Thu
Feb 12 2015 4:00pm

Dynamic Duos: TV’s Best Crime-Fighting Parterships

The crime/mystery genre has a mighty fine—and very long—history on the small screen, the genre and its myriad forms a solid, even primary, fixture of television schedules. Indeed, it’s not hard to reel off a list of famous series that are not just good crime shows, but which shine as some of the greatest examples of the dramatic form. Form. The ongoing popularity of crime/mystery shows is, I think, a testament to the storytelling strength of the genre—while some say it is science fiction that best enables us to reflect on our ourselves, our societies, and cultures, I would argue that crime, mysteries and thrillers are just as valuable for exploring what it is that makes us, as humans, tick.

A classic character combo in mystery stories is the crime-fighting duo, and this is a list of my five favourite pairings.

Batman and Robin (Batman: The Animated Series; Fox, 1992—1995)

I’m serious. Batman is the world’s greatest detective, remember? After all, he first appeared in a periodical called Detective Comics. Okay, he’s a bit… unorthodox, shall we say, but perhaps dressing up in a bat costume to terrify criminals before he beats them up is a perfectly logical endpoint for someone whose life was shattered when his parents were murdered in front of him in (wait for it) Crime Alley.

I love this stuff. I’m a superhero nut, and Batman: The Animated Series stands as the ultimate portrayal of the Caped Crusader. The winner of no fewer than four Emmy Awards, the animated series not only gave us superheroic action adventure, but re-introduced a new generation to Batman’s crime-fighting roots. With a nebulous, pseudo-period setting, Kevin Conroy’s definitive Batman searched for clues, chased criminals, and foiled robberies, kidnappings and terrorist attacks, using every tool at his disposal—whether it was a Batplane that could turn into, well, a Batsubmarine, or good old fashioned detective work, with some state-of-the-art forensic crime scene investigation to boot. Robin appeared sporadically in the first season (where was he when he wasn’t punching bad guys, exactly?), but after the show was retooled a little it became The Adventures of Batman & Robin from Season 2. The show is particularly noteworthy for helping rehabilitate the Boy Wonder, giving him a new costume and a more serious personality, making him a more suitable partner for his brooding boss.

 

John Steed and Emma Peel (The Avengers; ABC [UK], 1961—1969; with Emma Peel, 1965—1968)

Not those Avengers. Maybe this is another leftfield choice, but John Steed—played with such charm by the great Patrick Macnee, was a crime-fighter of sorts, a secret government agent employed to defeat masterminds of the most diabolical kind. His partner for three out of the nine seasons the show ran for was the remarkable Mrs. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), a “talented amateur” expert in a dozen martial arts, espionage, and infiltration, not to mention astromony, chemistry, and physics. With some of the best on-screen chemistry you’ll likely find, Steed and Mrs. Peel’s adventures in high-concept spycraft are a bone fide television classic.

 

Honey West and Sam Bolt (Honey West; ABC, 1965—1966)

An interesting curio, based loosely on a series of novels, only 30 half-hour episodes of Honey West were made. Largely forgotten—but surely worthy of a modern reboot!—this show combines kooky, low-rent James Bond storylines with two stellar leads. Anne Francis—more  famous for her portrayal of Alta in the classic 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet—is the no-nonsense, resourceful private eye, aided by her partner Sam Bolt, played by John Ericson. Honey West was one of the first female private detectives to appear on television, and make no mistake—she is most certainly the boss. The fun stories are peppered with crazy gadgets—lipstick radios, radioactive tracers, tear gas earrings—and feature a healthy dose of action (Honey is black belt in judo, while Sam is a former marine). And a pet ocelot called Bruce, which seems about ready to tear off someone’s face in every scene he appears in. While the show earned Francis a Golden Globe Award for best actress, as well as an Emmy Award nomination for the same, it was cancelled after one season as the network discovered it was cheaper to import The Avengers from the UK and show it in the same time slot than their own show. And that’s a big shame, because Honey West could really have been something. Criminally underrated, this show is ripe for a comeback. ABC, I’m waiting for your call!

