Is there anything more reliably entertaining than a brilliant TV detective show? We don’t think so! These investigators — be they the gruff but lovable type, or the quick-witted hero that always comes through — have all been television staples for decades. So it’s time to check in with our favorite sleuths on their first and last days on the job. And you may be shocked at just how much all those years of chasing bad guys have changed them over the years!
1. William Petersen (CSI)
Before he starred as Gil Grissom in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, William Petersen was best known for ’80s crime thrillers Manhunter and To Live & Die in L.A. But after 198 episodes and the ten-episode revival show CSI:Vegas, he became indelibly etched in fans’ minds forever as the unflappable forensic entomologist. Playing a character over a 21-year period leads to quite a bit of change, though.
In the beginning, Petersen was a relatively fresh-faced lead in his late ‘40s, but by Vegas he was in his late ‘60s with a trademark close-cropped grey beard. Petersen admitted in 2021 that the lines between him and Grissom had blurred over the years. He told the Television Critics’ Association, “I’ve become more like Grissom, in that I appreciate the things that he appreciates. Grissom’s a little like me, in that I’d like to be off on a boat somewhere.”
2. Peter Falk (Columbo)
Of his most famous creation — the disarmingly crumpled Detective Columbo — Peter Falk once said, “He looks like a flood victim. You feel sorry for him. He appears to be seeing nothing, but he’s seeing everything.” Arguably the definitive TV detective, Falk played Columbo in 69 feature-length episodes between 1968 and 2003. He was so beloved that TV Guide ranked him as the seventh-best television character ever!
Given that Columbo appeared on our screens over a period of 40 years, it’s obvious that Falk went through a lot of physical changes over the years. His hair turned silver and he put on some weight, as we all do when we get older. But the core of the character never changed — he was still our blue-collar sleuth, a rumpled underdog whose razor-sharp intelligence was always underestimated by perps.