in Television

The Most Underrated Television Detectives

Written by: Hayley I.

Yes, we see you, Sherlocks and Colombos of the world — we’re all very impressed and blown away by your deductive reasoning sills, quirky personality traits, and ability to turn serialized crime sprees into compulsive television experiences. But in a sea of CSI hotshots and Agatha Christie protagonists, some of small screen’s best and brightest keep missing the spotlight.

Well, not anymore. Let’s break out the crime scene tape and round up our favorite underrated detectives on television. Here’s to many more years of fictional kidnapping, robbery, and murder!


Detective: James Doakes
Occupation: Miami PD Sergeant
TV Show: Dexter

Remember this guy? Long before Dexter spiraled into a (spoiler alert) cesspool of adoptive incest, Sergeant James Doakes was enemy numero uno for Miami’s most successful serial killer. While Dexter convinced everyone around him that he was just a nice, normal guy, Doakes always knew otherwise. He had a spidey sense that something was wrong with the mild-mannered blood splatter analyst — and he was very, very right.

Surrounded by the other extremely talented detectives of Miami PD’s Homicide Division, only Doakes sussed out that a cold-blooded murderer was in their midst. Sure, Doakes was a bit of a “character” himself, prone to bouts of physical and verbal abuse, but he sure was a fine detective. (Just maybe not one you’d want to invite over for dinner.)


Detective: Jessica Fletcher
Occupation: Novelist, Teacher
TV Show: Murder, She Wrote

Speaking of dinner invitations, Jessica Fletcher wins our vote for Most Underrated Television Detective Over 65 and Most Delightful Murder-Solving House Guest. Seriously, this lady is amazing. In between being a thoughtful neighbor and novelist, she’s solving one of the many routine murders that exist in her presence. She’s absolutely charming, but what most people forget is how bad-ass she is.

Fletcher lived in one of the most dangerous fictional towns of all time. Just a couple thousand people lived in Cabot Cove, but Murder She Wrote had 264 episodes — and most of them occurred right in Fletcher’s hometown. That means almost 10% of the population (give or take a few visiting friends and family members) were whacked during the show’s tenure! It takes some hardcore detective chops to make it in a town like that.


Detective: Shawn Spencer
Occupation: Psychic Detective
TV Show: Psych

Okay, yes, Shawn Spencer might not seem like a hard-boiled detective — and his show certainly doesn’t look like a dark, moody crime drama — but this guy could run circles around the NCIS guys. Not only does he routinely solve crimes before the local PD, he has to pretend the psychic spirits led him to the evidence.

This sounds goofy (and it is), but underneath the shenanigans is a savvy dude with photographic memory and a serviceable ability to tell when people are lying. Think that Mentalist man, but without the pretension. Or… Maybe with a lot more pretension. Either way, it works, and we’d want Spencer as part of our Scooby Gang any day.


Detective: John Luther
Occupation: Detective Chief Inspector
TV Show: Luther

So I was a little late to the Luther party, but man, this is a solid show. Luther’s a genius detective, but what makes him and his show so compelling is his truly haunted (read: traumatized) emotional range. The fact that this man can effectively solve crimes despite being seriously weighed down by debilitating anger issues is just a testament to his crazy intelligence.

Like what could the mentally stable version of Luther achieve? World peace? Hunger relief? Finding JFK’s (real) murderer? That all would be amazing, but for what it’s worth, it would probably be a pretty boring show — something we don’t have to worry about with the frequently homicidal, occasionally suicidal, always temperamental Luther. The BBC show is gradually gaining steam, and you can catch all the past seasons on Netflix. (Do it!)

Of course, there are tons and tons of awesome TV detectives who deserve more praise, accolades, and fake promotions. If we missed your favorite underrated investigator, let us know in the comments!