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Season 4: have we reached ‘peak Columbo’?

Peak Columbo montage

We all agree that Columbo is one of the greatest shows of all time. But what’s most impressive is that the calibre of episodes was so high for so long. From its stunning debut in 1968’s Prescription: Murder, the show hit the ground galloping at full pace and barely let up throughout its 70s’ run.

But when, I wonder, can we say the show was at its absolute zenith? When it was still fresh enough to make for joyful viewing, while boasting performances, writing and story lines that were hitting all the right marks time and again?

Regular readers may have noticed that in my review of A Deadly State of Mind, the final episode of Season 4, that I queried whether we had reached ‘peak Columbo‘ in terms of consistent quality. And that’s really the genesis of this article.

“There’s a genuine argument that Season 4 is the strongest season of all.”

I tend to think that Season 4 was a high water mark in Columbo history. Indeed, if you compare each season on an episode-by-episode basis, there’s a genuine argument that Season 4 is the strongest season of all.

Consider: there’s not a weak episode in the Season 4 roster, with my least favourite episode in the line-up, Playback, still a cracking piece of TV, and the best of them – Negative Reaction and Troubled Waters – comfortably amongst the most enjoyable outings of the entire 70s’ series.

As a comparison, Season 1, for all its brilliance, features the nonsensical Short Fuse and the forgettable Dead Weight interspersed amongst its brighter lights. One could argue that these weaker outings drag the series overall to a lower level than Season 4. But is there a way of calculating this beyond mere surmise?

columbo short fuse gotcha

Roddy, ruining Season 1

Ranking the seasons – can it be done?

How to compare apples with apples when judging Columbo seasons on their merits? Good question! To assist in my own cogitations I worked out a simple formula. I’ve rated all 31 episodes so far in preferential order from 1-31 (see end of article for full list). I’ve allocated a points rating for each episode based on their position in the list, so Suitable for Framing (my current fave) has 1 point and Dagger of the Mind (bringing up the rear) has 31 points.

I’ve then totted up a cumulative score for all the episodes in a particular season (grouping Prescription: Murder with Ransom for a Dead Man as pilots), and divided that total by the number of episodes in a season to get an average points score per episode. The lowest overall points score denotes the strongest season on an episode-by-episode basis.

Still with me? Jolly good… And here are my findings.

Pilot episodes1

  • 2 episodes (Prescription: Murder and Ransom for a Dead Man) in 13th and 25th positions in my list
  • Points total = 38
  • Average score per episode = 19

Season 13

  • 7 episodes (Suitable for Framing, Murder by the Book, Death Lends a Hand, Lady in Waiting, Blueprint for Murder, Dead Weight, Short Fuse, ) in 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th, 24th, 26th and 29th in my list
  • Points total = 101
  • Average score per episode = 14.45

Season 22

  • 8 episodes (Double Shock, A Stitch in Crime, Most Crucial Game, Etude in Black, Greenhouse Jungle, Requiem for a Falling Star, The Most Dangerous Match, Dagger of the Mind) in 3rd, 8th, 17th, 18th, 21st, 23rd, 27th and 31st on my list
  • Points total= 148
  • Average score per episode = 18.5

Season 34

  • 8 episodes (Publish or Perish, A Friend in Deed, Double Exposure, Any Old Port in a Storm, Swan Song, Candidate for Crime, Lovely but Lethal, Mind Over Mayhem) in 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 16th, 20th, 28th and 30th in my list
  • Points total = 123
  • Average score per episode = 15.38

Season 45

  • 6 episodes (Negative Reaction, Troubled Waters,  A Deadly State of Mind, An Exercise in Fatality, By Dawn’s Early Light, Playback) in 5th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 19th and 22nd positions in my list
  • Points total = 86
  • Average score per episode = 14.33

In conclusion

Well folks, I’m sure 100% of readers will agree that this has been one of history’s top 4-5 most worthy experiments. And my hypothesis that Season 4 may be the strongest season of all has been borne out – at this stage at least.


Season 4: as fit as a fiddle from go to whoa

As you can see below, Season 4 pips Season 1 by a whisker being, in my opinion, fractionally stronger across the board. The highs, perhaps, not quite as high, but the lows not nearly as devastating (I’m talking about you, Short Fuse).

This list indicates that Season 3 is also strong across the board, while Season 2, despite fan favourites Stitch in Crime and Etude in Black in the line-up, is really quite a patchy offering. The pilots really don’t count here, but I include them as a comparison.

