I'd still be married."
6. Det. Arthur Dietrich, Barney Miller, 1976-82, ABC
The philosopher of Precinct 12 waxed sardonic from logarithms to Moe, Larry and Curly. "We have the option of holding you or letting you go," Dietrich (Steve Landesberg) deadpanned to a con. "Come to think of it, we have the power of life and death over you."
7. David Addison, Moonlighting, 1985-89, ABC
Decades before CSI, David (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybil Shepherd) perfected a different type of investigative chemistry on Moonlighting. As head of the Blue Moon Detective Agency, Addison preferred making out to staking out, but he won cases and hearts through snappy dialogue. He also earned a unique distinction for Willis: a drama-actor Emmy and a comedy-actor Golden Globe.
8. Lieutenant Bookman, Seinfeld, 1991, NBC
No doubt big-time funny boy Jerry Seinfeld thought it was some kind of joke, taking Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer out of the library in high school and not returning it for 20 years. But justice never slept for Bookman (Philip Baker Hall). Writer Larry Charles based his fast-talking library detective on another (unintentionally) hilarious cop: Dragnet's Joe Friday (Jack Webb). And that's just the facts.
9. Veronica Mars, Veronica Mars, 2004-Present, UPN
In a profession dominated by rumpled old men with faces as wrinkled as their overcoats, Veronica (Kristen Bell) is the odd girl out. Part Buffy, part Nancy Drew, the sleuth of Neptune High is as likely to back-talk the town sheriff as the school principal. Too brainy to be popular, Veronica knows what's really important: finding out who killed your best friend - while keeping up your GPA.
10. Det. Robert Goren, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, 2001-Present, NBC
A vastly intelligent Holmes-ian detective, Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) has a gift for observing the arcane; command of several languages; and more hammy tics than a bad Method actor. With the ability to shock a suspect into self-incrimination by simply shouting "Answer!" he's the unleashed master of TV crime drama's great stage: the interrogation room. We pity the perp who lands there.