Favorite Mystery Show Crime Solving Assistants
The devoted assistant has been a favorite mystery character ever since Doyle had Dr. Watson pen Sherlock Holmes’ greatest achievements. Many of television’s best detectives wouldn’t function as well without their own version of Watson. Here are four great TV sidekicks from British and American crime shows.
Sharona Flemming (Monk)
Actress Bitty Schram garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Sharona Flemming, the long-suffering nurse and assistant for Tony Shalhoub’s obsessive-compulsive detective on the USA network series Monk.
As a no-nonsense, divorced mother, Schram’s character provided Monk’s investigations with some much-needed street smarts. Brassy and tender at the same time, she protected her fragile boss without coddling him too much. Her job made it difficult to find romance (Monk always detected her date’s worst qualities), and sometimes she struggled to raise a son while also battling crime. She made a favorable impression on Monk fans that remains strong, even though she starred in only three of the show’seight seasons.
Archie Goodwin (A Nero Wolfe Mystery)
Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People) turned in a talented performance as Archie Goodwin in this stylish A&E network drama based on the Rex Stout mystery novels. The series ran from 2001 to 2002, with Hutton serving as an executive and occasionally directing episodes.
Set in 1940’s New York, the show followed the baffling cases engaged by Nero Wolfe (Maury Chaykin), a reclusive private investigator obsessed with good cuisine and growing prize winning orchids. The dapper Archie typed up Wolfe’s case notes, interviewed suspects, chased down bad guys, and swept damsels in distress off their feet. He also provided entertaining voice-over commentary, giving the show a distinct film noir flair.
Geoffrey Shawcross (Hetty Wainthropp Investigates)
This quaint British mystery series ran from 1996 to 1998 on BBC One and starred Patricia Routledge as Hetty Wainthropp, a genteel, retirement-aged English lady with a knack for solving crimes.
Dominic Monaghan (LOST, V) played Hetty’s boyish assistant, Geoffrey Shawcross, a reformed shoplifter. The likable Geoffrey shared a parent/child type relationship with Hetty and enjoyed chasing down clues with her across the English countryside. He also rented a room from the lady detective and her husband. In later seasons, he developed a romantic relationship with Janet Frazer (Suzanne Maddock), a plucky mechanic who sold him a vehicle.
Burton “Gus” Guster (Psych)
Emmy award nominated actor Dulé Hill (The West Wing) has delighted both viewers and critics with his portrayal of a reluctant crime fighter on the USA network series Psych. Hill’s character fills the classic straight man role opposite James Roday’s super sleuth Shawn Spencer. Spencer is a guy with special observation skills who fakes psychic abilities in order to work criminal cases with the police.
Gus is Shawn’s childhood friend, a cautious fellow who gets roped into helping investigate. The two set up a private eye shop together (Shawn forges Gus’s signature on the lease for the building), and take on cases that stump the official investigators.
Other Notable TV Detective Sidekicks
There have been many other memorable mystery show sidekicks through the years. Fans of The Equalizer will remember Keith Szarabajka’s performance as Mickey, the scruffy, young government agent who aided Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) in serving up justice.
Texas-born actor John Hillerman gave an impressive performance as British war hero Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, on the classic detective show Magnum P.I. And James Read (Beaches) combined humor with charm as Murphy Michaels on Remington Steele, though his character appeared only in season one.