It will come as no surprise to fans that Columbo was a global smash hit.
From LA to London, from Paris to Bucharest, from Melbourne to Tokyo, Columbo was a ratings winner and one of the most talked-about shows of any given week it aired.
As a result, it was not uncommon for Lieutenant Columbo to appear on the front cover of TV guides, as his very presence was a guaranteed circulation boost. But beyond that, Columbo and Peter Falk became so iconic that they moved beyond mere television listings publications, gracing the cover of some of the world’s most high profile magazines.
“Columbo and Peter Falk became so iconic that they graced the cover of some of the world’s most high profile magazines.”
Often the photography and illustration work was so good that it was an artwork in its own right. Little wonder, perhaps, that I’ve often seen fans sharing imagery online of framed versions of these covers adorning the walls of their homes.
I’ve chronicled a selection of super-cool Columbo magazine covers below, and would LOVE to hear your thoughts on them.
Many a fans’ favourite, Peter Falk appeared on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April 1975, looking suitably rock star cool! Better yet, you can read the full Rolling Stone interview with Peter here!
Columbo was immortalised on the cover of Time magazine in November 1973. I love that Columbo appeared on Time, but I’m not a huge fan of this illustration. His hair looks a bit too dreadlocky to me…
This uber-cool cover of Life magazine from 1970 featured Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara and John Cassavetes talking about their film Husbands.
Not familiar with People Weekly mag, but it appears to be some sort of celeb gossip weekly from August 1976, featuring Peter talking about his divorce from first wife Alyce. He would marry Shera Danese two years later. Peter’s looking HOT on the cover!
Thanks for this reader submission from my French friend Eric Saussine. In his own words: “In 1987 there were a string of new TV networks some of them very low brow and controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire and later to be Italian leader. So the cover is about – with some irony – ‘the bad Italian example’ and illustrated with Columbo, which the magazine is very fond of.” Awesome – thanks Eric!
TV guide covers
Predictably, Columbo would appear on a number of TV listings magazines, notably US publication TV Guide in the 1970s.
My absolute favourite from all the covers on this page, Peter absolutely rocks this casual sweater, windswept hair and cigarette look. I know that smoking is bad, but he makes it look so darn cool…
Al Hirschfeld’s iconic Columbo illustration appeared on the cover of TV Guide in 1976. The same illustration would also appear on William Link’s short story anthology, The Columbo Collection, released in 2010.
Peter Falk looking super cute on the cover of the annual TV Stars publication in 1973. I can’t positively ID the episode, so if anyone knows, please leave a comment! He uses a similar phone in Requiem for a Falling Star, but it’s not quite the same.
I can’t find a higher quality image, but this sweet illustration for Columbo Prescription: Murder appeared on the cover of the Herald Examiner‘s TV Weekly supplement on 18 February 1968 – two days before the episode aired. The rest is history!
Magazines from around the world
Columbo was a global hit and as such appeared on magazine covers around the world. Here is a small selection.
French magazine Tele Poche featured Columbo/Peter Falk on the cover in February 1973 (above) and November 1979 (below). Price of the mag nearly doubled in 6 years!
TV Heroes was a British magazine. Not sure what year this was released, but the price was just 25p, so likely sometime in mid 70s.
Peter Falk on the cover of Australian magazine TV week in 1978.
The TV Times supplement of the Los Angeles Times featured Columbo in December 1990.
And a sad one to finish. This French magazine featured a cover story about the declining health of Peter Falk in July 2009. The headline translates to: The terrible fate of Columbo. His fight against disease.
Of course, in true Columbo style there’s just one more cover, but it’s almost too ghastly to share. Those of a weak disposition should exit this page now, and go to this ‘safe page’ of imagery featuring Columbo and Dog.
If you’re still here, please scroll down to find a Columbo magazine cover so frightful that it should never have been conceived…
I did warn you! If you have any of these mags in your personal archive, or others I haven’t featured, please let me know! And thanks, as always, for reading!
Fun to look for Hirschfeld’s tribute to his daughter (?) Nina. It’s right there on Columbo’s right sleeve.
I also remember a cover from some magazine–was it Psychology Today, or maybe just TV Guide? The caption was something like “How Columbo is killing the TV Network, or CBS, ABC, whatever. The cover was kind of scary, with Columbo bandaged…just can’t remember, but it’s out there somewhere.
