Opinion / Tribute

Why Columbo matters as much as ever

Columbo cigar

A colleague didn’t know what to make of it recently when I explained that I almost never watch TV.

What about Game of Thrones, she gasped? Never seen one second of it. Ah, but surely you’ve seen The Wire? No. Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Nope. Breaking Bad? Nay pet. The Walking Dead? Errr, that’s a negative. Well what do you watch? she demanded.

And I had to come clean that the only show I watch with any real level of commitment is Columbo. Still. Even though I’ve seen every episode multiple times. Even though I can quote verbatim my favourite episodes from first line to last. Even though the show is now 50 years old and virtually no one I know in ‘real life’ knows anything about it.

Now if I’m totally honest, I must admit to being familiar with other TV shows. I love Stranger Things, have dabbled in Star Trek and cast a semi-interested eye over The Tudors and Lost – before the latter descended into drivel, at least. And while all these are diverting enough, I never find them truly compelling. Indeed the only show that’s come close to achieving Columbo-esque reverence for me was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles – a show years ahead of its time and one that would, I’m sure, succeed today.

“Modern TV seems like the sort of long-term commitment that I’m not prepared to make.”

That aside, and despite the advent of ‘event television’ that seemingly everyone’s raving about, I’m rarely tempted to tune in and I don’t feel like I’m missing out in the least. Modern TV seems like the sort of long-term commitment that I’m not prepared to make. And reality TV frankly disgusts me. But dangle a Columbo DVD in front of me and the urge to watch is irresistible. And if anything, I find it a more enjoyable and important viewing experience now than ever before. Why? I’ll tell ya…

Firstly, Columbo is comfort viewing par excellence. Watching a favourite episode is like hanging out with an old friend. Sure, you might be familiar with the gags and the character traits, but it’s no less enjoyable for all that. That’s why we like hanging out with friends, after all. Many times I’ve bust on a cheeky Columbo after the youngsters are abed and very pleasurably revisited the opulent LA of the 70s’ over a glass of vino as Mrs Columbo naps on the sofa beside me. What could be better?

Negative 2
I take unashamed delight in this man’s company – time after time after time…

Secondly, Columbo is a wonderful antidote to the aggro world we live in. Yes, at it’s core it’s a show about that darkest of human acts, murder. But for all that it manages to be, for the most part, extremely wholesome viewing.

There’s negligible on-screen violence. Barely a drop of blood. No swearing. Sex and drugs are on the periphery. And Columbo is a man with a strict moral code who is inherently respectful and knows how to treat people well. He won’t carry a gun and he’s entirely happy with his life away from work. In a world where disrespect is the new norm, victims are routinely portrayed as villains and covetous social media makes us insecure about our lot in life, watching Columbo is a refreshing escape and a hark back to a simpler, more well-intentioned age. Plus the satisfaction of seeing the ‘little guy’ take down the morally-bankrupt privileged elite of society never gets old. I can think of some of the real world privileged elite of today who could stand to be taken down a peg or 10. Where’s Columbo when you need him…?

My love of the show has also brought me in contact with hundreds and thousands of fellow fans from across the world via social media channels. It’s a very friendly, respectful and fun community to be part of, and if you’re reading this, I include you in the circle of trust!

Thirdly, Columbo as a show was nurtured and protected by those who really loved what it stood for. Even after show creators Richard Levinson and William Link moved on to new projects the quality remained sky high. As well as embodying Lieutenant Columbo and mastering every nuance of the character, Peter Falk became the conscience of the show. He was committed to excellence and surrounded himself with those he felt comfortable with, would bring the best out of him, and with whom he trusted the character to.

“As well as embodying Lieutenant Columbo and mastering every nuance of the character, Peter Falk became the conscience of the show.”

As a result the show survived the departures of Link and Levinson, of Steven Bochco, of Peter S. Fischer and other stellar talents when they moved on to pastures new because they were replaced by those who were similarly committed to the show and respected what had come before it.

The quality of the writing, and of the relationship building between leads, was paramount. The best writers would eat, breathe and sleep the Columbo character, making sure that every exchange was authentic and playing to Falk’s inherent warmth, charm and humour. And the standards consistently achieved, in the 70s particularly, were astoundingly high with only the series’ attempts to be different (Dagger of the Mind and Last Salute to the Commodore spring to mind) really resulting in less successful outings.

As custodian of the show and the character, Falk was demanding of writers, producers and directors and meticulous in his approach to shooting. Never one to pander to studio desires to get episodes in the can as swiftly and cheaply as possible, Falk was a stickler for doing takes time and again until he felt it was done to his exacting standards. But the enduring results prove that his approach was right. He might have rubbed studio execs up the wrong way, but can never be accused of going through the motions or dialling in his performances. Columbo is iconic because of his commitment to excellence.

