Monday, June 12, 2017

Kelly’s Pick: Top 5 Female-Fronted Detective Shows [Guest Poster: Kelly Doran]

I spent my formative years watching Mary Kate and Ashley’s Trenchcoat Twins series on videotape and playing Nancy Drew computer games until way past my bedtime. So as you can imagine, nothing warms my heart more than seeing smart and powerful women kicking butts, taking names, and catching murderers. From Harriet the Spy to Miss Marple, there is no genre I love more. I have consumed a lot of girl detective content, so I like to think you can trust my opinions. After extensive, lifelong research, this is my list of the top five best female detective shows.

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5. Nancy Drew (1995)

This Canadian TV adaptation of Nancy Drew reimagines the classic girl detective as a college student studying criminology in New York City in the 90s. This one is very much in the style of 90s teen shows, so it’s not heavy on blood and gore. There’s definitely more of a focus on “missing pop stars” types of crimes, and with 21-minute episodes, none of the mysteries are very fleshed out. My favorite part of this adaptation is definitely Nancy’s friendship with Bess and George, who help her with nearly every case. Bess is reimagined as the city’s most popular gossip columnist, and George as an aspiring filmmaker. Not to mention, Nancy sports some pretty great 90s style.

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4. Rizzoli and Isles

This show has been around since 2010, but somehow I missed it until very recently, when it was recommended to me on Hulu. Rizzoli and Isles centers around Jane Rizzoli, a homicide detective, and Maura Isles, a medical examiner who is also Jane’s best friend. These are true murder mysteries with autopsies and dead bodies, so the squeamish might want to skip it. But in my opinion, the murders aren’t nearly as important to the show as the title characters and their relationship. Jane and Maura are best friends who seriously love each other. So what if Jane can be abrasive and Maura is better with dead people than live ones? They have each other, and it is so heartwarming to me.

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3. Jessica Jones

Honestly, is there anyone left who hasn’t seen Jessica Jones? If so, what are you doing? Do you even have Netflix?! Krysten Ritter, one of our greatest TV actresses in my opinion, stars as the title character. Although this takes place in the Marvel universe, it bears little resemblance to Marvel’s big screen superhero action movies. This is dark and gritty noir, dimly lit and unglamorous. Jessica, as a survivor of rape (among other traumas), deals with PTSD in purple-colored flashbacks, and the use of color to note these moments is incredibly powerful. Again, one of my favorite aspects of this show is Jessica’s relationship with her best friend: a relationship that makes her stronger and gives her something to fight for. This show has endless twists and turns and enough suspense to keep you binge-watching way longer than you planned.

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2. Veronica Mars

Although I have not given it the number one slot, Veronica Mars is probably my favorite TV show of all time. This is Kristen Bell at peak snark, and Kristen Bell can really do snark. Much like Jessica Jones, this show is unapologetic, classic noir, and it’s not afraid to be dark, or to shun neat, happy endings. Between murder-of-the-week mysteries, the first season sees Veronica on a mission to solve her own rape, her mother’s disappearance, and the murder of her best friend (played by a post-Mean Girls Amanda Seyfried). The show is impeccably paced and has incredible character development.

Veronica Mars never shied away from putting a very real and deeply flawed woman on screen; Veronica makes a lot of bad choices, but I always understand why she’s making them, and I never stop caring about her. There’s also some very cool and diverse mysteries that give Veronica the opportunity to play lots of different roles to get the information she needs. Veronica can morph from a clueless, ditzy blonde sorority girl to a nerdy gamer girl as the case demands, and it’s thrilling to watch. She’s also supported by some great supporting characters, including her best friend Wallace, and on-again-off-again love interest, Logan. This show was cancelled after the third season, and honestly, I will probably never forgive The CW for that. Luckily, there was a movie in 2014 to provide a little closure. If I could recommend any show to anyone, it would be this one. If I could spend the rest of my life watching Veronica Mars and nothing else on permanent repeat, I would do it gladly.

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1. Murder, She Wrote

Although I love Veronica Mars as much as it is probably possible for one girl to love a TV show, if we’re going to rank lady detective shows, I must reserve the top slot on this list for the original, the classic, the quintessential, Murder, She Wrote. It is the story of a retired English teacher, Jessica Fletcher, who also happens to write bestselling mystery novels and solve crime (no big deal). You guys, we do not deserve Dame Angela Lansbury. My grandmother watched this when I was a kid and yours probably did too. Let me tell you, our grandmothers have impeccable taste because Murder, She Wrote is an unmitigated delight. There is nothing in this world cozier than brewing a cup of tea, wrapping yourself in a duvet, and watching Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher solve murders in chunky cardigans.

(She really does have an incredible selection of cardigans, and I am not the only admirer of her style. There is an entire fashion inspo Instagram dedicated to looks from Murder, She Wrote called @murdershelook. This is 100% not a joke and I recommend that you follow it immediately.)

This is a cozy kind of murder mystery show — the mysteries wrap up neatly, there’s always a happy ending, and Jessica’s always ready to go on and sleuth another day. In a chaotic world, Murder, She Wrote provides some comforting order.

What are your favorite female-fronted detective series? Sound off in the comments below!


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