Apple TV+’s selective catalog is once again bolstered by fine shows like “Sugar.” Created by Mark Protosevich, the eight-episode mystery drama infuses classic noir elements with modern sensibilities while producing something quite innovative. Colin Farrell’s titular John Sugar is suave, stylish, and adept. But there is a charming nobility in John Sugar that makes the character unique. It is as if all the classic gumshoe characters you imagine Humphrey Bogart in are blended with Frank Capra’s idealistic heroes that you might imagine James Stewart in.

The responsibility for direction is shared between Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) and Adam Arkin. The inaugural episode, directed by Meirelles, immediately marks the stylistic departure from usual neo-noirs. A girl goes missing, and Sugar, being the classic gumshoe he is, is called to find her. This is a job Sugar is proud of: finding missing persons and solving mysteries. Colin Farrell is enigmatic and lovable as John Sugar, who is a cinephile as well.

If you like “Sugar,” I have a few more similar TV shows to suggest. All of them would not be a dead ringer for the show, but chances are you would like them. I would try to avoid the highly popular shows like “True Detective.”

1. Monsieur Spade (2024)

Shows like 'Sugar' Monsieur Spade (2024)

The first TV show that immediately comes to mind is “Monsieur Spade,” created by Scott Frank and Tom Fontana. Maybe because this is the recent entry in this list, and the similarities with “Sugar” are obviously noticeable. It would not be an exaggeration if I say the very first face that comes to most people’s mind whenever anyone says “Classic Noir Detective” is that of Humphrey Bogart. Bogart featured in two of the most popular noir films: “The Big Sleep” (From a Raymond Chandler novel) and “The Maltese Falcon” (From a Dashiell Hammett novel). “The Maltese Falcon” introduced Sam Spade, the classic California-based gumshoe.

Frank and Fontana’s series puts Spade in rural France. Quite a fish-out-of-the-water scenario. The setting provides Spade with a new mystery and a new family if you can believe it. The six-episode miniseries is buoyed by the performance of Clive Owen as the iconic detective. Even if you are not always fully convinced by the mystery of the plot, you would be drawn to watch it due to Clive Owen’s enigmatic portrayal. Just like Colin Farrell does in “Sugar.”

2. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

One key difference between a classic hardboiled detective character like Sam Spade and John Sugar is that Sugar does not exhibit an immediate penchant for mean-spirited cynicism. In that way, he is quite similar to another detective, Batman. One of the immediate suggestions that jumps to the mind is Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” (2022) featuring Robert Pattinson. Of course, Farrell played Penguin there. The existentialistic voiceover monologues are quite similar. So much so that it often makes Los Angeles feel like Gotham.

Now, since we are talking only about TV shows, the suggestion would be DC’s “Batman: The Animated Series.” I understand the show, being animated,  does not exactly scream ‘gritty noir femme fatale.’ However, the show, with its 85 episodes, has many episodes that have noir-ish touches. Created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and developed by Paul Dini and Mitch Brian alongside Timm, the show features modern storytelling with enough cynicism for a ‘kids show.’ The series is iconic for Batman fans and something one could pick up after completing “Sugar.”

3. Veronica Mars (2004-2019)

Veronica Mars (2004-2019)

Imagine the teen angst and high school drama of “Mean Girls” with a dash of good old private investigator work ala Raymond Chandler. This amalgamation seems unappealing, but Rob Thomas made it work. Initially conceived as a young adult novel, Thomas turned this into a teenage noir TV show, if you will. Set in the fictional Californian town “Neptune,” this show has a young Kristen Bell (“The Good Place”) portray the eponymous character. Veronica, as a high school girl, has her usual homework, class bullies, and love interests. What she also has is a knack for solving mysteries that come to her Private Investigator father.

The series has noir-ish, hardboiled, snappy quips and jabs uttered by Veronica in deceivingly friendlier setting of high schools. Kristen Bell is super, and the show ran for three seasons before getting canceled. The show later had another season, comprising eight episodes, and premiered on Hulu. Each of the episodes of the show has an individual mystery for Veronica to solve, while there is a season-long overarching story taking the journey forward. Try it, and you might just love it.

4. Perry Mason (2020-2023)

Perry Mason (2020-2023)

Erle Stanley Gardner’s iconic Criminal Defense Lawyer, “Perry Mason,” is another great literary investigator. Gardner’s creation spanned over eighty novels and short stories. Perry Mason, the criminal defense lawyer, always runs with Perry Mason, the investigator. Because the trick of Gardner’s stories involved Mason finding the real culprit before proceeding to prove the innocence of his client. Based on this classic and popular character, HBO’s 2020 show “Perry Mason” is a gritty and fantastic noir addition to this list.

Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) portrays the iconic defense lawyer. The show acts as an origin story for Mason, as here, the famed lawyer is only a private investigator. Like “Sugar,” this Los Angeles set series is stylish and features a fantastic central performance. Rhys is superb as a noir hero. The series starts with a child kidnapping (similar to Sugar trying to find a young girl) and then proceeds to unravel the layers of the mystery. The HBO show had only two seasons before it got canceled. One might say the second season is even better than the first one.

5. Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

Shows like 'Sugar' Inspector Morse (1987-2000)

“Inspector Morse,” the classic British detective drama, is one of the longest-running detective shows if you consider its spin-off and prequel. This suggestion includes both “Lewis” (the spin-off) and “Endeavour” (Prequel). However, “Inspector Morse” is the best place to start. Based on the works of Colin Dexter, who wrote the Inspector Morse series of novels, the show is generally a must-watch if you are into detective series like “Sugar.” I tried not to include shows that feature a Golden Age Detective Fiction sleuth like Agatha Christie’s Poirot or Marple.

“Inspector Morse” is sort of in-between. Morse cases feature plenty of red herrings and false leads. Inspector Morse often identifies the wrong person as the culprit. Morse is shown as more fallible than the previously known, mostly invincible, always-right detectives like Poirot or Holmes. Not exactly a noir, “Inspector Morse” is still an essential TV show, especially if you like Colin Farrell’s fantastic detective work in “Sugar.”

6. Shikarpur (2023)

Shows like 'Sugar' Shikarpur (2023)

I’d like to finish the list by including one Indian series in the list. A Bengali one. Bengal has a rich culture of detective stories. However, almost all of them are designed in the classic Golden Age Detective Fiction style. Your Poirots and Holmes. A hardboiled noir private investigator is quite rare here. This is where the Zee5 series “Shikarpur” steps in. The series, written and directed by Nirjhar Mitra, stars Ankush Hazra as Kesthto, a small-town photographer who aspires to be a private investigator. The story is set in a small northern Bengal town. The biggest case this amateur investigator gets is to look into petty thefts of domestic animals.

Keshto’s fate changes when the hitherto crime-free town starts to see some murders in sequence. And many believe it to be the work of a ghost. “Shikarpur” is full of humor and the mystery here just about works. Like John Sugar, Keshto has nobility. It might not be as apparent as Sugar’s is, but it is there. There is less world-weary cynicism from the detective here. The series often portrays Keshto as a bumbling good-for-nothing. However, there is one quality Keshto possesses. A quality that is the make-or-break quality for any detective. It is the uncanny, and often unsafe, penchant for persistent inquisitiveness, thus making the show deserve a place in this list of private investigators.

Read More: Sugar (2024) Series Review: Colin Farrell is a film-noir nerd in Apple TV+’s mysterious and deceptive detective story

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