Cop shows have been a part of TV for almost as long as Philo Farnsworth’s invention has sat in the households of the common man. From Dragnet to Car 54, Where Are You? to Law & Order: SVU, the regular TV watcher has seen countless hours of badge carrying tough guys and gals taking on the dregs of society to make the world a better place for the kind and good-hearted people of the city (since these are TV shows, the city is likely New York or San Francisco. Cop shows love those places).
Some of these officers, like the great detective Columbo – as played by Peter Falk – use their looks to help solve the cases they take on. With Columbo, to stick with that example, he used his shlubby look with his wrinkled coat, five-o’clock shadow, and cigar, to trick suspects into thinking that they could outsmart him. Then you have someone like Tom Hanson – Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street – who used his boyish good looks to go undercover in the worst high schools around, taking down drug dealers and breaking sixteen-year-old hearts left and right.
Chances are if you’ve watched more than 50 hours of TV in your life, at least 2 hours were spent on a police procedural. During those hours, after the chase or shootout, but before the criminal confessed, you may have found yourself crushing on one of the cops. You’re not alone. After all, there are a lot of really hot cops on TV these days. Here, for your evidence files, are a few of them.
15. Stana Katic As Detective Kate Beckett
Stana Katic had a series of smaller roles, including the character Corrine Veneau in the twenty-second James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, before hitting it big with the TV series Castle.
On the series, Katic played Detective Kate Beckett who is teamed up with mystery writer Richard Castle – played by Nathan Fillion – to solve the stranger murders that occur in New York. For eight seasons, Katic and Fillion’s characters took on reality TV stars, vampire cults, and a secret conspiracy, all while falling in love.
Katic announced her plans to leave the show with the end of the eighth season, Rather than continuing the series without her, and with the ratings starting to slide, ABC chose to end the show.
14. Sophia Bush As Detective Erin Lindsay
While most cop shows take place in New York or California, Dick Wolf – best known as the creator of the Law & Order shows – has turned his eyes to Chicago as the new hot spot for procedural fun. Wolf’s Chicago universe started with Chicago Fire before, then added three more shows, including Chicago P.D.
Sophia Bush, who spent nearly a decade on One Tree Hill, played Detective Erin Lindsay on Chicago P.D. for four seasons. Bush’s character had a tough life before becoming a cop. Her father was abusive and her mother was a drug addict. She has a half-brother who was kidnapped by a pedophilia ring and was missing for ten years. By fourteen, she was living on the streets committing her fair share of crimes. Erin was on track for a terrible and short life until Sergeant Hank Voight took her in and helped her find a better life.
13. Maggie Lawson As Juliet O’Hara
There’s a lot to love about the cult classic series Psych. The leads of the show, James Roday and Dulé Hill – as Shawn and Gus – were endlessly funny. The show was quirky and fun, but with some episodes – mainly the ones dealing with the Yin Yang killer – it wasn’t afraid to get real serious.
One thing that kept viewers coming back week after week for eight seasons was the relationship between fake psychic Shawn Spencer and Detective Juliet O’Hara. Played by Maggie Lawson, O’Hara was smart, funny, tough as hell (you have to be when your brother is John Cena) and super cute. On more than one occasion, O’Hara was the only cop who believed Shawn, and her willingness to go against her partner Detective Lassiter (played by Timothy Omundson) in order to see justice is carried out just makes her hotter.
12. Floriana Lima As Detective Maggie Sawyer
Floriana Lima had a rough job – not only was she joining CW’s Supergirl in the second season, coming in as Maggie Sawyer, a cop who would certainly butt heads with the Girl of Steel and her pals at the DEO, but she would be part of a major story arc for one of the main characters on the show.
Floriana’s Detective Sawyer began a relationship with Supergirl’s human sister Alex Danvers, played by the fantastic Chyler Leigh. In a show about super powered beings blowing up alien spaceships, traveling to other dimensions, and beating up crazy androids, the real heroes of the second season of the series were Maggie and Alex. Their relationship, with a focus on Alex coming out not only to herself but to her family, showed millions of teens who are just discovering their own sexuality that they aren’t alone. If that isn’t heroic, I don’t know what is.
