Monday, May 29, 2017

A Complete Ranking of Mystery Television of the 1970s

I was perusing the IMDB, the International Movie Database, website where millions of fans vote for their favorite films and television shows. I asked myself a simple question: of the two iconic 1970s detective shows (and personal favorites), Columbo and The Rockford Files which did fans rate higher?

Not being the sort of person who likes to leave simple at simple, I decided to sort out which were the most popular and most highly rated mystery TV series of the seventies.

I was rather strict in my criteria for mystery.  The show could not include fantasy elements (a mystery-solving ghost) or sci-fi (a robotic or android police officer). Scooby-Doo, although, at that time, did not include spectral solutions, was a fantasy with a dog who could speak near intelligibly and ten-decker sandwiches that could be swallowed in one bite.

I excluded a couple of shows that had traditional mystery settings but no mystery plotting (e.g., Barney Miller).

I used those with 99 votes or more as my cutoff. I included miniseries such as the Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Whimsey two-parters as individual entries. With these criteria, 99 shows were included from the very highly-rated Godfather Saga miniseries to the cringe-worthy, Mrs. Columbo.

Even though IMDB is a truly international database, it has a bias in voting toward English-speaking countries and 42 entries were from the United States and 29 from British telly. That placed another 27 from a variety of countries.

Along the way I discovered that the Soviet Union has several highly ranking entries, but not so many that it appears that fans are rigging the votes. Germany has three police shows that started in the 1970s and are still continuing 40-some years later.

Below are the shows, their fan ratings (1 to 10). When the ratings were equal, the order is given by which one had the most votes.

By the way, The Rockford Files and Columbo were both rated 8.2, but Columbo received many more votes. Columbo might have more international appeal. Peter Falk appeared as Peter Falk who is revealed to be an angel in the 1980s German film, Wings of Desire. In this film, he said that being an angel explains his acting career. Why not?

1. The Godfather Saga (1977) 9.5, Votes: 3,084
The Godfather I and II are woven together with additional footage for a mini-series.

2. The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed (1979) 9.0, Votes: 3,028
(Soviet Union) In the late forties a young detective tries to take down organized crime in Moscow. Great title.

3. The Sandbaggers (1978–1980) 8.9, Votes:  474
Adventures of an elite group of British spies.

4. Kottan ermittelt (1976–1983)   8.8, Votes:  311
Austrian satirical police series with the lead played by three different actors.

5. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: The Acquaintance (1979)  8.7, Votes:  2,403
Soviet Union. Vasiliy Livanov as Holmes and Vitali Solomin as Watson in the most famous encounter since Hercule met Poirot. Two parts but then repeated in future years with further adventures. This appears to be a formidable presentation of Sherlock Holmes.

6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979) 8.6, Votes: 5,558
Alec Guinness as George Smiley who investigates who among British intelligence is a Soviet spy. I've long said that Alec Guinness in this program was the best job of acting, ever.

7. Boney (1972–1973)  8.6, Votes:  128
James Laurenson as an aboriginal Australian police inspector.

8. 12 stulyev (12 Chairs) (1977) 8.5, Votes: 3,229
Soviet Union. One of twelve chairs holds jewels. Mel Brooks made an American version.

9. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1972), 8.5, Votes: 199
Ian Carmichael in his highest-rated outing as Lord Peter Whimsey.

10. Ellery Queen (1975–1976)  8.4, Votes:  896
Jim Hutton starring as the classic detective.

11. Eight Deadly Shots (1972) 8.4, Votes: 643
Finland. Mini-series. How a small farmer becomes a cop-killer.

12. Rebecca (1979) 8.4, Votes: 240
Joanna David dreams she returned to Manderlay.

13. Search (1972–1973)  8.4, Votes: 177
Hugh O'Brian, Doug McClure, Anthony Franciosa, and Burgess Meredith are high-tech private eyes.

14. Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977) 8.4, Votes: 108
A World War II veteran returns to the Isle of Crete where he was stationed in the war and finds a mystery.

15. Porridge (1974–1977)   8.3, Votes:  3,887
Ronnie Barker as a convict.

16. Five Red Herrings (1975) 8.3, Votes: 192
More Ian Carmichael as Whimsey.

17. Zatôichi monogatari (1974–1979)   8.3, Votes:  122
Japan. Shintarô Katsu as the blind vector of justice.

18. Columbo (1971–2003)  8.2, Votes: 20,652
Peter Falk as a rumpled-suited Los Angeles police detective.

19. The Rockford Files (1974–1980)  Votes:  5,121
James Garner solves crimes by sheer gaw-shucks charm.

20. The Persuaders! (1971–1972)    8.2, Votes: 3,468
Roger Moore as an English lord who joins forces with Tony Curtis, New Yorker.

