It’s easy for Chicago PD fans to forget that Hank Voight didn’t start off as that nice guy. The cop was introduced on Chicago Fire as corrupt, although it turned out he was just working undercover.
Since taking up leadership of his own unit, Voight has proven he’s not above bending the rules to get ahead. That’s rubbed off on the rest of the unit as, even with tensions high, they are willing to cut a few corners to bring down the bad guys.
This plays into a TV tradition of the “cowboy cop.” The ones who know that being by the book won’t always work and need to bend or even break the rules to get the job done.
A few can be tricky as some cops go too far. A few are not much different than the very crooks they hunt. Yet that just makes their shows all the more captivating to watch.
From famous award-winning dramas to lesser-known but fun shows, here are ten series about maverick cops that Chicago PD fans can enjoy. Sometimes, an officer who goes against the grain is the one that’s the most fun to see.
The Good Guys
This too-short-lived Fox series wonderfully skewers the “buddy cop” genre.
Colin Hanks is a cop so by-the-book that no one can stand him. He’s thus assigned to minor crimes with Dan Stark (Bradley Whitford), a “supercop” who still dresses and acts like it’s the 1980s.
The pair are hilarious with Stark treating the theft of a bicycle as if it’s the crime of the century while thinking CSI work is black magic. He also doesn’t get some of his actions may just be illegal.
The joke is that these two stumble onto major crimes without realizing it. Their wild clashes with quirky smugglers and cartels provide scores of laughs.
The Hanks-Whitford chemistry is terrific to show a light-hearted but fun take on what a maverick cop would be like in today’s world.
Season 1 streaming on AppleTV.
This Cinemax show is a great version of the “fox running the henhouse” concept.
It begins with an unnamed crook just out of jail seeing the newly appointed sheriff of a small town killed in a fight. Realizing no one there knows the guy, the crook takes on his identity to hideout.
As fate would have it, the town happens to have his former lover/partner, now living as a simple housewife. Before long, the man discovers the town is home to various sinister cartels fighting for power. He’s not only handling those crimes but hoping to pull off a big score himself.
It’s a gripping crime drama with fantastic action, and it’s fun watching Lucas Hood adapt to being a cop who obviously flaunts the law. It also has some very steamy situations with romances.
While it wasn’t a huge hit, the show deserves attention as a fantastic crime drama that blurs the lines between cops and crooks better than other shows.
Seasons 1-4 streaming on HBO Max.
Obviously, a TV show based on the hit movie franchise has to focus on some wild cops.
Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans step into the roles of Riggs and Murtaugh. It’s the same dynamic of an insane self-destructive cop paired with a saner family man veteran.
The action is wild, with the pair getting into movie-style explosive antics amid some light comedy. It’s fun seeing Murtaugh driven as crazy as his partner on cases but the two gelling well.
The third season has a huge shift with Riggs gone and Seann William Scott as a (slightly) less wild partner. It captures the movies’ great spirit while still an entertaining TV showcase.
Seasons 1-3 streaming on Hulu.
From Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, this show was a nice turn on the usual cop drama.
Set in a fictionalized version of the actual Michigan city, the police department is so broke they can barely afford raincoats. Dean Winters is the sardonic cop always ready to see the worst in people. He’s paired with Josh Duhamel who’s a by-the-book and seemingly perfect FBI agent.
Their clash of styles is great, with Winters always willing to skirt the rules to solve a case and several of his fellow cops ready to join him. As the season goes on, Duhamel’s agent proves he’s not above bending the law either.
The finale has a significant turn revealing Duhamel was once just as maverick a cop. While axed on a cliffhanger, it’s a fun show thanks to its unique setting.
Season 1 streaming on AppleTV.
Created by Elmore Leonard, this FX series is a beautiful clash of eras.
If he’d lived in the Old West, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) would be perfect for the U.S. Marshals. In the 21st century, his style has issues.
This is a man who gives a Miami mobster 24 hours to get out of town, or Raylan will shoot him…then shows up the next day to do that.
