Cracking the case: British TV’s best crime-stoppers

Blog > What to watch
14 Mar • 5 min read

After our recent piece on British TV’s best-ever cop dramas, we wanted to take a deeper look into the protagonists that make these great shows so enthralling. Whether they choose to play by the book or decide to bend the rules in the name of fighting crime - the very best TV detectives have proven to be some of the most captivating on-screen characters our nation has ever seen.

They’re often the smartest ones in the room. The ones responsible for unravelling secrets, pursuing the baddie, before tying up any loose ends. We couldn’t do without them, so sit back and enjoy while we reveal who our favourite TV detectives are.

Spy thrillers

This wouldn’t be a roundup of great law enforcing characters without mentioning BBC’s smash hit drama Killing Eve, And although Sandara Oh’s hugely popular character Eve Polastri is more of a spy than a detective, we simply couldn’t miss her out. The blockbuster series follows the life of Eve, a British intelligence investigator tasked with capturing psychopathic assassin Villanelle, played by the mercurial Jodie Comer. But while Comer often gets the plaudits - and rightly so - Killing Eve would be nowhere as captivating without the relentless pursuit by the titular character herself.

We’re thrilled to have it back on our screens for a fourth and final instalment of Eve and Villanelle’s magical chemistry. And it’s safe to say that Killing Eve has gone on to raise the bar for just how bloody brilliant a glorified game of cat and mouse can be.

Old school

If the likes of Killing Eve and ITV’s Trigger Point represent the gritty, fast-paced action we love in 2022, then Taggart is the perfect portrayal of yesteryear. Built on integrity and abiding by the rules, Glenn Chandler’s creation is a great snapshot of classic British television. Even after the sad death of Mark McManus in 1994, the show continued to produce great quality, outlasting The Bill to become Britain’s longest-running TV drama.

Whether you’re a Taggart superfan, or you’ve barely even heard of it, everyone knows the show's famous catchphrase - “there’s been a murder!” And that’s the sign of a true British television institution, which is exactly what the Maryhill CID drama is. What’s more, all Manhattan TV box owners can relive the action over on the Drama channel for an unmissable trip down memory lane.

Bending the rules

We might love our favourite crime-fighters because they always do the right thing in the face of adversity. But there’s something to be said for those that adopt an ‘anything goes’ attitude to catching criminals. Despite dedicating his career to catching bent coppers - no one begrudged Superintendent Ted Hastings for using laundered money to help the widow of a murdered policeman rebuild her life.

Illegal? Yes. Although we all appreciated Hastings’ good intentions in Line of Duty, he’s not alone either. Some of the very best to grace our screens haven’t always been holier than thou. But isn’t that why we love them? They’re flawed, but ultimately, relatable. That’s why we love the likes of Life on Mars’ Sam Tyler and Cassie Stuart from Manhattan TV's favourite Unforgotten.

Which other law enforcers have you loved over the years? We’d love to hear from you! As always you can reach us via email, Twitter or Facebook.