13 Best Grumpy Male Detectives of British TV

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Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by Stefanie Hutson

Detective work is hard, so it makes sense that some detectives might be a bit grumpy. Years upon years of seeing humanity's worst could put a dent in the sunniest of dispositions.

Still, whether they're cynical, frustrated, depressed, angry, or just a little prickly, these character traits can make watching mysteries all the more entertaining for their realism and character depth. 

13 Best Grumpy Male Detectives of British TV

Alec Hardy | Broadchurch


Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is the straight-up prickly detective inspector in Broadchurch, a sunny, idyllic seaside town harbouring a murderer. His partner is DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) who, by all accounts, should be the grumpy one considering he took her job. Broadchurch follows their hunt for a child-killer. This series boasts complex characters and a plethora of suspects (played by many familiar faces) that will keep you guessing until the end. 

Stream all 3 seasons of Broadchurch on Amazon Prime HERE.

Cormoran Strike | C. B. Strike

CB Strike: Troubled Blood

Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) is a slightly curmudgeonly detective in London with a military background. As an amputee, he deals with pain. As a private investigator, he struggles to keep his business afloat and his bills paid.

Cormoran might be hard to get to know, but once someone gets on his good side, he will protect them with everything he has. This prickly-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside detective was created by J. K. Rowling under the penname Robert Galbraith. Also starring Holliday Grainger.

Stream C. B. Strike on Max HERE.

Andy Dalziel | Dalziel and Pascoe

Dalziel and Pascoe

Dalziel and Pascoe are opposites. Dalziel (Warren Clarke) is abrasive and blunt. Pascoe (Colin Buchanan) is considerate and polite. He is younger and has a different style. Dalziel follows an older style of police work that required a strong arm. Together, they compliment and contrast one another in the best way to solve the crime. Ever heard of “playing good cop, bad cop”? They pull that off naturally.

This 11-season show is set in Yorkshire. It aired from 1996 – 2007.

Stream Dalziel and Pascoe on BritBox HERE.

Richard Poole | Death in Paradise

Ben Miller starred in Death in Paradise for 2 seasons (plus 1 episode)

The first 3 seasons of Death in Paradise feature Ben Miller as DI Richard Poole, a fish out of water sent to the Caribbean to solve crimes. As a native Englishman, he prefers cool drizzly weather, wearing a heavy suit, and drinking hot tea. This prickly inspector doesn't warm to island life very easily. (The detectives in later seasons aren't quite as grumpy).

For a cozy mystery show with a grumpy detective, try Death in Paradise streaming on BritBox HERE.

Tom Mathias | Hinterland


Hinterland is completely different from the cozy mystery mentioned above. It's a gloomy noir set in windswept Wales. Tom Mathias struggles with depression due to tragic circumstances. This 3-season series is beloved by fans of gritty noir. 

Starring Richard Harrington, Mali Harries, and Alex Harries. 

Hinterland streams on Acorn HERE


George Gently

George Gently (Martin Shaw) is not as gentle as his name suggests. Instead, he's straightforward and uncompromising. He tries to keep his young, eager partner (Lee Ingleby) in line and he is not delicate about it.

Set in the 1960s, this series covers a time when police corruption was more common. With his relentless honesty, Gently puts as much fear in criminals as he does his co-workers.

Loosely based on the novels by Alan Hunter. 

Stream all 8 seasons of George Gently on Acorn HERE.

Robbie Lewis | Inspector Lewis


This Morse spin-off follows Inspector Robert “Robbie” Lewis (Kevin Whately) as he takes the lead and solves crimes around Oxford. Like Morse, he's also a bit grumpy. The recent loss of his wife pushes him to over-working himself.

This workaholic widower also has a young, stoic, Cambridge-educated sidekick who left priesthood training to become a police officer.  

Stream all 9 seasons of Inspector Lewis on BritBox HERE.

Endeavour Morse | Inspector Morse

Shaun Evans in Endeavour

Inspector Morse (John Thaw) is sullen and somewhat snobbish at times, but he ultimately has a good heart. He loves listening to opera, doing crossword puzzles, and drinking ale. He doesn't like it when people ask what his first name is and even jokes that it's “Inspector.” In his youth, he served in West Germany with the Royal Corps of Signals as a cipher clerk. 

The Morse shows are based on the books by Colin Dexter. 

Stream all 8 seasons of Inspector Morse on BritBox HERE

  • Young Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) in the prequel Endeavour is not nearly as grumpy. Still, the show follows his character development from the mid-1960s into the early 70s. Endeavour streams on PBS Masterpiece HERE … but be sure to watch the Pilot film first for more background. It also streams on PBS Masterpiece but is in a separate listing found HERE

John Luther | Luther


DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) struggles to manage his anger. This spooky, urban noir is full of suspense. His morals are also a little different from other detectives and even some of the “good guys” want to see him go down. 

This show leans heavy toward the thriller genre. It ran for 5 seasons and a feature film Luther: The Fallen Sun released on Netflix in 2023.   

Stream Luther on BritBox HERE.   

William Wellington | Miss Scarlet & The Duke

Miss Scarlet & the Duke

DCI William “The Duke” Wellington (Stuart Martin) just wants to do his job. But Miss Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) keeps getting in his way. Dealing with her might make him extra frustrated, irritable, and grumpy, but he has a good heart. This Victorian-era detective show follows Miss Scarlet as she inherits her father's private investigation business. It's fun, thrilling, and has a great pace. 

Stream 3 seasons of Miss Scarlet & The Duke on PBS Masterpiece HERE.

Jack Frost | A Touch of Frost

A Touch of Frost

DI William Edward “Jack” Frost (David Jason) lives up to his name. He's frosty, cynical, and mercurial, but he has a strong moral compass. Frost is messy and hates doing paperwork. He also doesn't always respect the law when he's certain of the culprit. 

It's set in southern England and was based on novels by R. D. Wingfield. 42 episodes aired between 1992 – 2010.

Stream all 15 seasons of A Touch of Frost on BritBox HERE.

Kurt Wallander | Wallander


Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) can get angry sometimes and doesn't have a great relationship with his co-workers. He also has a somewhat depressed, existentialist demeanor. Wallander is a divorcee with a grown daughter who also struggles with her mental health. He loves opera, junk food, and alcohol. But despite it all, of course, he's a brilliant detective. 

Wallander is a Swedish detective but the series is filmed in English. Adapted from the novels by novels by Henning Mankell (who is often credited with the birth of the modern Nordic noir genre).

Stream all 4 seasons of Wallander on BritBox HERE.

Joseph Chandler | Whitechapel


Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) is bossy and irritable, but he warms up to his new co-workers over time. Even though he's their boss, they don't seem to show much respect. He also struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder. When a copycat killer begins recreating Jack the Ripper's murders, Chandler has to change tactics and turn to history to catch the killer before more people die.  

This spooky detective series also stars Phil Davis and Steve Pemberton. 

Stream all 4 seasons of Whitechapel on Amazon Prime HERE


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The Best Grumpy Men of British Mysteries

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