  1. Season 4 – average episode score = 14.33
  2. Season 1 – average episode score = 14.45
  3. Season 3 – average episode score = 15.38
  4. Season 2 – average episode score = 18.5
  5. Pilots – average episode score = 19

Of course this is all highly subjective, so this method really only works for me, and those who share almost identical preferences. But if you’re pretty confident in your own episode rankings, why not have a tinker yourself and see which season comes out on top? I’d love to hear your own findings.

And, lest we forget, our Columbo journey is still far from over. When every episode is ranked, the findings may be different. Season 1 may end up on top by virtue of some mid-table episodes displacing some of the decent Season 4 outings. Only time will tell!

“I lean towards the belief that Columbo was never quite as good again as it was from 1968-75.”

However, while there are some cracking episodes still to follow, I lean towards the belief that Columbo was never quite as good again as it was from 1968-75. Sure, there’s plenty to look forward to. Jack Cassidy’s third and final villanous outing Now You See Him is a highlight of Season 5. The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case from Season 6 is many fans’ absolute favourite (me included). Likewise, Try & Catch Me from Season 7, featuring the adorable Ruth Gordon, is cherished by fans.

The question isn’t whether there are any good episodes to come, but more about how consistently good the series as a whole are from here on out. And with the proportion of diamonds to duds set to increase the longer Columbo continues, I have every reason to believe that Season 4 and 1 will very likely be jockeying for top position in the Season Strength Rankings when our Columbo saga reaches its end.

Mayhem 7

MM7 went ‘Terminator’ when he learned Season 3 didn’t top the list

The full rankings so far

The findings of this article were calculated on my complete list of episode rankings so far, which is updated on an episode-by-episode basis. Missed any of my episode reviews? Then view them via the links below.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Publish or Perish
  3. Double Shock
  4. Murder by the Book
  5. Negative Reaction
  6. A Friend in Deed
  7. Death Lends a Hand
  8. A Stitch in Crime
  9. Double Exposure
  10. Lady in Waiting
  11. Troubled Waters
  12. Any Old Port in a Storm
  13. Prescription: Murder 
  14. A Deadly State of Mind
  15. An Exercise in Fatality
  16. Swan Song
  17. The Most Crucial Game
  18. Etude in Black
  19. By Dawn’s Early Light
  20. Candidate for Crime
  21. Greenhouse Jungle
  22. Playback
  23. Requiem for a Falling Star
  24. Blueprint for Murder
  25. Ransom for a Dead Man
  26. Dead Weight
  27. The Most Dangerous Match
  28. Lovely but Lethal
  29. Short Fuse
  30. Mind Over Mayhem
  31. Dagger of the Mind

Thanks, as always, for reading, you adorable lot! And come back again soon for more fun and frolics with the greatest TV detective of all time.


Columbo Cheers

Until next time, amigos!

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92 thoughts on “Season 4: have we reached ‘peak Columbo’?

  1. Pingback: Summing up Columbo’s fifth season | The Columbophile

  2. Season 3 …..best season no contest…..Double Exposure, Any Old Port, Swan Song, Friend in Deed, Candidate For Crime…..with no stinkers. Lovely But Lethal was not a classic but it was fun and entertaining.

  3. I pulled out my season 4 box and looked over the titles, and yes, it was remarkable. Not a weak episode in the bunch. I would watch all of them repeatedly, and do. (_Playback_ is tough because Elizabeth takes her mom’s death pretty hard. But not as bad as Lisa in _Double Shock_, and without Columbo’s bungling torture of the housekeeper.) All tightly written and produced, and in their own way evocative of that bygone age. (Con-tah-vey! Wo-hohoho!)

  4. i normally agree with columbophile and yes short fuse was poor but i still like it better than dead weight but columbophlile prefers dead weight but they were poor episodes both of them but shouldn’t lovely but lethal be included because that was definitely a flop .

    • I agree with you. ‘Short Fuse’ was not a lot of fun. But ‘Dead Weight’…the simple sight of the body hidden in the wall is so gruesome as to be unforgettable. I don’t think it’s a bad episode at all. ‘Columbo’ was a rare show that was complete and brilliant from episode one. Comparing full seasons is nice but not my deal.

      • There is a similar sight of the dead body at the end of Columbo Cries Wolf, and indirectly at the end of Columbo Likes the Nightlife.