11. Mariska Hargitay As Detective Oliva Benson
With a nineteenth season coming this year, Mariska Hargitay has been playing Detective Oliva Benson on Law & Order: SVU for nearly twenty years and the TV viewing public would love to see her continue for twenty more. Hargitay has appeared in more Law & Order episodes than any of the other cast members of the five shows that have comprised of the Law & Order universe, which is no small feat.
The character of Olivia Benson is a fan favorite for a number of reasons, and at the top of the list is the way Hargitay has played the role. Benson is a kind person who is able to connect with the victims she helps. Benson is, as executive producer and head writer of Law & Order: SVU Neal Baer explained, “the empathetic, passionate voice for these victims.” She is the character that the audience looks to for proof that in all of the real life horrors that the series depicts, there is goodness in the world too.
10. Angie Dickinson As Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson
Angie Dickinson already had a pretty great movie career under her belt when she took on the role of Sergeant Pepper Anderson in Police Woman. On the show, Dickinson’s character was an undercover cop for Los Angeles’ Criminal Conspiracy Unit, but the conceit was pretty much just used to get the talented actress into costumes that guys would like. Dickinson’s Sgt. Pepper went undercover as everything from a nurse, to a prostitute to a flight attendant and even went into a prison. She hit all the fun ideas that would make for some wonderful late night Cinemax movies.
Police Woman ran for four seasons, becoming the successful first prime time TV drama to star a woman. For her work on the series, Dickinson would win a Golden Globe and receive three Emmy nominations. The show was so popular that female enrollment in law enforcement rose dramatically and President Gerald Ford rescheduled a planned press conference because it would have kept him from watching that week’s episode.
9. Stephanie Beatriz As Detective Rosa Diaz
As Detective Rosa Diaz, Stephanie Beatriz has one of the hardest jobs on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Unlike her co-stars, Beatriz is consistently stoic, speaking almost entirely in monotone and rarely smiling. Her character, the toughest detective in the Nine-Nine, is a mystery to her co-workers – her closest friend, fellow detective Jake Peralta has said that he only knows three things about Diaz, and one of those things is that she has a shower.
Diaz also takes pride in never having eaten soup, which sure seems weird to me.
In reality, Stephanie Beatriz couldn’t be more different from her character. Along with showing off her comedic skills on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Beatriz has proven herself to be a fantastic dramatic actor, most notably for her role in the critically acclaimed Short Term 12 which, along with Beatriz, stars Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., and Rami Malek.
8. Henry Simmons As Detective Baldwin Jones
Henry Simmons joined the cast of NYPD Blue when the show was in its seventh season, staying on until the series ended with its twelfth season. As Detective Baldwin Jones, Simmons stood out on the show for his height (he is six foot four) and his imposing physique. On a show known for actors like Dennis Franz and Nicholas Turturro, Simmons’ muscles really stood out and made him a big hit with the female audience.
On the show, the character regularly used his size and strength to intimidate suspects but got along well with his fellow officers at the 15th Precinct.
These days Simmons plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Alphonso Mackenzie on the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Simmons joined the show as a recurring character in the second season and was promoted to a series regular in season three.
7. Gillian Anderson As Detective Stella Gibson
While she will always be connected to the iconic role of Dana Scully from the long lasting sci-fi series X-Files, Gillian Anderson is too good to be remembered for just one role.
On the excellent BBC series The Fall, Anderson plays Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson, an English officer assigned to the Police Service of Northern Ireland to help them bring in a serial killer.
The Fall allows Anderson to show off not only her acting skills but her ability to do a solid British accent. The character of Stella Gibson is also a hell of a role – it isn’t often you’ll find a TV series that centers on a middle-aged woman who is sexually aggressive and also kicks butt at her job. Lucky for the show’s producers, they have an amazing actress who can pull off any role you give her.
6. Mary McCormack As US Marshal Mary Shannon
Mary McCormack started her acting career as a guest star in an episode of Law & Order in 1994 before joining the short-lived but critically acclaimed series Murder One. In 2008, she would return to the Law & Order universe, appearing in an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent as US Marshal Mary Shannon. From this appearance, McCormack’s character would get her own series, In Plain Sight, which would run for five seasons.
