Such has been the intense appetite for gritty crime drama in Britain over the past couple of years - thanks to a slew of excellent Scandinavian shows - the National Television Awards has launched a new category honouring the TV 'Detective of the Year.'

Idris ElbaIdris Elba As Detective Inspector John Luther

The long-list includes a massive 26 competitors, though the frontrunners are obvious. Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, David Tennant's DI Hardy and Olivia Colman's DS Miller from Broadchurch and Idris Elba's Luther will battle it out for the award at the O2 Arena on January 22, 2013.

Although series two of BBC One's Sherlock was shown in January 2012, it is eligible for the list as it was repeated last year. This will undoubtedly give Cumberbatch's rivals the edge come January though it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he might win.

The lead stars of murder mystery Broadchurch appear to have a greater chance of scooping the prize. The show proved to a huge hit on ITV and is being remade in the US for BBC America.  Following two detectives on the hunt for a young boy's murderer in a fictional seaside town, Broadchurch generated considerable publicity for its "whodunit" theme, with viewers avidly speculating on social networks throughout the show.

BroadchurchOlivia Colman [L] and David Tennant [R] In 'Broadchurch'

Elba's triumphant return as DCI John Luther in the BBC crime-drama has led to the early workings of a big-screen adaptation, and there would be few complaints should the British actor turned Hollywood star win the prize.

As for the dark horses, watch out for Sofie Grabol as DI Sarah Lund in The Killing and the excellent David Threlfall whose recent turn as DI Len Harper in What Remains won a vast amount of acclaim. Gillian Anderson is also worth a shout for her assured performance as DSI Stella Gibson in The Fall.

Elsewhere in the National Television Awards' long-list is The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Britain's Got Talent and The Voice battling it out in the talent show category.

Benedict CumberbatchBenedict Cumberbatch [L] and Martin Freeman [R] in BBC's Sherlock

The comedy category will see newcomer Big School - with David Walliams - going up against last year's winner, Mrs Brown's Boys.

Presenters Ant and Dec are once again up for the entertainment presenter prize, having won the award for the past 12 years.

The National Television Awards 2014 will be hosted by Dermot O'Leary.