Cop shows were popular in the 1970s, and the networks pumped them out like candy. Many of these involved a private eye (P.I. or private investigator), who was usually a retired cop. We tuned in week after week to see our favorite cop, P.I., or crime team bust the crooks. Crime solving was fun to watch back when we only had 3 networks. I do have fond memories of some of these cop shows and crime dramas. Here are the best cop shows of the 70s:
1 – The Rockford Files (1974 – 1980) James Garner as Jim Rockford, an ex-con who now works as a struggling private investigator. He lives in a trailer on the beach and knows a string of seedy people to help him in his task, such as Angel the con man. Great show, good writing and acting.
2 – Switch (1975 – 1978) starring Robert Wagner (It Takes a Thief) as an ex-con turned P.I., and Eddie Albert as a cop, teamed together to solve crimes.
3 – Hawaii Five-O (1968 – 1980) “Book him Danno!” McGarrett would say, after cruising the beautiful islands in search of criminals.
4 – S.W.A.T. (1975 – 1976) only lasted 2 seasons, but the theme song broke the top-10 pop music charts in the ’70s. The show was actually quite good, even though the SWAT team seemed to be called out to handle a number of tame situations. Were there no regular police in L.A.?
5 – Charlie’s Angels (1976 – 1981) The busty babes under Bosley’s care, solved crime every week and rarely messed up Farrah Fawcett’s hair.
6 – McMillan & Wife (1971 – 1977) A pretty smart show for the 70’s, well written.
7 – Barnaby Jones (1973 – 1980) An aging P.I. and his daughter-in-law (Lee Meriwether) and cousin’s son (Mark Shera from SWAT) snooped around and solved mysteries. Lee and Mark took on more and more screen time in the last season as Buddy Ebsen grew older. Considered a “Cannon” spin-off.
8 – Columbo (1968 to 1978) Peter Falk’s unique mannerisms and style toward solving crime made this a popular weekly crime show.
9 – Starsky & Hutch (1975 – 1979) had a cool car and no talent for acting, but we loved to tune in and watch.
10 – The Rookies (1972 – 1976) pretty good cast and scripts for new cops starting out.
11 – Baretta (1975 – 1978) A rough undercover cop in NYC, with a big white Cockatoo!
12 – The Streets of San Francisco (1972 – 1977) Karl Malden and Michael Douglas (later replaced by Richard Hatch) did their “law & order” buddy routine in SFO.
13 – McCloud (1970 – 1977) Dennis Weaver is a rural cop transferred to New York City.
14 – Kojak (1973 – 1978) with the trademark lollipop in his mouth, the bald detective solved a lot of crimes.
15 – Adam 12 (1968 – 1975) two cops on the beat in L.A.
16 – Police Woman (1974 – 1978) Angie Dickinson was Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson, a tough woman cop.
17 – CHiPs (1977-1983) Officer Poncherello (played by Erik Estrada) and his partner rode their motorcycles on the highway and handled matters, as well as you can on a bike.
18 – Mannix ran for 7 years until 1975, the toughest detective on the tube.
19 – Get Christie Love (1974 – 1975) Teresa Graves was an pretty undercover cop in Lost Angeles.
20 – Cannon (1971 – 1976) proved you can be portly, round and sarcastic… and still be a P.I. He occasionally used a judo hold on a suspect, and crossed paths with Barnaby Jones once or twice. What a guy! He had some of the best quotes on TV. My favorite: “…just remember, the truth is like rain – it doesn’t care who gets wet.”
Honorable Mention: Police Story (1973 to 1978) was an anthology series that did pretty well in the 70s with an impressive guest cast.
Toma (1973-74) was not popular, but was gritty and realistic. Not sure that’s a good thing.
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