Falk Spielberg
The calibre of Columbo contributor is why the show remains so watchable today

Finally, Columbo was event television before the concept was invented. We mustn’t forget that at its peak in the 70s, Columbo was spectacularly popular with tens of millions of viewers tuning into each episode. It also quickly became a global hit. In the age before home VCRs were commonplace or affordable, this was the show that people left dinner parties early to get home in time for, and that would be talked about around the water cooler the next day. No one wanted to miss it.

It helps that Columbo was simply awash with big names. Not just contemporary TV stars such as Robert Culp and Jack Cassidy, but bona fide silver screen legends including Ray Milland, Kim Hunter, Ruth Gordon and Myrna Loy – often in small, but well written and interesting roles. As a result it stands the test of time incredibly well, especially those 70s’ episodes, which were packed with star power in a way the comeback episodes were never able to adequately replicate (no disrespect to Faye Dunaway).

So with all that goodness to fall back on, is it any wonder that I eschew today’s televisual blockbusters and continue to pledge my loyalty to Lieutenant Columbo, more than 50 years after he first graced our screens?

I think not. Indeed the only show I can imagine piquing my interest in the same way as Columbo of yesteryear would be a Columbo reboot. But as there seems to be no danger of that happening anytime soon, I’m perfectly happy to sit back and enjoy yet another night in the company of Messrs Falk, Cassidy, McGoohan et al. I already know it’ll be time well spent…


What do you most enjoy about watching Columbo? Hit me with your opinions below. And please accept my sincere thanks for reading.

This article was written to commemorate the 7th anniversary of Peter Falk’s death on 23 June 2011.

Peter Falk Columbo Fade In to Murder
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138 thoughts on “Why Columbo matters as much as ever

  1. I completely agree with your opening sentiments with regards to current TV shows. Since separating from my wife nearly 2 years ago, I hardly watch TV. I went from watching all the latest shows such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones etc to just cutting them out. They became boring. I have NetFlix which has some good documentaries on but even then, don’t binge watch like most do.

    That said, every Sunday here in the UK, channel ‘5USA’ broadcast 3 episodes of Columbo back to back. Even though I have the Columbo DVD boxset, have seen all the episodes numerous times, I still record and watch them. The third episode of the day is the first episode of the following Sunday.

    I also find that I spot things that I hadn’t seen in episodes that i’ve previously watched, so it’s educational as well as entertaining 🙂 I love to spot continuity errors!

     
  2. My love of Columbo comes from my Dad. He doesn’t think much of cop shows, much less cops. But Columbo was a different breed of cop. A thinking man with a working class background. Columbo might have been an Italian Catholic from LA, but he could have been a Jew from The Bronx who was the first in his family to go to college & earn a Ph.D. Those with superior pedigrees who underestimated my Dad did so at their peril. Though for the most part he won people over with his charm, smarts & persistence. But he was tough when he needed to be. Of course, 1970’s Columbo is vastly superior to 1990’s Columbo. There were no Brimmers, Great Carsinis, Milo Januses, Dr. Mayfields, Colonel Rumfords & Paul Gerards with whom to match wits. There was a more subtle pace and better attention to detail down to the smallest prop. These are the sort of details that made the original Columbo a hit in in this country, the UK, Japan, the Eastern Bloc, Peru & a certain house in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

     
  3. I too am a huge fan of Columbo and Peter Falk. I grew up watching Columbo, and loved the NBC Sunday mystery rotation, but I really only got back into it when Robert Vaughn died, and I heard he was really good in an episode. So as I searched for the episode I realized how good the show was including the ABC ones, so when I found a Columbo boxset at Costco over a year ago, I have been going crazy ever since, and watching everything Peter Falk was in. So I am glad of this site. Thanks for giving us this opportunity! The fact Columbo brings down the powerful (politely of course) is apt for these dark times without getting into politics. People have the right to have different fav episodes. Mine among others is Last salute to the Commodore.

     
    • I love columbo, been watching since the early ’80’s,got hooked ever since. And I also watch every movie peter Falk is in.

       
  4. I own the DVD set which includes every episode of Columbo, from “Prescription: Murder” to “Columbo likes the Nightlife” and I’ve seen them all multiple times. It’s a rare week when I don’t watch at least a few episodes. The show also runs on cable tv here, and sometimes I watch just to see what scenes were cut!
    I especially enjoy watching Columbo interact with new technology. The scene in “Exercise in Fatality” in which he self-consciously leaves a message on an answering machine for the first time is priceless. “You can reach me at the main precinct. The telephone number there is….you can look that up.”
    I love this site because, when reading about other Columbo enthusiasts, I feel like a fan rather than a fanatic!

     
    • I wholly agree! It’s novel to watch a “Columbo” with commercial breaks,,and I too try to guess and note what edits were made for the cable airings..