 

Emerson Cod and Ned the pie maker (Pushing Daisies; ABC, 2007—2009)

Has it really been six years since Pushing Daisies met its premature demise? Oh boy. Hit by the 2007—2008 Writers Guild of America strike, only 22 episodes of this so-called forensic fairy tale were made, and the while the story arc was tied up—albeit it in a rather rushed and abbreviated way—in the final episode, the whole wonderful, crazy show just screams unfinished potential. The premise is simple: Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) is a private detective with a penchant for knitwear. Ned (Lee Pace) is a pie maker who can bring corpses back to life for one minute. The two make a deal—Emerson can solve murders easily, getting Ned to bring the victims back to like and tell the dynamic duo who killed them, and then the profits of a mystery solved can be split between them. Shot in saturated technicolour and with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, Pushing Daisies developed into an over-the-top comedy-drama reminiscent of the crazier side of The Avengers. The series was short but, like Ned’s pies, very, very sweet.

 

Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson (Elementary; CBS, 2012—present)

The most famous detective of them all has been adapted, reinterpreted, reimagined and rebooted countless times. Most recently, two TV versions of a modern-day Holmes have caught the public’s imagination—the BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson, and CBS’s Elementary, with Jonny Lee Miller as the detective and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. While Sherlock sticks fairly closely to the canon of Conan-Doyle’s original stories, Elementary has, for me anyway, been the far more interesting prospect, unafraid of branching out in its own direction. This has resulted less in a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, more a smart, original, slightly weird detective show. Oddly, this seems to work, helped by the pitch-perfect casting of Miller and Liu. Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict, Watson his former sober companion. Miller’s great detective is eccentric, unpredictable, and often hilariously odd, the perfect foil to Liu’s calm, measured, frequently frustrated Watson. As a fan of the original stories, Elementary is a breath of fresh air, from the gender-flipping of Watson to the audacious way they handled the characters of Irene Adler and Moriarty (you’ll get no spoilers from me!).

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Adam Christopher is a novelist and comic writer. His debut novel, Empire State, was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013, he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State shortlisted for Best Novel. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Great Britain since 2006.

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85 comments
Steve Scott
2. John H. Watson
I have all the Steed/Peel episodes on DVD. I originally watched them when I was between 14 and 18 years old. Mrs. Peel would have been welcome in my home at any time.

I vividly recall Honey West, but Sam who?