This leads to Raylan being sent to his old Kentucky hometown where he clashes with former childhood friend Boyd (Walton Goggins), now a crook.
Looking more like a classic cowboy than a modern cop, Raylan’s demeanor is excellent in mixing with the bizarre crimes.
The dark comedy is wonderful, the characters are enthralling, and the writing sparks with sharp dialogue. It’s little wonder it’s one of FX’s most loved series.
Seasons 1-6 streaming on Hulu.
Originally broadcast on A&E then ressurected for Netflix, this is a delight for fans of “rural” crime shows.
Robert Taylor plays the title role of Walt Longmire, the sheriff of a Wyoming town. He has to handle a variety of crimes that often clash with the local Native American lands.
Katee Sackhoff is terrific as his deputy, with Cassidy Freeman as Longmire’s tough daughter. There’s also Lou Diamond Phillips as a friend helping out.
The show is terrific with this setting and mixing up the variety of cultures amid some difficult crimes. There are also plots of Walt dealing with everything from drug dealers to corrupt businessmen. Longmire himself has his own unique strategy dispensing frontier justice.
It’s a terrific watch for folks who like a little “Old West” touch in their modern crime shows.
Seasons 1-6 streaming on Netflix.
The Chicago Code
Obviously, fans of the Windy City shows will enjoy this Fox series.
Jennifer Beals is the newly appointed Chicago police commissioner who handles the difficulties of politics and the “old guard” against her.
She’s dedicated to bringing down a corrupt alderman (Delroy Lindo) amid other cases. There are also stories on the street cops and detectives handling the daily crime in Chicago with some brutal murders.
Filmed in the city, it’s authentic using Chicago’s history and how this city seems to have corruption built into its DNA. Thus, the cops aren’t above bending the rules to stop the bad guys.
While it only lasted one season, the similarities to Chicago PD make this a great watch.
Season 1 streaming on AppleTV.
Here’s a fun show proving the ladies can be as much cowboy cops as the guys are.
A spin-off of Bad Boys has Gabrielle Union as a former DEA agent now working for the LAPD. Jessica Alba plays her former soldier turned partner.
The two ladies are beautiful but also wild in the streets, getting into gunfights and brawls and willing to bend the rules to get the bad guys.
There’s drama from Union handling a complex family life to Alba dealing with marriage and a stepdaughter. The second season amped up the drama with a long-range conspiracy arc.
Sadly axed after just two seasons, it’s a terrific showcase for two cops who are tougher than their male counterparts.
Seasons 1&2 streaming on Netflix.
Often on lists of the best TV shows ever made, HBO’s gripping drama uses a police investigation to show the fall of an American city.
The cops know they’re working for a broken system that wages a futile war but are still doing their best to make do. Dominic West is the highlight as the self-destructive Jimmy McNulty, not above faking a serial killer to get a wiretap.
Each season focuses on a different part of the city, from the docks to politics, schools, and the media. The supporting cast is terrific, especially Idris Elba as drug lord Stringer Bell.
Sometimes, the police part takes a backseat to the other drama, yet it’s striking to see these cops trying to handle fighting a war they know they can never truly win.
Seasons 1-5 streaming on HBO Max.
This groundbreaking FX series set the bar for future basic cable dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It also remains an amazingly crackling show.
The focus is on the Barn, an LAPD precinct whose top strike team doesn’t just bend the rules. Sure, they enforce the law, but they’re also corrupt thieves and even killers just a step ahead of their own force.
At the center is Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis in a deservedly Emmy-winning performance), the leader who, in the first episode, shockingly executes a cop who was onto them.
While he does crack some good cases, Vic also breaks every law he’s sworn to uphold.
The series boasted some fantastic guest stars like Glenn Close and Forrest Whitaker, but Chiklis made it compelling viewing.
From its shocking premiere to its stunning finale, this series changed the game for TV antiheroes and cop shows alike.
Seasons 1-7 streaming on Hulu.