       
  5. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone in my love for Columbo! I honestly thought I was! I had to show this article to my husband so he wouldn’t think I was totally crazy. I haven’t purchased the DVDs yet so I still schedule my time around Sunday night on MEtv for Columbo. I also watch Perry Mason every week night when I go to bed. I guess I’m just an oldie, (but a goodie!)

     
  6. I watch Columbo every chance I get. So glad to see that I’m not only one that still loves Columbo!

     
  7. I absolutely love Columbo. I have DVR’d all of the episodes and watch them as a treat after cleaning house or yardwork. I watched them when it was a current prime time tv show as well, and the rotating mystery series episodes. I enjoy spotting young actors who went on to become stars, and when he has dog with him on the show, the interaction is priceless. I also have all of the Twilight Zone episodes. Those really make me laugh. Sci-if today (never a fan except for TZ) has really come a long way. I enjoyed your column. Thank you for the remembrance, for he was a great actor and genuine man.

     
  8. First off, thank you so much for your Columbophile newsletter. I eagerly await the notification in my inbox that it has arrived. Too, I can not say any better than your sentiments as to why I love, love rewatching Columbo. It is a reminder of happier, less stressful times and when actors truly appreciated their craft and not just out to make money. Personally, it reminds me of my Dad and I bonding over Columbo. We would quote whole scenes together. It was so great. Furthermore, my family and I haven’t had cable tv for quite a few years, therefore, we are not familiar with most of the new shows. We do not miss it. But we do like Stranger Things too. Again, thank you for keeping a focus on (in my opinion) one of the greatest tv shows of all time.

     
  9. I read these emails religiously.  I really look forward to them.  This topic was so on point and I could not agree more.I grew up in a very abusive household.  At the time the Mystery Movie of the Week was being aired, I was quite young.  I would sit with great anticipation waiting to see what story line would be aired… McMillian and Wife, McCloud or my beloved Columbo.  That show truly became a source of comfort and consistency to me.  All these years later, I STILL watch Columbo and it is STILL perfect.  I could go on and on…….THANK YOU for all your work.  Please know that is GREATLY appreciated.  Warm Regards – Amy B. Lindeman

     
  10. I take second place to no one in my appreciation of Columbo. I’ve seen the 70’s episodes so many times, they no longer hold any surprises for me, and yet I keep watching. (If only I could wipe my memory clean and watch these episodes anew, as if for the first time.) The 90’s episodes I will watch again occasionally, but admittedly without the same enthusiasm.

    Where I differ is about the rejection of detective TV since. There have been many wonderful shows since Columbo. In recent years, these have included: Foyle’s War, Endeavour, and Grantchester.

    It is no insult to Columbo to recognize good work elsewhere.

     
    • I agree. Columbo set the bar for me on quirky detectives. After him I was hooked. Other quirky detectives I’ve liked have been: Monk, The Closer, and the BBC’s modern day Sherlock. Honestly, I can’t get enough of quirky, asperger-esque detectives.

       
  11. I’ve seen each episode from the original 7 seasons countless times. There are so many great moments in each one. What I find interesting about my enjoyment of Columbo is that my favorite episodes change over time.

    My favorite has been Etude in Black, because of “Goodbye, genius” and the several scenes at the garage.

    It’s been Negative Reaction, because of Antoinette Bower in the opening scene and at the ranch, and “If I hadn’t taken that camera”, and Thomas Dolan’s colorful language in the shelter, and Sister of Mercy mistaking Columbo for a homeless man.

    It’s been Troubled Waters, because of Danziger looking at his watch and appearing impatient when Columbo asks him about room service, and Danziger’s face when he realizes he’s busted, and Poopee Bocar – her name, her awful lip sync, wondering why she didn’t have more acting roles.

    I could go on and on.

     
  12. Love how he could mix something as horrible as murder with humor. Favorite scenes, running down the hill, falling and telling Freddie “well that was the quickest way down.” And “you search the boat while I get permission.” He broke a lot of cival rights laws, like taking a bottle of wine out of the wine cellar. Don’t care much for the shows in the late 80’s and 90′. It seemed like he was working to hard to get the comedy part in. I have every episode DVR’d and will never delete them. Even the first episode, which a lot of people haven’t seen. only wish there were more books. They are just as good.

     
      • “Have you read The Dean’s Death and A Christmas Killing? Both excellent additions to the timeline.”

        Those two I liked, and the relatively recent collection of short stories by the creator William Link. But those books in which Columbo got involved in famous, historical murders. ::shudder:: I found them to be seamy; lacking the class of the series.

        Mileage may vary, I know. But I think ‘Philes would be better off not reading them.

         
        • I’m with you on the Harrington series. Putting Columbo in real-world crimes didn’t work at all for me. Heater Skelter murders one was pretty dire.

           
  13. I enjoyed your article and it reflects my own inner satisfaction of spending a night in with Columbo. It is a perfect comfort viewing ahaha and it brings me back to a world I grew up in and that seems to be long gone, forgotten and possibly even lost to the new millennium. I enjoy seeing the context of the episode, the fashion, technology, social interaction and social norms….the speed of life, the simplicity, the purity, the clarity, the sound of Then.