      • How about Mrs Walters’ feral mom, sucking down bourbon and giving Columbo the evil eye? Or Timothy Carey’s best performance of the series. I like that episode.

  5. one more post i think its fair to say 1975 was a tale of 2 cities on the good side was troubled waters , playback , and a deadly state of mind and on the not so good side was a case of immunity and forgotten lady however it was a strong year for the series and im glad to know columbophile dosent rate the conspirators too much because i dont , people damn playback a lot but its 3 times more enjoyable than the conspirators and even though a case of immunity or forgotten lady are far from my favorites id pick them any day before choosing to watch the conspirators or murder under glass and for me the dullest and most forgettable of the 1970s run old fashioned murder.

  6. Mr columbophile I watched a case of immunity this morning which was from the year in question 1975 and i do not know whether or not i liked it , I do not think it would make my top 20 but however it still a strong columbo and just emphasizes the quality of the series but I am going to be frank and ask columbophile straight up , as its going to be an age before A case of immunity is reviewed , Does columbophile enjoy A case of immunity ? and if he does would it knock on his top 20 door and if it does not like this episode to what degree , i dont particularity like it but its a lot better than wait for it , Dagger of the mind, dead weight , mind over mayhem , old fashioned murder a matter of honor ,requiem for a falling star , murder under glass Short fuse and two more greenhouse jungle and yes i know columbophile wont agree but here we go ill give you a second or 2 to guess an exercise in fatality which im not a big fan of .oops i almost forgot last salute to the commodore which was the stinker from the 70s .

    • Without going into too much detail, I rate Case of Immunity in the lower echelons of the 70s episode run. It has many highlights and good performances but I don’t think Columbo as a show is very successful when dealing with other cultures / political ideologies. Matter of Honor and The Conspirators similarly suffer.

        • I had to look up what ‘bumbershoot’ meant, but am glad I did! Dagger has a litany of cringe-worthy moments and I consider it to be considerably WORSE than Case of Immunity.

      • Thank u columbophile a brief insight is all i wanted and ill sleep better tonight i agree a case of immunity might be let down by the cultre and hes better off in a natural american environment and more enjoyable on the whole and i dont rank it too highly but id choose to watch it any day before the conspirators or matter of honor.

      • I’m “half” watching The Conspirators, and have to say that after an intriguing opening, it fails to draw me in. Thanks for providing a possible reason, Columbophile. Your site is a lot of fun

  7. i m incline to agree and disagree there were many great episodes beyond season 4 in particular try and catch me 1978 , the bye bye sky high IQ murder 1976 and make me a perfect murder 1978. there were also 3 duds , in particular murder under glass 78 , the conspirators 78 and for me the worst of the 70s a matter of honor.

  8. No way. There are still many masterful episodes beyond season 4. Take, Make me a Perfect Murder. That episode not only showcased the riveting talent and entrancing beauty of the main star, But the set dressing, the wardrobe, as well as the fascinatingly dark music made for a cerebral thriller of exeptional quality. The actors and actresses were very attractive and the story was solid.

    • I agree, that’s a great episode. I especially love the conversation between Kay Freestone and Columbo in the desolated house she grew up in.

      • I think it was a pretty good episode, not in the top 10% but still good. What I liked about those later episodes was there was less pure enmity between Columbo and his adversary and more respect. Instead of being dismissive of his worthiness to match wits, the killers were just plain worn down by his doggedness and more likely to respect his danger to them.

      • Its one of my favorite trish van devere was brilliantas kay freestone and there are some memorable scenes in this but also not quite in the top ten .

    • Make me a perfect murder is also one of my favourite episodes , i love the music , Kay freestone is my favourite female killer and also gorgeous looking , love the scene in her old home and the music cast and everything makes it a very entertaining episode . in contrast the two episodes i dont like from the same year 1978 was the conspirators and murder under glass.