We watch Elementary weekly. Only negative is the recording level of Holmes' dialog. If they can clearly record John Reese's near whisper on POI, why not Holmes on Elementary?
Jana Bricker
3. jlbricker
I must say that my favorite duo is Sherlock and Watson. They have a wonderful chemistry that is a joy.
Liberty kral
4. statuegal
Who doesn't love Batman? Been a dynamic duo fan since I was 6. I still am in love w/ Burt Ward & Adam West and at age 38 it's proven lifelong. Nananananana-Batman!
Pam Holland
5. imatoysruskid
I adore "Elementary"! I'm also really excited about this new series of books. Can't wait!
Valerie Hester
6. vhester1113
I love "Elementary" and all the original takes on the classic Holmes & Watson stories. Very refreshing. Jonny Lee Miller is always entertaining.
MaryC
7. maryc
Favorite crime fighting duo is Steed and Peel.
MARK BOHART
8. BIGMARK
elementary holmes & Watson the real dynamic crime fighting duo
Gordon Bingham
9. gordonbingham
Probably the best general review I've seen on Elementary. Plus a free Elementary book (by Adam Christopher!) - yesssssss
10. DebP
I adore all of these pairings, but the Steed and Emma Peel pairing and the Holmes and Watson pairing are the top of the list. I refuse to choose.
11. Chris_K
Nice choices, but what about James Gordon & Artemis West from "Wild, Wild West"?
12. EL Collins
I haven't gotten to see Elementary yet, but it's on my 'To Watch' list. While they really aren't much of a crime fighting duo, Sterling Archer and Lana Kane are one of my favorite duos.
14. Dawn Katzoff
my son would love this
JAMES LYNAM
18. jpl123456
Great to add to my comic hero collection.
Cindy Hipolito
19. mysuccess
Elementary is one of my favorite series to watch. I hope that it can continue for several more seasons. Would enjoy reading this story. Thanks and Happy Valentine's Day to all.
David Boyington
22. tardisguy
I enjoy this program. I would love to win this book..
lynette thompson
23. LYNETTE52
Looks like a great book, I would love to read it. Snowing again today need to read a great book, bring it on please
Janice Santillo
24. themommazie
Love the crime fighting duos. Would love to read this book.
Irene Menge
25. Goldenmane
It's always more fun with a crime solving duo. As long as the personlities complement each other and the dialogue sparkles.
Russell Moore
26. russrpm
I second West and Gorden; Wild, Wild West was one of my favorites. I also really liked the Nero Wolfe series featuring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin. Very good ensemble piece with the same actors taking different roles each week.
Mary Ann Brady
30. mirahana
Would love this. Always loved Batman. Thx.
Jeffrey Malis
31. bravejam
"Elementary" is a great TV series. Looking forward to reading more of the book... Thank you for the 'exclusive excerpt' and the opportunity!
LabRat517
33. LabRat517
I heartily agree with your review of Elementary. I love this new take and the rapport between Miller and Liu. I'm excited to see this series continued in books and will be hoping they live up to the quality of the series.
GAIL BARTON
35. Maxismimi
I never miss an episode of Sherlock & Watson!
Ann Stolinsky
36. gontzagames
Boy, did you take me back with your mention of The Avengers! I have never seen Pushing Daisies, but will if it comes back to TV. I agree there is a great chemistry between Joan and Sherlock, but I think sometimes Lucy Liu is too laid-back. Thanks for the opportunity to win the book.
Caren Luckie
37. czluckie
While I like Elementary, I miss The Avengers (with Emma Peele).
Janet Robinson
38. Robinsoncat
So glad to see a book series to go with the tv show ELEMENTARY!
Chi Shannon
39. anastasiafall
I love Elementary :) I'd definitely like to check this out :)
M Thompson
40. MST
I enjoyed John Steed and Mrs. Peel so much, and have some Avengers episodes on DVD.
Katharine Kan
45. nekolibrarian
Your post brought back memories - I loved the Avengers, Honey West, and the 1966 Batman and Robin. I also loved The Green Hornet, with Britt Reid and Kato - especially Kato! I'm currently enjoying Elementary.
susan beamon
46. susanbeamon
Enjoyed the exerpt. Love the show. Never saw the resal cartoon Batman. Have all the Emma Peel episodes in my dvd library. Lots of books, but I need more.
Donna Dale
47. awoaca
Miller's performance has become a caricature. Much prefer the other modern incarnation of Sherlock by the sublime Cumberbatch.
elizabeth findlay
48. eafindlay
My love of Sherlock and Watson trumps all other choices I may have, but I sure do really like Batman & Robin, Peel & Steed, Gordon & West, and Poirot & Hastings.
Lori Provenzano
49. Mountainesque