     
  14. Ah I am from England and love watching the old murder mystery TV programmes Miss Marple (Joan Hickson versions) and Columbo 😊 the former you found out who did it at the end of the episode, the latter you were hooked on how Columbo would catch the person you already knew was the killer – very unique approach and one of the many reasons it stands the test of time. Personally I love the ‘sex and the married detective’ and ‘Columbo cries wolf’ episodes 😍 generally think the older TV programmes and films are better written – top film ‘charade’ with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn

     
  15. In my opinion, the Golden Triangle of television was: Star Trek, Kung Fu, and Columbo. With the 3 best Zen characters of all time: Spock, Caine, and Columbo. They were the epitome of conscious brought to life, minimalist, and daily connoisseurs of satori – Buddhas disguised as normal people.

     
    • Star Trek is another example of a series with a wildly differing quality of episodes; excellent ones like Amok Time and subpar ones like Spock’s Brain.

       
  16. Oh how correct you are. Columbo is my favorite television show, ever!!! I grew up watching reruns with my grandma as well as Murder She Wrote. I’ve seen every Comlumbo over and over and they never get old. As a 42 year old woman with young children sharing an episode and watching them see it for the first time is my bliss. With all the mess on tv now a days escaping to a simpler time is much needed. Thank you for this article it is nice to know I’m not the only one. P.S. my two favorite episodes….Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo and Murder Under Glass

     
    • I’m a Columbo fan but I sure don’t understand those who claim that it’s the best series ever. I can name a large number of series that, unlike Columbo, maintained a consistently high quality for many years. Your choice of favorite episodes is a perfect example. Murder Under Glass was good, Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo, not so much.

       
        • She’s expressing her opinion and I’m expressing my opinion, which is in disagreement with hers. There is no right to say something and never have anyone disagree with you. I am not engaging in ‘ad hominem’ attacks.

           
          • Reminds me of A BEWITCHED episode when Endora casts a spell to make Darren disagreeable to everyone. Or Samantha says ‘Darren’s a little off today’ and Endora saying,”No, I think you just noticed.’ Vain Darren telling Samantha to be still, because he can see himself in her dress and has never known such happiness.

            I will agree to the delight of Beverly Hillbillies.
            Or Dave Mason-there ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.

             
        • Thank you for having my back. Like I said with everything going on in todays world and the mess that is on tv now……I really thought a simple comment on my favorite series I wouldn’t be treated so badly for commenting on 2 episodes I simply enjoy. Geez I guess no where is safe anymore. Sad world we live in 🙁

           
        • The problem with the world is that some people are so hypersensitive that they equate any disagreement with them as a personal attack. Aside from Perry Mason and the original Hawaii Five-0, which I have already mentioned, and which are of the same genre, I’ll mention just two more series, although there are more, which I would consider better, if only because, unlike Columbo, they maintained high standards throughout their long runs, those being The Beverly Hillbillies and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As previously mentioned, two other ‘classic’ series that, like Columbo, I would downgrade for having a wildly varying quality of episodes are Star Trek and The Twilight Zone.

           
          • Gary, the issue is more de gustibus non disputandum. You’re expressing your OPINION which is in disagreement with her TASTE. You don’t think it’s the best series ever; many people here do! But it’s not necessarily a truth claim. You can argue that chocolate is “objectively better” than vanilla, but if I say that vanilla is my favorite, why would you bother disagreeing with me? It IS, even if you think my taste is not the last word.

            Yes, it’s your opinion, but you’re going out of your way to hold someone up as “wrong” who just said “I like vanilla, mmm, it’s the best!” As I read the comments, no one accused you of ad hominem. No one else is being touchy, probably they just think you didn’t need to make her wrong in order to be right about a different TYPE of claim.

            The thing is, you are contesting the primacy of vanilla at a Vanilla Festival. Perhaps you could find a “What makes a perfect series” website and interact with like-minded people.

             
            • Columbophile said that I was engaging in ‘criticism’ and Angela says that she is being treated badly and now you’re making a big deal out of it, when all I was doing was disagreeing with her viewpoint. If everything was ‘de gustibus non est disputandam’, then everything is completely subjective, and your idea that Columbo is the best series would be as completely worthless as any other opinion. You’re trying to create an equivocation between opinion and taste. I think that it is fairly obvious that there are at least three people who are being rather ‘touchy’. If you only want to deal with like-minded people, who will only validate your preconceptions, then you should just be alone. If you’re not afraid to be challenged with other viewpoints, then you should have a different attitude.

               
        • Nothing better than Columbo-I have at least 5 favorites and will watch any Columbo rerun on Sunday rather than the Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes etc. I have seen the old ones at least 20+ times each, except for Negative Reaction. They don’t show it nearly often enough.
          Try Diagnosis Murder, love DVD, his son is on there; very entertaining. Monk was good.
          My favorite comedy is Bewitched,
          The Middle is my favorite ‘modern’ show.

