The 10 Best Police Drama TV Shows of the 90s

The 10 Best Police Drama TV Shows of the 90s

Over the years, police procedural dramas have become one of the most popular television shows. There’s something fascinating about the way detectives and cops track down killers, murderers, and even just petty thieves. The cases may sometimes end up differently than expected, but experiencing the process certainly makes for great entertainment and educational benefits.

Although many police procedurals have come and gone over the years, the 90s did give birth to some of the most unforgettable ones. These shows provided the viewers with an insightful look into some very interesting cases and created memorable characters that have become part of our most beloved TV experiences. Keep reading as we look at the 10 best police dramas on TV during the 90s.

10. Silk Stalkings (1991–1999)

Silk Stalkings (1991–1999)

Long before there was Law and Order: SVU, there was Silk Stalkings. It was another show that was centered around detectives who solved sexually-based offenses. Silk Stalkings debuted in 1991 and starred Mitzi Kapture and Rob Estes as Sgts Rita Lance and Chris Lorenzo. The series was focused most on the cases they were trying to solve, although there were moments where we got glimpses into the characters’ personal lives.

Silk Stalkings lasted eight seasons, premiering on CBS and ending its run on the USA Network. The crime drama was very popular among audiences; however, like most other shows, viewership declined as several cast members exited. Kapture and Estes left the show in 1995 and proved to be tough acts to follow.

9. Third Watch (1999–2005)

Third Watch (1999–2005)

NBC’s Third Watch debuted in the fall of 1999 and was centered around a group of New York-based first responders. The fact that it didn’t focus on police officers makes it unique compared to the other shows on this list. As with police dramas, the show featured an ensemble cast with several ongoing storylines. Third Watch had a knack for finding the perfect balance between suspense and drama, and it also introduced viewers to some great characters. The series was canceled in 2005 after six seasons.

8. Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)

Homicide: Life on the Street

Set in Baltimore, NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street was based on David Simon’s 1991 book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. The series followed members of the Baltimore police homicide unit and was known for offering a gritty portrayal of life as a detective. Since the show was darker than many other police dramas, it didn’t gain as much mainstream popularity.

For fans of the show, Homicide: Life on the Street became known for pushing boundaries and showing a side of police work that is often overlooked in Hollywood. During its 6-year run, it was nominated for dozens of awards and won many, including three Primetime Emmy Awards. Even though it’s been more than 20 years since the show ended, it is still regarded as one of the best police dramas of the 90s, if not of all time.

7. Nash Bridges (1996–2001)

Nash Bridges (1996–2001)

Starring Don Johnson as the title character, Nash Bridges aired on CBS from 1996 to 2001, and it was very popular for most of its run. The show’s eponymous character, Nash Bridges, worked in the Special Investigations Unit of the San Francisco Police Department, where he had made quite a name for himself. Although many of the cases he dealt with were very intense, Nash was known for having a great sense of humor, giving the show a lighthearted feel often missing in police dramas. Despite its popularity, Nash Bridges was canceled after the sixth season due to a loss of ratings to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However, in 2021, viewers were excited when Don Johnson reprised his role in Nash Bridges’ movie, released on November 27.

6. Diagnosis Murder (1993–2001)

Diagnosis Murder (1993–2001)

Diagnosis Murder was one of those shows that could appeal to all kinds of people. The show starred the legendary Dick Van Dyke as Mark Sloan, a doctor who helps his homicide detective son, Barry, solve crimes. Barry was portrayed by Van Dyke’s real-life son, Barry. The two proved to be a very dynamic duo, and they had a way of getting to the bottom of things. Interestingly, the series was almost canceled after its second season because it struggled to pick up ratings. Despite that early hiccup, Diagnosis Murder lasted eight seasons on CBS and spawned five TV movies.

5. Law & Order (1990–2010, 2022–Present)

Law & Order (1990–2010, 2022–Present)

NBC’s Law & Order is easily one of the most iconic police dramas of all time, and it’s responsible for an entire franchise of spin-offs. It is also one of the longest-running scripted live-action shows of all time. The series debuted in the fall of 1990 and became a hit almost instantly. Law & Order is set and filmed in New York City and follows city police officers as they attempt to solve various crimes. The first half of the episodes focuses on police apprehending a suspect, while the second half is focused on the suspect being prosecuted. The show was canceled after 20 seasons but has been rebooted and is on the air again.

4. Walker, Texas Ranger (1993–2001)

Walker, Texas Ranger (1993–2001)

Let’s be real; who doesn’t love Chuck Norris? Over the years, he has become a legendary figure in the entertainment industry, and the series Walker, Texas Ranger, is part of that legacy. In the CBS show, Norris played a Texas ranger named Sergeant Cordell Walker, known for his intelligence, courage, and dedication. Walker, Texas Ranger may not have gotten the most favorable reviews from critics, but the show was still popular among viewers. The show resulted in a short-lived spin-off called Sons of Thunder, which lasted only one season. There was also a TV movie based on the series as well as three books. A reboot called Walker premiered in 2021 and has had a run of at least three seasons.

3. New York Undercover (1994–1999)

New York Undercover (1994–1999)

New York Undercover only lasted four seasons on Fox, but it was still one of the best police shows of the decade. Starring Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo as two undercover New York City detectives, the series was considered groundbreaking because it was the first police drama in the United States to have two people of color in the leading roles. As a result, it became a popular part of Fox’s Thursday night lineup, featuring Martin and Living Single. The detectives’ jobs were central to the episodes, but the show also highlighted their personal lives. In recent years, there has been talk of reviving New York Undercover. Unfortunately, it has not been picked up by any networks. However, there is a chance that the reboot might find a new home on Peacock.

2. NYPD Blue (1993–2005)

NYPD Blue (1993–2005)

When TV audiences think of 90s police procedural dramas, NYPD Blue is one of the first shows that come to mind. The show was set in a fictional New York City precinct. While some shows glamorize life as a police officer, NYPD Blue wasn’t one of them. Viewers saw the officers struggle with the job’s realities and personal issues such as addiction. The series was often seen as controversial for its depiction of nudity and other things that were deemed inappropriate. NYPD Blue aired from 1993 to 2005, winning 84 awards, including 16 Primetime Emmy Awards.

1. Law & Order: SVU (1999–Present)

Law & Order: SVU

Law & Order: SVU is the longest-running live-action series and has been on the air for more than 20 years. In the show, Mariska Hargitay portrays a tough New York City detective named Olivia Benson, who is committed to finding justice for victims of sexually motivated crimes. The series follows a similar format to the original Law & Order, except it offers more insight into the characters’ lives. During its time on the air, viewers saw Benson go through several relationships and become a mother. Since its debut, Law & Order: SVU has won 33 awards.

Start a Discussion

Main Heading Goes Here
Sub Heading Goes Here
No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.