Many classic shows become all but forgotten by later generations who didn’t experience them when they were first broadcast.
Luckily, streaming services have made lots of classic TV series available to those of who who weren’t around when they aired on TV. That’s good news, especially for the shows that never got a DVD or Blu-ray release!
Here are some of the best classic police and detective TV shows you can stream for free on Amazon Prime!
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Hunter is a seven-season procedural cop drama that ran from 1984 to 1991. It features homicide detectives Sergeant Rick Hunter and Detective Sergeant Dee Dee McCall as crime-fighting partners on the mean streets of 1980s Los Angeles.
This show didn’t stick around in pop culture consciousness through the years as much as other classic cop shows like Starsky and Hutch or Columbo.
Despite its lack of modern notoriety, it’s an entertaining show that maintained its quality throughout all seven seasons. Save for a few three-episode story arcs, you can jump in at any episode and enjoy the show even without knowing any backstory.
When the series ended, it even got three full-length straight-to-TV movies. There was also an attempt to reboot the show in 2003 but it only lasted five seasons.
I guess you can only ride that 80s cop-duo formula for so long.
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe is a detective-comedy series starring Jeff Goldblum and Ben Vereen as private eye investigators.
Jeff Goldblum plays Brown Shoe, an out-of-his-depth straight-laced accountant with fantasies of an adventurous life. Vereen plays Tenspeed, a con man out on parole working as a PI to satisfy the employment requirements of his release.
If you’re a fan of Jeff Goldblum, you’ll enjoy seeing him in this early comedic role. His character Brown Shoe is a black belt in karate, which he mentions at every opportunity, and he often launches into flying kicks and wild punches with high screams.
The kicks don’t always land, which leaves Brown Shoe fumbling on the ground. It’s funny when it happens—and it happens a lot.
The humor in this show holds up surprisingly well. If you’re looking for a good classic detective comedy TV show, you could do much worse than Tenspeed and Brown Shoe.
3. Crime Story
Crime Story is a two-season late-80s TV series that takes place in early 1960s Las Vegas and Chicago.
It stars Dennis Farina as Chicago Police Detective Lieutenant Mike Torello. Throughout the series, Torello pursues a rising young mobster named Ray Luca who consistently eludes Torello’s attempts to bring him to justice.
The show’s first episode is a two-hour movie that could stand alone as a quality, self-contained story. If you don’t want to commit to the whole show, the first episode is definitely worth watching on its own.
This is a fun, action-packed show. It nails the look of the 1960s gritty mobster-run streets with only a few errant 80s haircuts occasionally breaking the illusion.
Dennis Farina plays a believable detective, and the main bad guy is appropriately dislikable. If you’re looking for a classic cop-drama, Crime Story will not disappoint.
2. The Prisoner
At this point, more people are familiar with the hilarious Simpsons episode “The Computer Wore Manace Shoes” than they are with the 1967 British avante-garde spy TV show it was based on.
It’s the episode where Homer is kidnapped and sent to a weird island where he’s repeatedly drugged and chased around by floating bubbles when he tries to escape.
The Prisoner’s actual premise isn’t too far off from the parody: a British intelligence agent retires, and is then abducted to a secret Island where—you guessed it—he gets chased around by giant floating bubbles.
This series showcases the best of the psychedelic-tinged weirdness that was late-60s British pop culture. It still holds up as a great spy drama, and as a fascinating time capsule of the era.
You won’t regret checking this one out. Plus, you’ll finally understand all the references in that Simpsons episode!
This lauded 70s classic TV show stars Peter Falk as Columbo, a persistent and unassuming detective who always has “just one more thing” to say.
At the beginning of each story arc, the audience witnesses the crime and sees the identity of the perpetrator. Rather than focusing on figuring out who committed crimes (per traditional “whodunit”), it focuses on how Columbo solves crimes.
Columbo is a timelessly great character and the show is excellently written. It’s earned a spot on multiple “Best of All Time” lists by Reader’s Digest for good reason. The formula never gets old and it’s still a great watch almost 50 years later.