           
          • I don’t see how Columbo can even be considered best in the crime genre. For example, how much of a mystery is it if you know who the murderer is. You could argue that the interesting thing is to see how Columbo will catch the criminal, but the same thing happens when the audience doesn’t know who the criminal is. Speaking of the Columbo re-run that was on ME-TV on Sunday, Columbo Cries Wolf, Columbo was completely played for almost the entire episode! Comedies may not be ‘high-brow’ anyway, but I would say that Bewitched is certainly not a great choice for favorite comedy. I don’t watch any of the modern shows, with 1980 being an approximate cut-off date.

             
    • You people get me. I’ve been watching the shows over and over everyday on Hallmark channel. I feel the hour and a half I spend watching is like time spent with a good friend, a good meal. The brilliance of Peter Falk who with his complex perfection still makes you feel so comfortable with him. His worn, familiar raincoat lures you into a sense of familiarity while this seemingly simple man figures out complex “perfectly” planned murders. No one has mentioned but Peter Falk was an extremely handsome, sexy man – to me anyway. The way he would hold his head and get the little smirk on his face is like he’s letting us in on some secret joke. The joke of course is at the expense of the villain as he’s luring in his prey. Just nothing compares to Columbo for the perfection it still remains.

       
  17. As a fan of the ABC Monday Night Movie Mystery Series, out of ALL of them Columbo by far My Favorite! A few years ago, caught the ENTIRE series on DVD for my birthday! Since then when I bathe, it’s me, candles and Columbo! My Ritual!!

     
  18. Always enjoyed watching Columbo, and enjoy, watching,it more now,then ever,Rest in peace, Peter Falk. COLUMBO,best show ever,try never to miss it on the week ends.

     
  19. Let’s not forget Death Hits the Jackpot with Rip Torn or Butterfly in Shades of Grey with William Shatner before we start saying the 90’s episodes didn’t have any stars. Also Dabney Coleman & George Wendt are a few others who quickly come to mind. The shows weren’t as consistent, but they weren’t all bad either. I’m quite fond of the 70’s episodes but I think there were a few stinkers too. The two hour episodes of the 70’s seem to have editing problems as if they were written as 73 minute episodes with 17 minutes of filler, Ransom For A Dead Man seems very slow and plodding, Columbo up in the Airplane for example didn’t seem to advance the episode at all. I do miss him and the show immensely. It seemed like some of the co stars like Rip Torn and Faye Dunaway gave some particularly strong performances as did Mr. Culp and Cassidy and Ruth Gordon. Not to mention Dick Van Dyke in a role that departed from his wholesome image. Finally all the great character actors like Vito Scotti will be missed too.

     
  20. Excellent blog post. Thank you for your memorable words. I agree totally! In fact, in honor of Pete Falk’s passing seven years ago today, I was inspired to watch my DVD of the 1974 episode, “A Friend In Deed,” with Richard Kiley. One of the best episodes of all, IMO. Keep up the posting and the tributes.

     
  21. Great post, although I must disagree with you regarding the episodes from the ’90s, which were almost all terrible, and don’t come anywhere close to the level of the early seasons of the show. Going from 90 minutes to two hours did nothing but add wasted filler that usually had nothing to do with anything and only made these bad episodes even worse.

     
    • Quite a few from the original series were 2 hour episodes, and so I don’t think that that is a primary determiner of how good a given episode was. It is certainly an exaggeration to say that almost all of the later episodes were terrible.

       
  22. Great! Uh, just one more thing….
    Thoroughly enjoyed the article. Thought I was the only one continuing to watch these episodes over and over again.
    Ricardo Montaban,Forest Tucker,Robert Culp, they all live on in my dvd episodes. I watched Columbo first run in th 70’s and continue to watch now.Thank you for remembering a first class show!!

     
    • Reading through all the comments to this article suggests there are LOADS of us who are in the same boat of happily watching and rewatching Columbo over and again!

       
  23. I thought I Was the only kook. I watch everyday. Yes,I can recite every episode. Love it! Went to cemetery to see his grave. Best show ever

     
  24. I thought I was the only one to watch Columbo episodes over and over, although I’ve seen them all so many times. I love the character and Peter Falk was awesome.

     
  25. Thank you Columbophile for this article, which is so well written and accurate. I do not watch any network TV programmes – basically my very old fashioned TV set will only show what I put into my equally outdated DVD player… So when I do decide to sit in front of the telly my viewing is limited to mostly films and those wonderful old 70’s Columbo box sets. Having just spent a week away on holiday staying in a room that came with a TV and having had a cursory look through the TV guide, I can quite honestly say I’m not missing out on anything. It does astound people I work with that I don’t watch anything they do (usually a conversation killer as they then have nothing else to talk about), but Columbo really is the ultimate in “comfort viewing” as you say. I have seen them so many times now that usually I put them on in the background while I cook, clean, etc., (the music and dialogue is enough sometimes!) but on the occasions when I do watch an episode all the way through I agree with others there is always something new to discover, and I never tire of watching them. I just love the look and feel of the these TV classics.