  9. I like the question posted here by Columbophile, and his way of determining the outcome. One thing though: to be able to answer this question, isn’t it necessary to look at all episodes, later ones as well? So what would be the outcome if we looked at the annual pool where we can vote for our favourite episode; take those scores and take the average scores for each season. Which season scores highest then?
    However, this comes from someone who isn’t any good with numbers at all. Maybe season 3 would rate highest then, because Any Old Port is the nr 1 voted episode? I don’t know. So maybe that wouldn’t be a good system at all, just posting an idea here,
    To answer the question without calculating scores (which suits my limited brain better), I’d personally say No, we haven’t reached the peak in season 4 yet, since in later seasons multiple episodes have been made of equal or higher quality as/than some episodes in season 4. All very subjective of course, but personally I don’t see Columbo going downhill from this point onwards

  10. I agree with your scoring framework, but not with your scores. I’d put season 3 as tops. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why you and so many others rate Mind Over Mayhem so poorly. It has perhaps the best cast ever, with 3 superb and eminently alluring actors (Ferrer, Montgomery and Walters), a battle of geniuses (and smarter ones than those in the Sky-High episode, lots of psychological perspectives for each character, and a strong gotcha ending. And I, like many others, rate Port in a Storm far higher than you do. Out of 8 episodes, only the first is subpar (and even it is not bad, just not special). All the others are either first rate or super. And the fact that it has 7 really good ones is itself a huge advantage. By contrast, season 4 is not even near 2nd place. It only has 5 episodes, with Playback one of the worst (an awful and very unattractive murderer, a so-so murder plot, and a mediocre proof), and Deadly State of Mind having little to show for it other than one of the greatest gotcha endings. I also rate Troubled Waters far lower than you, because the lead character’s monotonous style of talking, shortage of charisma, and stiff, monotonous facial expressions really takes what would otherwise have been a great episode and makes it merely very good.

    Finally, you do not rate the last 3 seasons. I agree that there’s a dropoff in season 5, with the far-and-away worst early season episode in the dreadful and inane Salute to the Commodore, a mediocre Matter of Honor, Forgotten Lady with lots of shortcomings (despite some strong points). Likewise, season 6 , with only 3 episodes, one of which is awful (Old-Fashioned Murder), and one of which is cutesy and not in the real Columbo mood, is rather poor too. But I think year 7 might even beat out year 4, as it has 2 classic bookends that you cannot stop watching for a second, in Try & Catch Me and The Conspirators, a mesmerizing and scary episode in Dial a Murder, a really good episode in Make Me a Perfect Murder (which would have been a classic if not for the dreadfully dreary and colorless directing, and the one-sided character of the murderer), and a solid Murder Under Glass.

    • I agree with you that Season 3 is best, and that Mind Over Mayhem is a good episode; Jose Ferrer having starred in one of my all-time favorite films, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950). Season 4 actually has 6 episodes, and the two that you mentioned as sub-par, Playback and A Deadly State of Mind, I agree with you, and I would also put An Exercise in Fatality in the same category, so half of the six being not so good.

      • I’m not crazy about “Exercise in Fatality”, and consider its “Gotcha” ending one of the weakest. Still, I put it a notch above the other two, deeming it an ok episode. By contrast, Playback is an outright bore with an awful star, one of only 3 or 4 original Columbo episodes that I actually do not enjoy seeing in repeats, whereas in State of Mind, the planning and cover up of murder 1 are utterly illogical and inane, murder 2 is straight out of a daytime Soap Opera, its female lead is so bad that the only question is if it’s due to dreadful acting or a dreadful character, and its only saving grace is its stupendously good ending.

        • Dang dude, you are harsh. We loved Playback. The costumes were very elegant, the stars were beautiful and the story was solid. What more do you want? As far as the star goes, he is an excellent actor. He was in many riveting feature movies and is very suave. I’m not sure you are a true Columbo fan if you don’t like Playback. Playback is the quintessential Colombo formula, and it showcases some very beautiful women clothed in very elegant outfits. This is what Columbo is about.

          • “You are harsh.” The pot calling the kettle black. Who is we? As I have said before, I would only question whether someone is a true Columbo fan if they say that certain episodes are ‘terrible’, not because they disagree with me about a certain episode. As already noted, my evaluation of Playback is in line with that of Leo Smart, not you.

    • I will repeat the experiment when I’ve reviewed all the episodes from seasons 5, 6 and 7. I suspect S7 will fare quite well, although (spoiler alert) I’m not a fan of The Comspirators.

      • I’ll agree that it has plenty of shortcomings in both the planning and solving of the murder, but Clive Reville is just delectable as the “righteous” killer, and his episode-long battle with Columbo in both murder solving and limericks is worth its weight in gold. Plus, the ending, where he first seems to get off, and then gets nailed by Columbo, is superb. Also, to me the best Columbos are either those where there is a cold-blooded brilliant murderer and you (and Columbo) get great satisfaction to nail him (e.g., Stitch in Crime), or those where there are mixed feelings regarding the killing and plenty of psycho/political issues to debate, such as in this one.