I’ve never seen that scary cover, but will look out for it! If you locate it, please email me a pic to firstname.lastname@example.org
I watched Colombo as a kid and always enjoyed peter Falk. As being from Australia and was a avid reader of TV week I don’t remember that cover, I’ve looked to buy it but can’t find it. Are you sure it was 1978? Great site by the way.
Hi Rick. I got the 1978 info from somewhere, although can’t remember where now. The image isn’t great so blowing it up larger to look more closer at publication date is inconclusive. Could be 1973, 76 or 78.
Great to see you mention my hometown of Melbourne. I bought every issue of “TV Week” when I was a kid, but I don’t remember that cover. Thanks for posting it. When “Columbo” was in its initial 1970’s run, I was a huge fan. I had several clippings from Australian magazines, with stories on the show and interviews with Falk. I don’t know whatever happened to that scrapbook. It also had a LOT of “Happy Days” clippings. I wish I still had it! People who didn’t grow up in that time and who can purchase a DVD set and watch every “Columbo” in a row, have no idea how maddening it was to wait for a new episode to air in the 70’s. Being part of that “NBC Mystery Wheel” format, there really weren’t that many new “Columbo” episodes. In Australia, the Mystery Wheel programmes were split up among networks. The NIne Network had “Columbo” and “McCloud”. “McMillan and Wife” (another big favourite in my family) was on Seven. In fact i think I saw “McMillan” before “Columbo”, because I remember seeing a promo for “McMillan and Wife” and it looked like a really good movie (I can still recall, it was “Till Death Do Us Part” and it WAS good). I told my folks about it and asked if I could stay up. Dad said “we love that series” and I told him it wasn’t a series it was a movie. It went two hours! That was my first knowledge of movie-length series’, so “Columbo” had to come after. When “Columbo” first aired, Australian television was still black and white. I remember an episode of “Get Smart”, Max was in an electronics store and there was a sign: “Color TV”. I remember thinking “COLOUR TV??!!” (I would’ve thought it in English, hence the “u”). Then again, we were always staggered by the cool things American TV families had. “That lucky Alice”, my mum once remarked, “if I had a kitchen like the Brady’s, I’d be happy to spend all day in it too!”. I remember seeing “Columbo” in colour for the first time. There were a lot of shows we couldn’t wait to see in colour. One was a variety programme, “The Don Lane Show”. When we finally got a colour TV, we were fascinated to see Lane’s set “oooh, that bottle behind him is green!” It’s funny to think of now, when I have a little colour TV in my pocket! So that’s a sample of watching TV in Australia in the 70’s, particularly “Columbo”. Although it required a lot of patience, I’m glad I was there in the beginning, though it IS great being able to watch whichever episode, whenever I want! Thanks for the memories. Great site!
Thanks for your comments and kind words! I’m only a recent Aussie immigrant, so was really interested to hear how the networks split up the ‘Mystery Wheel’ and that Aussie TV was still black and white when the show first aired. In my experience not a lot of Aussies are aware of the show, so I’m pleased to hear there are fans who remember it from its early years.
I do hope you continue to enjoy the site!
Omg! Mrs Columbo! What an insult that was. I tried to watch one episode and just gave up. She was not anything like I imagined Mrs. Columbo to be. I just get mad when ever I think of it.
A bit off the topic, but today’s (June 29, 2017) New York Times crossword puzzle has a clue: “Peter Falk feature.” The answer has 8 letters (which needn’t be one word). Hint: It’s not “RAINCOAT.”
Time’s up. The answer is “GLASS EYE.”
Thanks! You are helping me with my research.
Oooh, what are you researching?
An excellent collection! Bravo!
Just came across your fantastic site! I’ve gotten into Columbo over the past year and have enjoyed every minute of it (well, “A Case of Immunity” was a bit of a slog– maybe I was just tired when I watched it). Thanks for the outstanding quality content! It’s great to find others who enjoy this remarkable series, as well.
Thanks a million, you’re very kind! I’m really pleased you’re enjoying the site. I’m not a huge fan of Case of Immunity myself, so you’re not alone!
Hah! I see you’re not a big fan of Mrs. Columbo, are you.
You’re very perceptive!