    Keep the posts coming Columbophile – always love reading them!

     
    • A wonderful tribute to probably the best show ever aired on TV. I loved this character and admired the wit and intellect of Peter Falk. My tears flowed in abundance the day he died.

       
  26. I’m a Columbo fan until the end! I recently purchased the complete series on DVD and couldn’t be happier.

     
  27. I thought I was alone in my Colombo addiction. I love watching Columbo usually even if I have seen the episode multiple times. The older shows are definite better. But I will watch it any way I can get it unfortunately not on the air that often. I don’t imagine anyone in that role other than Peter Falk so no remake.

     
    • I’d be interested in a remake, but only if Mark Ruffallo was cast as Columbo, only if it was set in the 70s and only if it was TV series, not a film.

       
      • I always thought a spin off or remake with something like his granddaughter or grand niece taking place now would be good. She could be kookie in some of the same ways but have lots of different idiosyncrasies of her own.

         
      • Good choice Mark Ruffalo!! For myself there is only one Columbo and he was Peter Falk. But I could see Mr. Ruffalo in the role.

         
  28. I am forever a Columbophile! At 52 I remember my parents watching it and since then I’ve seen them many, many times over enjoying them more each time! For me it’s almost an obsession, Peter Falk and his guests were always superb.

     
  29. My favourite thing about watching Columbo is to try to spot the moment when Columbo knows who did it. Peter Falk was such a great actor that you can usually tell when Columbo has spotted his quarry and the writing is so good that it usually makes sense. But the moment is almost never explained. You have to look for it.

     
  30. you’ve entirely nailed it, and there’s no more to be said. (except: please, please PLEASE don’t re-boot Columbo. My heart would break. And i would not watch)

     
    • I am awaiting-watching the clock-my 2 weekly episodes on COZI tv in Knoxville. Hard to choose a favorite althouh I lean toward the earlier episodes, escially love the Ruth Gordon episode. Love his hair. Love his Pugeot. Love his cigar with the dropping ashes, which elude any well-placed ashtray. Love his DOG! Oh and “Just one more thing?”

       
  31. Your analysis of why Columbo matters today is right on. I’d like to add that Columbo’s other qualities of enduring value include his honest curiosity, his empathy and his skill in asking questions that reveal what others miss. My comparison of Columbo’s style with Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet can be found here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/management/innovators-try-columbos-style-instead-of-dragnets/article619435/

     
    • Columbo died when Peter could no longer act, way before his death. With John & George gone, you can´t think of re-uniting The Beatles. Same with Columbo….

       
    • Only Mark Ruffallo. I can’t envisage anyone else doing it, but I think the moment has passed for Mark now. He really respects the show and Peter Falk, so I think would have been a highly credible choice.

       
      • Mark would be a good choice, but rebooting Columbo is wholly unnecessary. It’s akin to Steve Martin inexplicably rebooting The Pink Panther.

         
  32. I think it is irrelevant to spot glaring loopholes in the plot lines,remember it is designed for a television audience who dont really care,it’s all pure fiction and just a form of escapism,we feel the dear Lieutenant is our friend and know he will get his man or women at the end of the programme,
    It’s the process of him dissecting different strands of evidence that is the appealing part,I know he has some amazing pieces of luck at times but so what…rather be a lucky cop than a good one..

     
  33. This is a beautiful love letter to Peter Falk and the Columbo series. I think what has made Columbo the character endure for so long is that he’s a timeless character, I mean you seen him in 1968, the 70s the 90s and even early 2000’s and he’s the same guy. The magic of the character is that he’s a guy you’d love to hang out with in real life and we just don’t get characters in crime shows\dramas today. Everyone’s so damaged and broken that it makes spending time with them very limited and not too pleasant. Columbo, Jessica Fletcher, Jim Rockford, Magnum, Gillespie, Tibbs and other on In the heat of the night, etc. are characters you’d want to know or spend time with in real life so every time we watch them we come back for more. Also, you’re just like me: While I do enjoy some current tv such as some of the Marvel Netflix series or Elementary etc. I much prefer the classics and Columbo is certainly the cream of the crop of that viewing

     
  34. Already twenty years ago I decided to be creative and to make even more out of receiving Columbo movies. Watching them is only one possibility. What I started doing was: recording an edited audio version and taking it with me for a one-hour night-walk through the dark to ground myself mentally when it is needed.
    Today Peter Falk’s dying day is seven years ago. I remember the weird circumstances how I learned about it. Without any reason, at work tears were streaming out of my right eye before I heard Falk has died, and I wondered whether the reason might be that Peter Falk (whose trademark was the glass eye) is dead. I wanted to check that he is still alive when I’d be coming home. Before I could look it up online at home, a friend called me and told me the news which I kind of knew before without having heard it.

