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The Best 70's Cop Shows

By Edited Jul 13, 2016 4 10

Here are some of the best cop shows that aired during the 1970's.

Television in the 1970’s was so much different than it is today. Before cable television, you had on three networks, a local channel or two, and public television. Remote controls were non-existent. In my house, my dad would say “Hey, can you please get up and change the channel”.   I would turn the knob for my dad without complaining (I knew better).

Programming went through genres, with each network vying for it’s share of the audience. During the 1950’s Westerns and variety shows ruled the airwaves. While the variety show still existed in the 1960’s, rural based sitcoms and fantasy sitcoms were the shows viewers sat down to watch.

In the 1970’s, police dramas ruled the airwaves. Cops and detectives would solve the most heinous of crimes in an hour time slot, only to repeat the same thing the following week.

During that era, the opening theme songs caught your attention and drew audiences in. Many shows would end with “A Quinn Martin Production”.

During the early 1970’s I was in elementary school in New York City, yet my parents let me watch these programs (shocking by today’s high octane parenting standards!). Later in the decade I was in junior high and watched even more of these shows. The tough streets were not the ones I played in, but I enjoyed watching these programs.

In no particular order, here are the best cop shows of the 1970’s that I used to watch.


ABC 1975-1976

The Best 70's Cop Shows-SWAT
This short lived TV series was one of my favorites, primarily because it had a super-cute cast! (I was eleven when it premiered). SWAT stood for Special Weapons and Tactics, the most elite branch of the Los Angeles Police Department. Led by "Hondo" Harrelson, he led his younger (and cuter) comrades through some of the worst and most violent situations.

There series starred Steve Forrest, Robert Urich, Mark Shera, Rod Perry and James Coleman.


CBS 1973-1978

The Best 70's Cop Shows-Kojak
Who loves ya, baby?

The tagline of the Tootise Roll Pop sucking Greek detective, Theo Kojak, is one remembered by fans. A lieutenant in the New York City Police Department, he was a no-nonsense cop who bent a few rules when necessary to bring the bad guys to justice.

Among the cast was Savalas’ real-life brother, George Savlas, Dan Frazer, Mark Russel, Vince Conti, and Kevin Dobson.  I used to watch this show every Sunday night.

Police Woman

NBC 1974-1978

Best Cop Shows of the 70's-Police Woman
Was there ever a more beautiful or glamorous police woman than Sergeant Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson? Angie Dickinson showed girls and women everywhere that a cop need not be a man to be tough and solve crime.

Dickinson’s character worked for the Criminal Conspiracy Department (the vice squad) for the Los Angeles Police Department. Many times she had to use her femininity to get her out of sticky situations.

The series also starred Earl Holliman, Ed Bernard, Charles Dierkop and John Crawford. I used to get special permission to stay up late and watch this program. I just loved it and the clothes she wore!


Police Woman: Complete Second Season
Amazon Price: $44.99 $23.04 Buy Now
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The Rookies

ABC 1972-1976

The Best Cop Shows of the 1970's-The Rookies
This ABC series was produced by Aaron Spelling, who was just beginning to crank out hit after hit for the network. As the name implies, the Rookies were a trio of police officer who just graduated form the California police academy. Their commander, Lieutenant Ryker, helped them learn how to survive the mean streets of the city.

The Rookies starred Gerald S. O’Laughlin, Kate Jackson, George Stanford Brown, Sam Melville, Michael Ontkean (for one season) and Brian Fairbain.


The Rockford Files

NBC 1974-1980

The Best 70's Cop Shows -The Rockford Files
James Garner played the title character with laid back suave.  The memorable opening sequence featuring funny answering machine messages and the synthesizer music, this show was different from other crime drama shows of that era.

Jim Rockford, who was wrongfully imprisoned and then pardoned, lives in an old mobile home in Malibu. He is a private investigator who prefers to use his words rather than his weapons. His father, played by Noah Beery, Jr., was always trying to get his son to find more stable employment. Stuart Margolis played his friend, Angel Martin, a former cellmate from San Quentin who oftentimes gets Jim into a heap of trouble.

James Garner’s laid back charm is what made this series a hit from the get-go.


ABC 1975-1978

Best 70's Cop Shows-Baretta
It was gritty and dirty, with an eclectic cast of characters. Robert Blake portrayed Tony Baretta, an undercover cop who lived and worked in a unnamed run down city. He lived with a cockatoo and would often get into trouble with his superiors because he liked to do things his way.

The theme song, Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow, (Baretta’s Theme) was sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.

Also starring in this 70’s crime drama were Michael D> Roberts, Tony Ewell, Dana Elcar and Edward Grover.

Charlie's Angels

ABC 1976-1981

The Best 70's Cop Shows-Charlie's Angels
This show gave way to the phrase “Jiggle TV”. The show’s premise, three beautiful and intelligent women, are undercover detectives who worked for Charlie, who was only heard and never seen.

The cast always wore the best clothes of the era, and showed as much cleavage as the censors of the day would allow. It made a superstar out of Farrah Fawcett Majors, and launched the careers of most of it’s cast members. Other stars of the program were David Doyle, John Forsythe, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Shelly Hack and Tanya Roberts.

I remember watching this show in middle school and pining for the long haired feathered look the stars wore.

Charlie's Angels: The Complete Series
Amazon Price: $94.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 1, 2016)

The Streets of San Francisco

ABC 1972-1977

The Best 70's Cop Shows
This hit ABC 1970’s cop show paired a very unlikely duo-Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. As Lt. Mike Stone and Inspector Steve Keller, this pair of plainclothes cops complimented each other and offered audiences something for everyone.  The rapport between the two characters is what made this series a hit-their age gap did not matter.

I loved watching this show with my mom! Just check out the sideburns in this series!

There were many other hit cop shows that aired during the 1970's, this is just a list of the ones I loved to watch.  What were your favorites?



Jan 1, 2013 1:27pm
You can add to that list "Harry O", a two year series with David Janssen at his best as a former cop turned private detective. It relied a lot on characterization and the smooth performance of Janssen week in and week out.
Jan 1, 2013 3:56pm
That was a show my mom watched and enjoyed. I do not remember seeing it. Thanks for contributing!
Jan 9, 2013 10:53am
In the UK we had just three channels- and there always seemed to be something worth watching- Kojak and Charlie's Angels were two of my favorites- you didn't miss the TV when it was on
Jan 9, 2013 4:36pm
I loved Telly Savalas!
Jan 9, 2013 12:23pm
I admit it...I was a sucker for Charlies Angels. Nice article Mommyx3
Jan 9, 2013 4:35pm
While that show gave me hair issues, I did enjoy it!
Feb 13, 2013 8:54am
Super cool post :)
I knew about Kojak, Baretta and of course Charlie's Angels!
Feb 13, 2013 3:56pm
Thanks for reading!
May 3, 2013 8:17pm
Strangest thing... as soon as I saw the DVD box artwork for SWAT, I started humming the SWAT theme song... I cant remember whether I fed the dog yet or not, but the theme to SWAT (Baretta and Rockford, too) I remember.

Great list... but missing Starsky and Hutch! :-)
May 4, 2013 1:21pm
That song is infectious!

BTW, I did not forget Starsky and Hutch...I did not watch the show.
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