We all know that the lives of real-life private investigators aren’t as exciting as they appear on TV, but we can still be inspired by the Hollywood antics of cool private eyes like these:
Peter Gunn, Peter Gunn (1958-61): Mixing music, style and attitude, Peter Gunn was a groundbreaking show featuring a titular character (Craig Stevens) who, unlike other movie and television PIs, tapped into the youth culture with a love for the hipster jazz culture. Can you dig it? The show’s cool air is epitomized by the classic Henry Mancini theme song, probably more well known that the show itself and easily one of the coolest opening tunes in TV history.
Jim Rockford, The Rockford Files (1974-80): Jim Rockford (James Garner) was so un-cool, he was cool. The wisecracking private detective didn’t care about his public perception or image, as evidenced by his budget wardrobe and rundown mobile home stationed in a Malibu parking lot. He was the everyman that we could identify with: not particularly macho, avoiding conflict, dogged by bill collectors and frequently in jail.
The “Angels,” Charlie’s Angels (1976-81): Do we need to explain what’s cool about three statuesque, model-type women (originally, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith) utilizing their weapons training, combat techniques, disguise skills and scantily-clad feminine wiles to go undercover to thwart dastardly plots every week?
Dan Tanna, Vega$ (1978-81): What could be a cooler location for a private eye than Las Vegas? Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) was a Viet Nam vet who worked in the glitz of the Vegas strip, tooling around in his red Thunderbird, which he parked in the living room of his loft. His high-profile locale allowed for a variety of guest stars, including Muhammad Ali, Wayne Newton and Dean Martin.
Thomas Magnum, Magnum P.I. (1980-88): Magnum (Tom Selleck) was a beer-swilling, lady-loving ex-Marine who lived in the guest house of an oceanside Hawaiian estate. He drove a red Ferrari and rocked a mustache that could house a small family. Even men had crushes on him.
Remington Steele, Remington Steele (1982-87): Before he became James Bond, Pierce Brosnan channeled the suave secret agent in his portrayal of Remington Steele, a slick-talking thief recruited by a female private eye to become the face for her detective agency. Steele wasn’t as smooth as Bond, but he was as close as you could get on TV in the trappings of a romantic comedy.
Mike Hammer, Mike Hammer (1984-85): This incarnation of the legendary 1940s Mickey Spillane character, played by Stacy Keach, was set in modern times, but featured a cool throwback noir atmosphere, complete with voiceovers, femme fatales and the sax-drenched jazz standard “Harlem Nocturne” as its theme song. It was reincarnated two more times with Keach, as The New Mike Hammer (1986-87) and Mike Hammer, Private Eye (1997-98), each lasting only one season.
Robert McCall, The Equalizer (1985-89): McCall (Robert Woodward) was an ex-British secret agent living in New York who offered citizens free help with, well, anything. Strangely, no one asked him to paint their house. Despite his pedigree, McCall was no 007. He eschewed fancy gadgets for good ol’ fashioned guns and knives, and his style was edgy and tough as nails, rarely hesitating to put someone six feet under.
Hawk, A Man Called Hawk (1989): A short-lived spin-off of the more popular Spenser for Hire, A Man Called Hawk featured the character of Hawk (Avery Brooks), a streetwise ex-enforcer with underworld connections who was like a small-screen version of Shaft. He had four distinctive features: a shiny bald head, shiny designer sunglasses, shiny designer suits and a shiny .357 Magnum handgun.
Angel, Angel (1999-2004): A spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel starred David Boreanaz as a vampire with a heart of gold and a immaculate head of hair. Wracked with guilt over the years of bad deeds he’d committed, Angel decided to open a private detective agency to help those who couldn’t help themselves — sort of like an undead Equalizer. This provided him plenty of opportunities to be brooding in typically cool vampire fashion.
Note: If Manimal had been a private eye instead of a professor, he’d most certainly make the list.