Series about cops and robbers have been on TV since the dawn of time. Or television. But over the years, the number of well-known police characters has far exceeded the tally of famous TV criminals. Especially when you concentrate on just the “robbers” as opposed to, say, a Mob boss like Tony Soprano, serial killers such as Dexter Morgan and Hannibal Lecter, or bootlegger/politician Nucky Thompson.
Thieves and burglars are an under-represented TV class, something that new drama The Last Panthers goes some way to remedying. The sprawling six-part series takes place throughout Europe in the aftermath of a diamond heist gone wrong.
The robbery has all the hallmarks of real-life gang the Pink Panthers, but is it as simple as that? Insurance loss adjuster Naomi Franckom (Samantha Morton) and French-Algerian cop Khalil Rachedi (Tahar Rahim) are on the case, while Serbian jewel thief Milan Celik (Goran Bogdan) joins the ranks of these TV crims…
1. Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero - The Sopranos
Aside from post-death hallucinations, Big Pussy, who got his nickname from his early career as a cat burglar, was last seen being pushed over the side of a boat after the Soprano gang learnt he was informing on them. Recruited to the DiMeo crime family, he was a loyal soldier for years until his sideline trade in heroin attracted the attention of the FBI, who pressured him to turn on Tony et al. Why “Big”? To avoid confusion with another associate, Gennaro “Little Pussy” Malanga.
2. Earl Hickey - My Name Is Earl
Stealing wasn’t the only thing this reformed petty criminal had on his list of misdeeds – a list he compiled in an attempt to get karma back on his side. But as Earl worked his way down his itemised account of wrongdoing (faked my own death, broke Joy’s fancy figurine, made a lady think I was God…), he was able to make amends for a number of robberies he’d committed before his life-altering change of heart.
3. Rosa "Miss Rosa" Cisneros - Orange Is the New Black
Speaking of karma, this robber was dealt a serious blow each time she held up a bank. After each job, someone close to her died. Eventually apprehended after getting sloppy with her heists, Miss Rosa was then diagnosed with cancer while in Litchfield Penitentiary. See, karma is a bitch. When her cancer became terminal, bald-headed Rosa went out in one final blaze of hit-and-run glory as she escaped from jail.
4. Fernando Sucre - Prison Break
Here’s another thief who wasn’t smart enough to not get caught. In a ripped-from-a-telenovela backstory, the lovesick warehouse worker robbed a liquor store in order to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend, but was turned in by his own cousin, who was in love with the same girl. Sucre’s luck changed when tattooed escape artist Michael Scofield wound up as his cellmate. Post-breakout, Sucre was smart enough to be the last escapee to remain at large… until he wasn’t.
5. Snake Jailbird - The Simpsons
He might be arrested and sent to jail on a regular basis, but this Springfield resident somehow manages to always end up walking free. Not that he’ll ever learn. Voiced by Hank Azaria, Snake’s crimes are many and varied, with his son, Jeremy, seemingly set to follow in his footsteps.
6. Neal Caffrey - White Collar
One way for a thief to stay out of jail? Make a deal with the feds. The smooth criminal, whose misdeeds ran to forgery, art theft and long cons, brokered an arrangement with FBI agent Peter Burke. In return for his relative freedom – he had to wear an ankle monitor – Neal helped the Bureau catch other high-end criminals. And wore lots of nice suits doing so.
7. “Remington Steele” - Remington Steele
Another con man who went on to use his powers for good was the unnamed criminal played by Pierce Brosnan who assumed the persona of Remington Steele in this ’80s detective series. In truth, Remington Steele didn’t exist, but was a fictional male boss created by private eye Laura Holt after she struggled to land business as a female detective. Thankfully, the portrayal of women on TV has come a long way since then…
8. Parker - Leverage
A whole unit of do-gooder criminals joined forces to fight the power in this long con dramedy, with the socially awkward, mononymed Parker constituting the gang’s thief. A highly trained cat burglar, safe cracker and pickpocket, Parker was so good on the job that, in the series finale, she was entrusted with the future of the team, who sought to right wrongs unable to be solved by legal means.
9. Steve McBride / James “Jimmy” Lishman - Shameless
In the original British series James McAvoy played Fiona Gallagher’s boyfriend, Steve McBride, while in the US remake, Justin Chatwin portrayed the renamed Jimmy Lishman (aka Steve Wilton). Both versions of the character came from a wealthy family and yet chose to steal cars, but the roles diverged somewhat given McAvoy only appeared in a dozen episodes, while Chatwin hung around for double that number.
10. Doug Judy - Brooklyn Nine-Nine
The bane of Detective Jake Peralta’s existence, the car thief known as the Pontiac Bandit has always managed to stay one step ahead of the law. The charming crim was last seen enjoying a cruise with Jake and his main squeeze, Amy Santiago, and will no doubt pop up again when Jake least expects it.
Bonus thief: Princess Gina Von Amberg - Days Of Our Lives
A brilliant art thief and forger working for Days’ number one villain Stefano Di Mera, Princess Gina fell into a deep depression after the loss of her true love, John Black. Stefano’s solution? Brainwashing the presumed dead Hope Brady, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Gina, into thinking she was Gina and carrying on as normal. The plot all fell apart, but not before we got to see actress Kristian Alfonso play Hope, Hope pretending to be Gina, the real Gina and Gina pretending to be Hope. Got all that?
Watch The Last Panthers Thursdays at 9:30pm (AEDT) on SBS and on SBS On Demand.
Missed the last episode? Watch it right here: