Just the facts, ma’am: LAPD detective Joe Friday, who has appeared in many incarnations but is best known from the 1950s version of the Dragnet series, is the ur-television detective, the source of mystery paradigms, the granddaddy of small-screen sleuths. Detective Friday’s methods may seem trite when seen today, but the “true” crimes he solved and his ways of doing so were revolutionary for the time. Without Joe Friday, the existence of any of the other television investigators on our list would be, well, a mystery.
Case File: In season five’s “The Big Bounce,” Friday gets a tip from a movie fan that a con artist is forging checks in the name of a dead old-time Hollywood star.MORE: Jack Webb on the Cover of TIME
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