        • It took me a quarter of a century to finally lift “The Conspirators” on top of season 7’s episodes, even above “Try & Catch Me” and “Murder Under Glass”. Although it cannot present not one of the most brilliant murder plans or gotcha’s, “The Conspirators” has so many intelligent, emotional and funny contents that I have to praise it as the ideal final episode for era one. They saved the best for last.

            • David, I love it when someone agrees on this, especially when I consider that the TV bosses in my country (Germany) must have judged, “The Conspirators” was season 7’s weakest entry and not worth buying, because they aired the other four episodes between 1980 and 1984, but they refused to present “The Conspirators”, which wasn’t shown before 1992, when another TV station aired the Columbo series in its entireness for the first time.

        • Dagger of the mind is a terrible episode, which hurts because I love, love, love Honor Blackman. However the conspirators is hands down the worst columbo episode of all. I agree that columbo fails when taken off of the ‘streets of LA’ but I do think for all it’s shortcomings Matter of Honor has more going for it than ‘immunity, dagger, conspirators’ it’s still a very weak entry, it I do find Montalban to be spellbindingly awesome.

          Nevertheless all of the above mentioned episodes would form my bottom set of original run Columbo.

          The overriding beauty of Columbo as a show is that even at its worst, Falk, pulls it off. The conspirators is so bad that even he cannot help, it has forever bothered me that it is the final episode of the original run.

      • it dosent spoil anything glad to hear columbophile isnt a fan of the conspirators as i am also not i beleive it was 1978
        its a case of 3 good 2 bad for me
        good try and catch me , make me a perfect murder how to dial a murder
        Bad murder under glass The conspirators

  11. My metric is just as subjective, but a bit simpler. I ask: how many “must watch” Columbos are there in each season? My conclusion is: season 1 = 3; season 2 = 3; season 3 = 4; season 4 = 5; season 5 = 2; season 6 = 2; season 7 = 2. [Notice I don’t identify which episodes I believe qualify for this distinction. And I respect the fans who put every Columbo in the “must watch” category.]

    • Ignoring the two pilots, and putting the original episodes in Category A, B or C, and the later episodes in B or C, I have the following approximate grades:
      Season 1: 1A 4B 2C
      Season 2: 1A 3B 4C
      Season 3: 2A 6B
      Season 4: 2A 1B 3C
      Season 5: 1A 3B 2C
      Season 6: 1A 2C
      Season 7: 5B
      Season 8: 3B 1C
      Season 9: 2B 4C
      Season 10: 1B 2C
      Season 11: 1B 2C
      Season 12: 3C
      Season 13: 2B 3C

  12. Columbo has peaked only because Peter Falk is gone. Like most people, I love the older episodes the best. However also love Ashes to Ashes, Columbo Goes to College, Death Hits the Jackpot, and Death of a Rock Star, as well as others from the new batch.
    Had Peter stayed in good health, who knows what new episode we could have had-maybe the return of Dick Van Dyke, George Hamilton, Bill Shatner, Dabney Coleman-all excellent villains.
    I love your blog Columbophile, but I’ll always disagree with you on Dead Weight and Short Fuse. Good Times!

  13. Thanks for this article. Much of what I glean from the original series in its entirety hardens back to two observations concerning Peter Fall’s association with what was the gold standard for many in so-called series television. First, he was the consummate artist who mirrored Colombo in his meticulousness. Second, Fall agreed to Colombo because it Was not designed to be a weekly event. As I have read, Falk, a film actor who had achieved substantial success with his early work, refused to commit to the weekly grind that was series TV. It seems that this perspective was a prescient one as we fans continue to marvel at the remarkable quality of the series from beginning to end. Such consistency born of attention to de6 and stellar workmanship from involved perhaps explains why we keep coming back for more. Like a dear, old friend missed.

  14. I’m really grateful for this forum to dissect this amazing show. I used to believe I was the only one who did this kind of analysis of Columbo. I have long thought Season 4 was the best. The writing and acting was at its peak. The mixing in of comedic bits, like the nun mistaking Columbo for a homeless man, was also really hitting its stride.

    • Hi Sergeant! Welcome to the conversation! I, too, am a fan in general of the great comedy that Columbo featured in its early seasons. I think Negative Reaction (nun and all) was just about perfect in its mix of drama and comedy.

