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TV Detective Shows of the 1980s: Entertainment, They Wrote

If you find yourself poking around on the internet at all hours of the night, trying to find out whatever happened to your seventh-grade crush, or hunting down the answer — finally! — to why exactly the chicken crossed the road, then you may just be a detective at heart. And if you’re of a certain age, chances are that propensity was planted, at least in part by one or more of these great TV detective shows of the 1980s.

T.J. Hooker (1982-1986)

This show starred James “TJ” Hooker (William Shatner), who was an old-school no nonsense cop, and Sergeant Vince Romano (Rene Russo) as his young partner. The show was set in Los Angeles.

Moonlighting (1985-1989)

This show was set in Los Angeles and starred Cybill Shepherd as Maddie Hayes, a brilliant but slightly offbeat private detective. The male lead is David Addison (Bruce Willis), her ex-convict partner who was smart and sarcastic but often had trouble staying on the straight and narrow. Maddie helped him stay grounded, and David helped her lighten up. The romantic tension was high between the two, and they eventually ended up together — briefly.

This was the role that really put Bruce Willis on the map.

Remington Steele (1982-1987)

This show stars Stephanie Zimbalist as a female detective who poses as the boss of an all-male private investigation firm to try and lure a wealthy client. It was set in Los Angeles, with Pierce Brosnan playing handsome James Bond type Remington Steele, who was totally made up as the face of the agency. In reality, Brosnan’s character had a shady past that Laura (Zimbalist) could never quite peg.

Crime Story (1986-1988)

This show was set in Chicago during the late 1940s and early 1950s and starred Dennis Farina as Mike Torello, a tough WWII veteran who had been shot down over Germany and endured eight months of brutal imprisonment before returning to his hometown intent on fighting corruption as head of a newly created unit of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

The show was a stylish, gritty drama and Farina gave excellent performances as Torello. The supporting cast included Anthony Denison as Ray Luca, a mobster who served as Torello’s arch nemesis, hellbent on destroying the detective.

Magnum P.I. (1980-1988)

Magnum starred Tom Selleck as Thomas “Tom” Selleck who is a former USMC Lieutenant Commander that solves crimes with the help of Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (John Hillerman). Magnum lives in Hawaii and while he is not a police officer, he has access to resources the cops don’t, like his dreamy mustache and a Ferrari. Magnum was also a Detroit Tigers fan, and usually sported a Tigers hat despite his thick head of hair.

Murder She Wrote (1984-1996)

Murder She Wrote starred Angela Lansbury, as Jessica Fletcher, a widowed American writer of mystery novels. In the show she solves murders in her small town called Cabot Cove using astute observation and knowledge about crime, often having an opinion on who committed it, and always eventually solving the mystery. If nothing else, this show taught us that Cabot Cove must be a tough place to live!

Simon & Simon (1981-1989)

The show follows the adventures of two brothers who are private investigators, with a major case usually every week. The cases varied from adultery to murder and all in between. This TV detective show is set in San Diego and starred Jameson Parker and Gerald McRaney.

Hart to Hart (1979-1984)

Hart to Hart is set … well … pretty much all over the world, following a jet-setting couple, which makes for a fun show when you need a little vicarious thrill. This crime TV detective show stars Robert Wagner as Jonathan “J.R.” Hart and Stefanie Powers as Jennifer “Jenny” Hart. Together, they solve crimes, run an art gallery and generally have a good time.

(Like TV Detective Shows of the 1980s? Then you might like our article on 1980s Cop Shows, click here.)

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