What Are Some Well-Known TV Cop Shows From the Past?


Quick Answer

Popular cop shows from the past 50 years of television include "Dragnet," "Law and Order," "Miami Vice" and "NYPD Blue." Other memorable cop shows are "Columbo," "Starsky and Hutch," "Homicide: Life on the Streets," "True Detective" and "The Wire." Also known as police procedurals, cop shows have comprised a popular genre of television in the United States since 1951, when "Dragnet" first aired.

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Full Answer

"Dragnet" established many of the popular tropes of the police procedural genre, such as plots taken from recent real-world crime stories, the character of the world-weary detective and the one-case-per-episode narrative structure. The popularity of "Dragnet" established the police procedural as a staple of American television, and as of 2015 the genre consistently draws audiences from around the world.

Over time, producers and directors have played around with the narrative of the television cop show, from parodies such as "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" to high-concept dramas such as "True Detective." The open-ended nature of the police procedural allows the creators to work with many aspects of police work and the law. Shows like "The Wire" and "Law and Order" explore not only the lives and work of the police but also the legal and political systems in which the police work.

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