10. Lydia Adams (Regina King) from Southland
A vet of the gang unit, Lydia Adams can’t help but care about the cases she gets assigned to. And she doesn’t always follow the rules. And she doesn’t always get along with her coworkers. In other words, she’s real.
9. Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) from Elementary
Playing sidekick to an iconic investigator can be a daunting task -- particularly when there’s a Holmes movie franchise and another TV series already in the public eye. But as the first female Watson (to Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock), Lucy Liu gives a fresh take on the wry doctor, and the famous chemistry between the two characters has a whole new dynamic.
8. Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) from Law & Order: SVU
Cool as a cucumber, even faced with the most heinous sorts of crimes and criminals, Olivia Benson is the lynchpin that holds together this New York special-victims unit. Her poignant personal story -- the product of rape, she grew up with an alcoholic mother -- only makes her better at her job.
7. Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) from Bones
Based on the actual forensic anthropologist and crime novelist Kathy Reichs, Dr. Temperance Brennan uses her smarts, unusual insights and cold-hard science to solve crime alongside her decidedly unscientific partner, FBI agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz). Though socially awkward to an extreme, Bones is brilliant and beloved -- and really, really good at figuring out seemingly unsolvable puzzles.
6. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) from Veronica Mars
Ah, the plucky girl detective from one of TV’s legendarily gone-too-soon series: Veronica Mars was a fairly typical teenager dealing with boys, friends and school by day and a private eye sleuthing around solving her California town’s mysteries by night. Portrayed by the gorgeous-yet-oddball Kristin Bell, she was a refreshing role model.
5. Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson) from Person of Interest
A former Army interrogator turned NYPD homicide detective, Joss Carter is a confident, ethical, by-the-book officer -- until she finds herself drawn into the shadowy world of John Reese (Jim Caviezel), Dr. Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and the Machine. Things become less clear-cut as she unofficially “partners” with Reese and she has to broaden her definitions of right and wrong.
4. Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgewick) from The Closer
There’s nothing like a charming Southern belle who comes on sweet as tea and then shocks the baddies into confessing their sins. Brenda Leigh Johnson led her L.A. police department with a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails demeanor but never lost her feminine edge. And she enjoyed plenty o’ Ding Dongs along the way.
3. Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) from The Wire
The sole female in a squad of Baltimore cops trying to take down a drug ring, Kima Greggs remained the most rule-abiding, upstanding officer on arguably one of the best TV shows of all time. Like so many of her male colleagues, her personal life took a back seat to her work, to the detriment of her relationship with her girlfriend and their son.
2. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) from Homeland
Being bipolar and obsessively dedicated to her job -- with a propensity for flouting the rules and a killer gut instinct -- may not sound like the ingredients for a happy life, but they do make Carrie Mathison one heck of a CIA agent. And positively mesmerizing to watch.
1. Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) from Top of the Lake
Coming home to visit her ill mother, Detective Robin Griffin finds herself drawn into an investigation that makes her face down a closed and complex community she once gratefully fled. She’s a flawed and stubborn heroine, to be sure, but as she tries to save Tui Mitcham, a pregnant 12-year-old girl who has gone missing, she has a chance to try to redeem her own past.