The character of Mary Shannon is a nonconformist who, working for the Federal Witness Protection Program, is tasked with protecting high profile witnesses in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Along with her stressful job, Mary Shannon deals with the problems of her personal life, with most of the issues stemming from the psychological wall she has built around herself to deal with her fears of being abandoned.
5. Colin Ferguson As Sheriff Jack Carter
For seventy-seven episodes, Colin Ferguson played Jack Carter, the out of his element US Marshal turned sheriff of the small but very weird town of Eureka, Oregon on the sci-fi series Eureka.
While the show, which originally aired on the SyFy channel, was never a big hit with critics, it was a massive ratings success for the network with the premiere giving the channel its biggest ratings in fourteen years, beating SyFy’s critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica.
For five seasons, Ferguson’s character kept the peace in a town of geniuses, using his “simple” ideas and gut feelings to save the town, and the world, multiple times, all while raising a rebellious daughter who happens to have a genius level intellect.
4. Erik Estrada As Ponch Poncharello
There are few TV cops as iconic as Erik Estrada‘s motorcycle riding Frank “Ponch” Poncharello on CHiPS.
For six seasons Estrada, along with Larry Wilcox as Officer Jon Baker and Tom Reilly as Officer Bobby Nelson, kept the highways of Los Angeles safe from drug dealers, mafia guys and whatever other crimes the writers could come up with (including a woman who was positive that a UFO was chasing her).
CHiPS turned Estrada into a household name, and in 1979, at the height of the show’s success, he was named one of “The 10 Sexiest Bachelors in the World” by People Magazine.
After CHiPS ended in 1983, Estrada worked on a number of B-movies before taking on the role of Johnny, a Mexican truck driver, in the telenovela Dos Mujeres, Un Camino (“Two Women, One Road”). The series was a massive success, airing in forty-seven countries and running for three hundred sixty-five episodes.
3. Christopher Meloni As Detective Elliot Stabler
There’s no way you thought we’d do this list and not include the two stars of Law & Order: SVU, right?
For twelve seasons, Christopher Meloni played Elliot Stabler, the aggressive and sometimes straight up abusive detective of the special crimes unit in Manhattan’s 16th Precinct. When Meloni unexpectedly quit the series between seasons twelve and thirteen, it was explained that his character, who had been put on administrative leave at the end of season twelve, quit the force off screen.
While Law & Order: SVU made Meloni a household name for his tough guy style, the actor has shown that he can also pull off some great comedic work with appearances in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, Wet Hot American Summer, and They Came Together.
2. Terry Crews As Sergeant Terry Jeffords
A former NFL linebacker, Terry Crews retired from football in 1997 in order to pursue an acting career, and the world of comedy is better for it.
Crews’ first major role was in Friday After Next with Ice Cube, but it was his roles as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Idiocracy and Julius Rock on Everybody Hates Chris that would really set his career on fire. Those Old Spice commercials made sure that anyone who hadn’t already fallen in love with Crews and his comedic talents soon would.
These days, Crews is one of the major pieces that make the cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine work so well. The show, which has an amazing ensemble cast that includes Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, and Chelsea Peretti, has kept audiences laughing for four seasons, with a fifth on the way. Crews’ character, the yogurt loving Sergeant Terry Jeffords is the glue that keeps the Nine-Nine together.
1. Michael Douglas As Inspector Steve Keller
These days Michael Douglas is thought of as the movie star who, in the 1990s, made a living by starring in movies about crazy women who wanted to kill him after they slept together. But before the son of Hollywood royalty – his father Kirk Douglas starred in a number of classic including Spartacus, and his mother Diana Dill started on Days of Our Lives – made his move to the movies, he starred on the hit cop drama The Streets of San Francisco. The series, which starred a fresh faced Douglas and veteran actor Karl Malden, focused on two detectives in San Francisco, which you may have picked up from the show’s title, as they solved murders with a close rate that real detectives can only dream of.
The series made Michael Douglas a star. The actor left the show at the start of the fifth season to pursue a movie career, which has worked out pretty well for him.
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