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The Best '80s Detective Shows: Sleuths Just Want to Have Fun

They took down bad guys wearing pastel suits and feathered hair–and they made us laugh while doing it.

Crime shows these days are nothing but drama. When was the last time Luther made you laugh? Or Hannibal cracked a smile?

But catching killers wasn’t always such a drag. In fact, there was a whole decade of detectives who took down bad guys–and had a blast doing it.

Just who were these slaphappy sleuths of '80s detective shows? Keep reading.

1. Maddie Hayes and David Addison


80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: ABC Circle Films

Audiences fell for Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as a couple of sleuthhounds whose Aaron Sorkin-like rapid-fire banter dominated the small screen in the late ’80s. The Hollywood Foreign Press was just as smitten, as the show won three Golden Globes throughout its run.

Related: The Best Crime Shows Streaming on Netflix Right Now 

2. Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey

Cagney & Lacey

80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: CBS

Before Rust and Marty, there was Cagney and Lacey. Actresses Sharon Glass and Tyne Daly played a pair of congenial detectives whose working friendship spilled into life outside the precinct. Together, the real-life duo brought home the Emmy for best lead actress in a drama six years in a row.

3. Doug Penhall and Tom Hanson

21 Jump Street

80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox Television

We love Johnny Depp and Peter DeLuise’s baby-faced undercover cops exposing the underage criminals infiltrating the halls of high schools almost as much as we love the peppy theme song belted out by fellow Jump Streeter Holly Robinson Peete. Did you know Depp and DeLuise sang the backup vocals?

4. Jonathan and Jennifer Hart

Hart to Hart

80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

Actors Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers embody the married amateur sleuths who share date night with murder and intrigue. Slightly sexy, absolutely campy, the Globe-winning/globe-trotting series debuted in 1979 and lasted until 1984. Produced by none other than Aaron Spelling, Hart to Hart took viewers across the pond and back, but the only place it sends us is down memory lane.

Related: 12 Detective Movies Every Sleuth Should Watch 

5. Remington Steele and Laura Holt

Remington Steele

80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: MTM Enterprises

Don’t quote us on this, but creator Michael Gleason’s romance/crime mash-up single-handedly launched the career of one Pierce Brosnan (James Bond, anyone?). The power struggles between Laura Holt and Steele, hired by Holt to be the fictitious face of her private investigation agency, created one of the funniest and sexiest detective show of the '80s.

6. James Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs

Miami Vice

80s detective shows
  • Photo Credit: Michael Mann Productions

No retro roundup is complete without a Don Johnson shout-out. He and Philip Michael Thomas rolled up their sleeves to play the sorbet-suited twosome ridding Miami’s streets of drugs and skullduggery. Twenty-five years later, Miami Vice is still the stuff of Italo-casual dreams.

Featured still from "Miami Vice" via Michael Mann Productions

Published on 23 May 2018

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