In addition to solving cases, detectives are required to treat colleagues with respect and victims with empathy. This leads us to believe that they are always witty, competent, assertive and even dangerous when it becomes necessary. This may be the reason why the inept, incompetent, often accident prone comedy detective is such a revered character. As they bumble through each investigation, accidentally stumbling into the solution; they keep us glued to our seats, laughing heartily every few minutes. Two of the most classic of these comedy detectives are:
Lt. Frank Drebin
Both the Police Squad! series and the Naked Gun movies, star Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin. The character is played by Leslie Nielson, and ‘evolved’ over the years when Frank was a member of the special part of the police force, Police Squad. In the series Drebin is competent, respectful and compassionate. In the Naked Gun films, however, the Lieutenant becomes the ultimate comedy detective.
Regularly creating more problems than he solves, Frank remains oblivious to his accidents and the distress that he causes during his investigations. His lack of empathy, comes across in his tactless manner and he spends a good deal of his time offending other characters. Also known as ‘Locksmith,’ the detective’s ability to accidentally unlock the solution to each case continues to baffle those around him.
A series of comedy films, Pink Panther, stars the French Surete’s incompetent police detective, Inspector Clouseau. His investigations are marked by a series of accidents including (but certainly not limited to) falling down flights of stairs, unintentionally shooting a fellow officer, getting his hand caught in a medieval knight’s gauntlet, destroying a priceless piano and knocking a witness out. Despite these mishaps, Clouseau manages to find the solution to each of his cases. His supervisor is driven to madness, because of Clouseau’s incompetence, and turns into a homicidal psychotic. Clouseau then gets promoted to Inspector, and continues to solve each case by sheer luck.
Even though the Inspector has an oversized ego, believing greatly in his superior intellect, he is somewhat aware of his ability to cause chaos. After each of his mishaps, Clouseau attempts to appear calm and in control of the situation. The Inspector insists on wearing disguises during his investigations. Even though these range from ordinary to outrageous, he always fails miserably at pulling them off because of his obvious personality. One of the funniest things about Clouseau is his attempt to maintain outward elegance and composure despite causing a calamity, even though those around him are often in great distress.
The first Pink Panther film was released in 1963, and the final one in 2009. There have been four actors to embody the character of Inspector Clouseau, during this period: Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin, Roger Moore and Steve Martin.