     
  35. Damn, I thought I was the only one to have *actively* stayed away from today’s TV . . . I started tuning out in my 40s (around the mid-1990s) and never *ever* tuned back in. Whole runs of shows (Lost, Breaking Bad, etc.) came and went without a single glance by me . . . and I’m happy to report that I feel now that I *didn’t miss a thing.*

    There is not—and probably never will be, given the current distractions of cell phones and other nonsense everywhere—any kind of show that demonstrates the sheer writing power of these old shows, the *worst* of which would surpass *by far* the BEST shows now available anywhere.

    Hear hear for Columbo, and the owner of Columbophile, who writes terrifically well and is a joy to read!

    Cheers

    Nick

     
  36. You are absolutely right when you call Columbo the ultimate in comfort viewing. My husband and I just finished watchin all, yes all of the Columbo programs. They are indeed like hanging out with old friends. Love this site.
    Cheers
    Pat

     
  37. Absolutely agree. I was born in 1980 so wasn’t around for the first airings but I grew up watching reruns on tv with my grandparents. The show fills me with nostalgia and I concur it is exactly like visiting an old and loved friend. I have seen every episode and will continue to rewatch them for as long as I’m able.
    On the subject of a reboot…. I’d love to see one attempted but would have to be a Labour of love for all involved (Mark Ruffalo is the only option in my opinion to wear the crumpled Mac in Sir Peter Falks absense).
    Just one more thing
    7 years since the great mans passing and still missed by many r.i.p to a legend of the screen xxx

     
  38. “it stands the test of time incredibly well, especially those 70s’ episodes, which were packed with star power in a way the comeback episodes were never able to adequately replicate (no disrespect to Faye Dunaway).”

    This was my big complaint about the ABC era – everything looked and felt cheaper because of the new network’s tight grasp on the purse strings. There was a sumptuous feel to the cinematography before, but now the look was cold and sterile, flat. Even the episode titles – for the most part – lacked the spark of wit and wordplay of the first 69 episodes. “Murder Of a Rock Star”? “Murder In Malibu”? Generic dross. But it’s the lack of top drawer performers throughout a guest cast that hurt the new series. I’m not saying the basically unknown actors weren’t good, but there was just something about those bold-type names in the old series which added to the luster – even in the smaller roles. Look at the quality of celebrities they got for the victims – Kicking it all off with Ms. Foch and Milner, Sheen, Ayers, Nielsen, Stockwell, and Ms. Crowley & Ms. Francis among so many others. (I can think of only two who were negligible but even then for a Classic tv fan like me, they gave quick callbacks to the medium’s heritage.) But I don’t think that happened very much in the ABC episodes, only on occasion. At best you got sturdy character actors with name value, but I think more often you got young actors the network wanted to showcase as investments which didn’t often play out.

    Woof. Sorry to go off like that but that’s always bothered me….

     
    • Columbo hasn´t stood the test of time, just as our youth hasn´t, yet we love them both! We Columbo lovers must often admit that the crime premises are far fetched and too artificial, and that intelligent schemers all too often make stupid mistakes on which too much depends. Two that I remember now, both by fave baddie Robert Culp: in “Death Lends a Hand”, he starts rummaging in his car trunk in search for a contact lens that had a VERY slight probability of being there, and ZERO probability of being found by police, since the cops had no reason to search the car in the first place. And in “Double Exposure”, the whole murder plan was flawed by that survey camera in the hallway where the water fountain was. Disabling the monitor connected to that camera (and no others) was plain stupid, because such action relied on the experienced video/film operator not realising the monitor was not working. Even if the soon-to-be murderer hadn´t been almost caught in the act of unplugging the signal cord, the operator would immediately notice that the monitor was out of order. To make things even worse, the whole episode depends on the fact that the operator indeed DOES NOT realise the monitor is not working, something very, very implausible. Very poor indeed. Another reason why Columbo has not stood the time test is that too often too much depends on mere chance or goo luck (will elaborate on that in a future post) and, finally, the “gotchas” are frequently no “gotchas” at all, as repeatedly pointed out in this and other Columbo forums: too high a percentage of Columbo´s culprits would be acquitted in trial because of the feeble proof against them.
      So Columbo is extremely flawed, hard to impossible to believe and absolutely unsellable to younger, intelligent people free from any emotional attachment to the series. But, who cares? The Film “Casablanca”, too, is but a whole bucket of incredible dross, yet I am always keen on watching Sam playing it again…..

       
      • Sorry I disagree. Columbo stands the test of time because it’s always entertaining, the writing and acting stays timelessly perfect and the character can fit in any decade you put him because he was just a timeless character that millions still love today on METV, Hallmark Movie and Mysteries channel, youtube, Netflix etc. So please don’t disrespect our Lieutenant and his legacy like that, thanks.

         
      • Arresting someone on a certain amount of evidence is not the end of the investigation, but just the beginning.

         
        • Well, I acknowledge you have a “gotcha!” on me! Very true, arresting a person is just the beginning. In that respect, most except the most outlandish Columbo denouements would be acceptable. But, if you excuse me, I think that´s not the mindset with which one views a mystery: we really expect the bad person to be caught red handed and all but in the gallows. Perhaps you will agree that appending a tag to each Columbo episode saying “….this is how the baddy was imprisoned; whether (s)he will be punished or not is quite a different matter” would be somewhat off-putting!

           
          • That’s the difference between a series like Columbo and one like Perry Mason. On Perry Mason, you usually see an arrest and a trial. However, since the arrested person is usually innocent, you still don’t see the trial of the actually guilty party. Also, on Columbo, unlike Perry Mason, we almost always see the murder committed, and so there would already be no doubt in our minds as to the criminal’s guilt.

             
      • There are plot holes in every episode. Some bother me more than others, but the overall package, and Falk’s enduring excellence, is what keeps me coming back. Even sillier episodes have much to recommend them – usually Falk’s nuances and his relationship with his fellow actors.

         
      • Hate to say it, because EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. Who cares, it’s Columbo. I didn’t watch it overanalyzing, I watched it when it premiered and STILL do because I LOVED the ENTIRE series! And I reiterate, IT’S COLUMBO!!

         
  39. Thank you for this. The Columbo character was never swayed off his course of doing the right thing, no matter who the perpetrator was or the reason behind their actions. His astuteness (“once I get the scent, there’s very little I wouldn’t do…..” – which episode is this from?) and compassion for the pathetic (“… besides, you’re too classy of a lady” – which episode?) I have so many favorites, I would bore you all. But let me say, the scene in the Conspirators when he figures out where the guns are…. Suitable for Framing when he pulls his hands out of his pockets with gloves on… love it! A big part of his brillance was in his ability to (“in a puppy dog kind of way… but it’s always the juggular he’s after…” – episode?) get the killer to show their cards (” well, turn the damn machine off!”).
    God Bless Lt. Columbo and ALL the lovely characters and extras. What a gift to give us. My experience of watching a Columbo episode is like wrapping myself in a soft blanket knowing everything is going to be okay. Thanks everyone for your participation.

     
  40. It would be great to have a “Share” option on these wonderful articals . It’s spot on summing up the beauty of the series. Not many TV shows last 35 years after all

     
  41. Yes, agree absolutely with this well-written and thoughtful post! You’ve given me more reasons to think about why Columbo episodes never get tiring and are as you say, comfort television! And I always seem to pick up something new in the episode to enjoy, even though I’ve watched it many times.

     
  42. I’m like you I don’t watch any network television. I might watch a history show but that’s it. And as far as Lost, I had younger friends say during its run it was the greatest show ever on TV. I thought of Columbo, Perry Mason, and others and kept my mouth shut. After the final episode of Lost, they stopped saying that.

    A great article as always. Thanks for keeping the Columbo magic alive.

     
  43. Your post really merits a well thought-out answer, which I expect to write in due course after sorting out some urgent matters, but for now just let me express to you my kind regards, my agreement that Columbo is still more watchable than most TV produced today (just as The Beatles are more listenable than most of today´s music), and my astonishment at realising that, yes, it´s been an incredible SEVEN YEARS since Peter Falk left us! I can´t believe all that much time has gone by. Sic transit gloria!

     
  44. Beautifully written and I agree,Lieutenant Columbo is a modicum of consistency and decency..You feel that you would enjoy an evening out with him and listen to all his tales of his time as a detective in LA…
    Keep the posts rolling in..Thoroughly enjoyable..

     
  45. Columbophile,
    you truly touched on Exactly how I feel about Peter Falk and the Columbo series. For me It really is comforting to watch the episodes- which i’ve watched more times than i could even list! I find his character so funny and endearing, which i believe is due to his professionalism and the talent of the writers and producers.

     
  46. I would put DAGGER and COMMODORE on my list of weak episodes, along with THE CONSPIRATORS. My mother loved Dick Van Dyke, and the last one she saw before she died was NEGATIVE REACTION, she naturally loved it.

     
    • As previously stated, I would say that the four weakest episodes of the original series are An Exercise in Fatality, A Deadly State of Mind, A Case of Immunity and Old Fashioned Murder.

       
  47. I certainly don’t agree with the idea that Dagger of the Mind and Last Salute to the Commodore are the two inferior episodes of the original series. I also don’t hold Columbo in such high esteem, preferring shows like Perry Mason and the original Hawaii Five-0, but otherwise an interesting post.

     

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