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The greatest characters ever: Crimesolvers

Emmy Commemorative 2012

TV’s most memorable crimesolvers are more than just do-gooders with astonishing track records. They are stalwart, charismatic and sometimes persnickety guides who turn ferreting out the truth behind humanity’s darkest impulses into riveting drama.

Some fight demons themselves, like blue-collar NYPD hardcase Andy Sipowicz, who reformed his bigoted, drunken ways over 12 seasons but kept his heart of gold, and Bay Area private eye Adrian Monk, clever but racked by obsessive-compulsive disorder. Forensic entomologist Gil Grissom could run a crack CSI squad, but wasn’t the warmest personality, while master interrogators Frank Pembleton of the Baltimore PD and honey-twanged detective Brenda Johnson in L.A. frequently bristled at police bureaucracy and put off colleagues.

It’s a genre gallery rife with lone wolves, like mobile home-based sleuth Jim Rockford, who’d rather use his wits than get into a fistfight (though he often got bruised anyway), and wry, macho, Ferrari-driving Thomas Magnum, who made part-time sleuthing look like full-time fun. Dale Cooper might have been an FBI agent, but in oddball Twin Peaks, his individuating tendencies fit right in.

We love the by-the-book guys, too, institutional icons like Det. Lennie Briscoe, wisecracking mentor to a handful of younger partners on the Big Apple’s mean streets, and LAPD Sgt. Joe Friday, the procedural drama’s father figure, who made police acronyms “APB” and “MO” household words. “Book ’em, Danno,” meanwhile, became the signature catchphrase of relentless Hawaii lawman Steve McGarrett.

And what would we do without those driven, persistent meddlers? There’s little Det. Olivia Benson wouldn’t do to help New York’s sex-crime victims, and we all know how a “One more thing” from disheveled Lt. Columbo could break a smug murderer’s charade of innocence. Plus, with an insane murder rate for such a quaint town, what would Cabot Cove have done without that charming Jessica Fletcher horning in on investigations?

Emmy Commemorative 2012
Critic says ‘MASH’ top show of character
THE GREATEST CHARACTERS EVER
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