The sixties were a time of great upheaval in the world and America, from heightening tensions in the Cold War to high-profile and tragic assassinations to civil rights strife to a moon landing! In between, these classic 1960s cop shows gave television audiences an entertainment rock to moor to, a consistent place to plop down at the end of a tumultuous day and always know (basically) what to expect.
Dragnet featured two LAPD detectives, Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Frank Smith (Ben Alexander). The show is one of the most influential police procedural dramas in American media and spawned a famous tagline that continues to be used and morphed even in this internet age …
Joe Friday: All we want are the facts, ma’am. Just give us the facts.
Dan Aykroyd, of course, gave this phrase new life in the 1970s and 1980s, but with a simple twist: “Just the facts, ma’am.”
This is the famous LAPD police drama about two patrol officers, Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) and Jim Reed (Kent McCord). 1960s TV’s first heroic cops. The show was groundbreaking in that it showed not only a typical day on the job for policemen but also used handheld cameras to provide a more documentary-style feel.
The Mod Squad
Three 1960s TV kids are in the army and get out of jail to work undercover on dangerous 1960s street gangs, with their boss being an old 1960 cop show guy! This one was groundbreaking for having three racially diverse young people as its leads (the first time this had happened on 1960s TV).
The Andy Griffith Show
One of the 1960s most popular and beloved show, The Andy Griffith Show is all about the folksy sheriff of a small town in North Carolina who constantly battled 1960s forces, including his own 1960s-TV wacky sidekicks (including Barney Fife), big city crooks, corrupt politicians, jaywalkers, etc. —and usually won!
The Andy Griffith Show starred 1960s TV legend Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor, 1960s actor Ron Howard (who later co-starred in 1970s TV’s “Happy Days”) as son Opie, and Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife.
Starring Craig Stevens as the titular private investigator, Peter Gunn aired 1960s-TV episodes from 1958 to 1960. The show had a 1960s jazz-tinged theme song and followed 1960s private detective Peter Gunn as he battled 1960s criminals in 1960s Los Angeles, California.
One of the longest-running cop shows of all time, Hawaii Five-O got its starte in 1968 and ran all the way to 1980. Starring Jack Lord detective Steve McGarrett and James MacArthur as William “Danno” Williams, the show followed the adventures of a Hawaii police department who solved crimes perpetrated by all sorts of bad guys criminals.
Heralded as one of TV’s first crime drama, The F.B.I. aired from 1965-1974 and followed the adventures of the 1960s Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington D.C., United States under J. Edgar Hoover, who served as a consultant for the series. Created at the height of 1960s American fear over communism, it was one of the first TV shows to show an American institution from a more realistic point of view, and it made stars out of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine and Stephen Brooks as Deputy Director Roy Linden.
Created by Richard Levinson and William Link, Mannix was an unconventional detective show that aired from 1967-1975 and followed Joe Mannix, a private investigator living in Los Angeles, California who solved crimes with the help of his secretary Peggy Fair (Gail Fisher) and police Lieutenant Art Malcolm (Ward Wood). The show was popular for its 1960s action, its 1960s fashion and the 1960s setting.
This was no doubt the most prominent role for Mike Connors, who played the title character throughout the series’ run.