Love these crime-fighting duos in all their different incarnations. Lapped up The Avengers during my impressionable youth. Love both Elementary and Sherlock, equally and the same, and have fond memories of the BBC's Jonathan Creek, which incorporated 'magic tricks' into the mix, solved by the unlikely pairing of Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin.
Lori Rutherford
50. keirma
I wanted to be Emma Peel when I grew up! I have a few broken bones from some of my antics.
Lynn Jarrett
52. OkieReader
I always enjoy reading about and watching Sherlock and Watson. I look forward to winning this contest!! Thank you.
Ronald Roseborough
53. Ronrose1
I wonder how much fun it would be to partner Emma Peel with Sherlock Holmes?
Sally Winkleblech
54. sallyw
A great reminder of some of my favorite shows. I would love a copy of the book.
Kristen Meston
55. webereading
I really love the Holmes/Watson pairing in all of its iterations but I especially like the freshness of Sherlock and Joan. I hope they never make the mistake of turning their relationship to a romance.
Kayleigh Lawson
56. hippadodo
This is an awesome list! I love Holmes and Watson and was delighted to see Emerson Cod and Ned the Pie Maker on the list. Pushing Daisies was awesome.
Doreen Sheridan
57. dvaleris
Great list, and I'm glad you chose Elementary's duo over other Holmes/Watson iterations. One of the most important things for me in this show has been the evolution of their relationship and the incredibly strong friendship they've developed. It's been really hard to find series that celebrate grown-up friendships like this, and is easily fifty percent of the reason I tune in weekly.
58. Marla L Timmins
This is so much fun! And the contest is drawn on my birthday! :) How awesome! I <3 Sherlock
Andra Dalton
59. andra77
Now that's certainly quite a list of crime fighting duos!!! Shame Pushing Daisies had to come to an end far too soon as it definitely had some possibilities if not cancled before it hit its prime. Although have to admit that I've become quite loyal to Elementary & hope they're around for many seasons to come!!! This brings back so many fond memories!!! Thanks for the opportunity to win & good luck to all who enter!!!:)
61. ConnieJ
I enjoyed reading this article. Sounds like a cool book to win!:)
Karen Terry
63. bblol65
I loved The Avengers because of Emma Peel. She was a very strong character who could take care of herself. You didn't see a lot of women during that time who could fight and not need a man. I also liked Pushing Daisies. It was a great show that did get canceled too soon.
DJ Shatley
64. dejs
Loved Steed & Peel a century ago. I've never watched Elementary, but love Sherlock. My fav is Ichabod & Abbie on Sleepy Hollow; supernatural crime, but still crime fighters. :)
65. Drew
I have been a Sherlockian since age 10 and still have my set of the Canon in uniform Berkley Books editions. A collector would be envious. I was skeptical about Elementary but it wouldn't be the same series if Watson were a man. I like how they bring names and titles from Doyle's stories and reinvent them, all the while paying homage to the originial.
Margaret Eveleigh
66. torontoviewer
The Avengers (Steed/Peel)......what great memories this post has brought back. I wouldn't mind watching that again!
Debra Kidle
68. lubelle
I agree about what another poster said about the Wild Wild West. That was my dad's favorite show back then, we watched it every week together. Sad, that it's not shown regularly in reruns on tv, I would watch it again. This book would be a great read on some of my fave duo's, thanks for the chance to win.
Mike Rogers
69. Mycosyco
I love the show, so would enjoy the book.
70. seedchan
Great list! (I especially liked that you started with Batman And Robin)
71. Ian Miller
A nice list - I look forward eagerly to see how this essential relationship is handled in The Ghost Line!
72. Candie L
I love how the old concepts are cool now. Thank you
Buddy Garrett
73. garrettsambo
I enjoyed the post on the crime fighting duos. I would love to read the book.
Ellen
75. Neroon
Love the show and would love to read the book.
76. Jane H
The Avengers has just brought back great memories.
79. starkeee
These are great duos!
Rena Sollish
80. Rena
Looks like an interesting book. We watch Elementary each week.
81. Becky Moore
I'm loving the dynamic duo's....I haven't seen the new Elementary show but it's in my Netflix que
Dylan Davison
82. dylan_davison
I am super excited for this book. I love the show, and the writer for this seems like a huge fan! I can't wait. Good luck to all that enter.
Kimberly Hilbert
83. asketcher2
This sounds like a great book. I will be looking out for it.
Heather Cowley
84. choochoo
Love them! Excited to read it! Thank you.
Bruce Arthurs
85. bruce-arthurs
A Nero Wolfe Mystery, with Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton. Best tv adaptation of the Rex Stout series.
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