21. Prisoner: Cell Block H (1979–1986)  8.2, Votes:  1,345
Women behind bars.

22. The Nine Tailors (1974) 8.2, Votes: 248
Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Whimsey who solves a mystery of bells.

23. Clouds of Witness (1972– ) 8.2, Votes: 235
Ian Carmichael as Lord Peter Whimsey solves another canonic case.

24. Murder Must Advertise (1973) 8.2, Votes: 216
More whimsy.

25. The Professionals (1977–1983)  8.1, Votes:  1,837
Gordon Jackson and Martin Shaw are Bodie and Doyle, part of the investigative force of the British intelligence service.

26. Rupan sansei (1971–1972) 8.1,Votes: 1,279
Master thief Lupin III and his adventures are an institution in Japan.

27. Lupin the 3rd (1977–1980) 8.1, Votes:  1,108
Yet another incarnation of master thief Lupin III.

28. The Sweeney (1975–1978)    8.1, Votes:  1,207
John Thaw as a tough London police detective.

29. Longstreet (1971–1972)  8.1, Votes: 298
James Franciscus as a blind insurance investigator.

30. Hec Ramsey (1972–1974) 8.1, Votes:  163
Richard Boone as a detective in the Old West.

31. Nichols (1971–1972) 8.1, Votes:  155
James Garner as an Arizona sheriff. Also starring Margot Kidder.

32. Kidnapped (1978) 8.1, Votes: 144
A young kidnap victim, sold to the colonies, works out his return.

33. The Tiger Brigades (1974–1983)  8.0, Votes:  128
France. Early twentieth century motorized police brigade.

34. Budgie (1971–1972)  8.0, Votes:  115
Adam Faith as a petty crook.

35. Raffles (1975–1977)   8.0, Votes:  99
Anthony Valentine as master thief Raffles.

36. QB VII (1974) 7.9, Votes: 507
A physician may have been a Nazi war criminal.

37. Arsène Lupin (1971–1974)  7.9, Votes: 193
France. Georges Descrières as the gentleman thief.

38. Q & Q (1974–1976) 7.9, Votes:  128
Netherlands. Bob De Lange and Erik van 't Wout as boy detectives.

39. Minder (1979–1994)    7.8, Votes:  1,296
George Cole as a small time crook who hires a bodyguard.

40. The Snoop Sisters (1972–1974)   7.8, Votes:  171
Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick are mystery writers and elderly sleuths.

41. Toma (1973–1974)  7.8, Votes: 113
Tony Musante as a New Jersey undercover detective.

42. Great Mysteries (1973–1974)  7.8, Votes: 113
If Orson Welles introduces mysteries, you'd better pay attention.

43. Kuda idu divlje svinje (1971–1971 ) 7.7, Votes: 265
Yugoslavia. Smugglers versus police in 1940s Zagreb.

44. Kortik (1974) 7.7, Votes: 220
Soviet Union. A family heirloom has a secret message inscribed. 

45. Bassie en Adriaan en de diamant (1979–1980) 7.7, Votes: 147.
Netherlands. A clown and acrobat are framed as jewel thieves.

46. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977–1979) 7.6, Votes:  973
Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin as teenage sleuths.

47. Banacek (1972–1974) , 7.6, Votes:  893
George Peppard solves impossible mysteries.

48. Harry O (1973–1976)   7.6, Votes:  414
David Janssen as a San Diego private eye.

49. The Magician (1973–1974)  7.6, Votes:  289
Bill Bixby is a magician who helps people in trouble and catches the bad guys.

50. Armchair Thriller (1978–1981)  7.6, Votes:  125
Anthology series.

51. Police Story (1973–1979)   7.5, Votes:  560
Anthology, police drama.

52. Jane Eyre (1973) 7.5, Votes: 384
A governess is hired to work at a mansion with a mystery.

53. The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (1971–1973) 7.5, Votes:  121
Sherlock Holmes's detective competitors back in the 1890s.

54. Blind Ambition (1979) 7.5, Votes: 108
Martin Sheen as John Dean. Nixon cries out, "What with all the talent here, let's have a Watergate!"

55. Petrocelli (1974–1976)   7.4, Votes:  500
Barry Newman is a small town lawyer.

56. 07 zglos sie (1976–1987)  7.4, Votes:  144
Poland. The investigative unit of the militia.

57. Quincy M.E. (1976–1983)    7.3, Votes:  3,729
Jack Klugman as a medical examiner who solves crimes.

58. The Streets of San Francisco (1972–1977)   7.3, Votes:  3,724
Karl Malden and Michael Douglas on the streets.

59. Switch (1975–1978) 7.3, Votes:  287
Robert Wagner as an ex-con and Eddie Albert as a retired police detective who become private eyes.

60. Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law (1971–1974)  7.3, Votes:  156
Arthur Hill as a small town lawyer.

61. Van der Valk (1972–1992)   7.3, Votes:  155
Barry Foster in a British-made police show set in Amsterdam.

62. Cade's County (1971–1972)   7.3, Votes:  127
Glenn Ford as a Southwestern sheriff.

63. Tatort (1970–continuing)  7.2, Votes: 1795
German cop show which has now run for over 1000 episodes.

64. McMillan & Wife (1971–1977)  7.2, Votes: 1,455
Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James as San Francisco Police Commissioner and wife.

65. The New Avengers (1976–1977)  7.2, Votes:  1,303
Patrick Macnee as the suave head of an espionage unit.

66. Jason King (1971–1972)   7.2, Votes:  189
Peter Wyngarde as a womanizing spy.

67. Crown Court (1972–1984)  7.2, Votes:  132
Legal drama with an audience casting the verdict.

68. Crime and Punishment (1979) 7.2, Votes: 130
More like crime and capture.

69. Kojak (1973–1978)   7.1, Votes:  4,625
Telly Savalas as a lollipop-loving police detective.

70. The Protectors (1972–1973)   7.1, Votes:  247
Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter, Tony Anholt are international, freelance crime fighters.

71. Father Brown (1974) 7.1, Votes:  222
Kenneth More as the clergyman detective.

72. Return of the Saint (1978–1979)   7.1, Votes:  196
Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar.

73. The Blue Knight (1975–1976)    7.1, Votes:  124
George Kennedy as an L.A. cop.

74. Starsky and Hutch (1975–1979) 7.0, Votes: 5258
Cool cops keep the peace on the streets.

75. McCloud (1970–1977)   7.0, Votes: 1844
A Southwestern sheriff in the streets of New York.

76. Barnaby Jones (1973–1980) 6.9, Votes:  1,504
Buddy Ebsen as an older private eye.

77. Delvecchio (1976–1977)   6.9, Votes:  108
Judd Hirsch as an LAPD Detective.

78. Serpico (1976–1977)   6.9, Votes:  104
David Birney as the famous undercover New York City detective.

79. Baretta (1975–1978)  6.8, Votes:  1,410
Robert Blake as an undercover New York City cop.

80. Vega$ (1978–1981) 6.8, Votes: 1045
Robert Urich as a Vegas P.I.

81. The Rookies (1972–1976)  6.8, Votes:  641
Three rookie police officers.

82. Out (1978)  6.8, Votes:  161
Out of prison, an ex-con tracks down those who framed him.

83. Shaft (1973–1974)   6.8, Votes:  146
Richard Roundtree as a tough PI.

84. Hart to Hart (1979–1984)    6.7, Votes:  3,934
Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers as socialites who solve crimes.

85. Cannon (1971–1976)  6.7, Votes: 1,798
William Conrad as an ex-cop, now private investigator.

86. The Dain Curse (1978) 6.7, Votes: 144
James Coburn as the Continetal Op. 

87. Police Woman (1974–1978)  6.6, Votes:  1,165
Angie Dickinson as a female cop.

88. La porta sul buio (1973)   6.6, Votes:  132
Italian mystery, thriller anthology.

89. S.W.A.T. (1975–1976)  6.6, Votes:  1,123
Police strike squad.

90. Derrick (1974–1998)  6.6, Votes: 1,074
German. Horst Tappert is a police inspector in Munich.

91. Charlie's Angels (1976–1981)  6.5, Votes:  7,163
Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith as private eyes.

92. Bukow and König (originally: Polizeiruf 110) (1971–continuing )  6.5, Votes: 291
Police drama which began in East Germany in 1971 and which continues 46 years later.

93. The Rhinemann Exchange (1977) 6.5, Votes: 127
Espionage and diamonds in WWII. Cast includes José Ferrer and Larry Hagman

94. CHiPs (1977–1983) 6.4, Votes:  5,254
Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as California Highway Patrol officers.

95. Get Christie Love! (1974–1975)   6.4, Votes:  170
Teresa Graves as a groovy soul-woman undercover cop.

96. Der Alte (The Old Fox) (1977–continuing )  6.1, Votes:  415
A detective near retirement solves cases. Now running for 40 years.

97. 30 prípadu majora Zemana (1975–1980)  5.7, Votes:  171
Czechoslovakia. Vladimír Brabec stars as police inspector Major Zeman.

98. SOKO 5113 (1978–continuing)  5.7, Votes:  155
Another forever-long-running German police show, now in its 40th year.

99. Mrs. Columbo (1979–1980) 5.6, Votes:  216
Kate Mulgrew as Columbo's wife who also solves mysteries. The mystery of "why this show?" was never solved.


 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
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