  15. Suitable for framing is my favorite too! Especially when it features an artist’s work that Peter Falk actually collected…reference is made to the “de groat” painting right in the beginning of the episode….George de Groat was a fine artist and a great man…
    Just like Peter Falk…it has special meaning for me…I had the special privilege of knowing George de Groat…he was my close friend…..such a thrill to see his painting in an episode of one of my favorite shows and favorite actor…sentimental for sure….

    • I had no idea those paintings were featured because Peter was a fan. Thanks for such an interesting snippet! Did George ever reference his feelings about Columbo featuring his work?

  16. No,matter what, I’ll always love and enjoy, my favorite rumble raincoat, Columbo will always be my favorite

  17. I will neither confirm nor deny if I have been watching many many past episodes on pirate sites. Okay I have. But… I have noticed that so many episodes have all the women getting killed… And all the extras and the cops walking around in the background are totally studly guys. Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with that… I’m just saying looking at these episodes with fresh eyes is revealing.

      • Hi,wow! I sit corrected. Thank you for doing the leg work. I did not watch every episode, I really only like the first three or four seasons. Guess it was just the ones I watched.
        I wish I could find a stitch in crime, guess I’ll have to break down and buy it.
        Thanks again,
        Oh. One more thing. 😄

          • Put Columbo on the case!
            I don’t know something about the lighting or something changed after a few seasons and it just looked too glammed-up for me. I liked it when it was kind of gritty.

          • My suspicion is that the site has agreements to show full episodes for only a limited period–probably a licensing or copyright issue. I have no data to back up this opinion, though.

    • Dang dude, you are harsh. We loved Playback. The costumes were very elegant, the stars were beautiful and the story was solid. What more do you want? As far as the star goes, he is an excellent actor. He was in many riveting feature movies and is very suave. I’m not sure you are a true Columbo fan if you don’t like Playback. Playback is the quintessential Colombo formula, and it showcases some very beautiful women clothed in very elegant outfits. This is what Columbo is about.

      • I agree Harold von wick may not be the most charismatic or memorable killer but more importantly it was a solid clue with an excellent gotcha and a memorable ending with the tear stained finale.

  18. Hmm, Idea:

    Build Your Ultimate Columbo Season. Here’s the catch:
    Only 1 Episode per Episode # Regardless of season, only 1 {one} Episode 1, 2, 3, 4. 5, 6, 7, 8.

    Episode 1: Forgotten Lady S5
    Episode 2: Any Old Port In The Storm S3
    Episode 3: Identity Crisis S5
    Episode 4: Double Exposure S3
    Episode 5: Now You See Him S5
    Episode 6: Stitch In Crime S2
    Episode 7: Swan Song S3
    Episode 8: A Friend In Deed S3

    I would rank Seasons 3 and 5 as virtually tied on the overall strength of the episodes.

    • OMG Forgotten Lady is my favorite, too! Do you agree that the white sari-inspired gown Grace wore to the premiere of Song and Dance is the most gorgeous dress in all of Columbodom? Do you agree that the Willis’ mansion is like a character?

    • It makes much more sense to pick a favorite episode for each season:
      Pilots: Prescription: Murder
      Season 1: Suitable For Framing
      Season 2: A Stitch in Crime
      Season 3: Any Old Port in a Storm
      Season 4: By Dawn’s Early Light
      Season 5: Now You See Him
      Season 6: The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case
      Season 7: How to Dial a Murder
      Season 8: Columbo Goes to the Guillotine
      Season 9: Murder: A Self Portrait
      Season 10: Columbo Goes to College
      Season 11: Death Hits the Jackpot
      Season 12: ——
      Season 13: Columbo Likes the Nightlife
      By your premise,
      Episode 1: Try and Catch Me S7
      Episode 2: Any Old Port in a Storm S3
      Episode 3: The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case S6
      Episode 4: Suitable For Framing S1
      Episode 5: Now You See Him S5
      Episode 6: A Stitch in Crime S2
      Episode 7: Swan Song S3
      Episode 8: A Friend in Deed S3

        • Except that whether an episode happened to be first or eighth in a season is pure chance and doesn’t indicate anything, whereas the possible devolution of episodes by season does.

              • How is the order in which a studio decides to release them open to anyone’s desires except the studio? There is nothing subjective about that once it’s released. The ,minutes it’s released in a certain order, that becomes the release order. No amount of calling it whatever you want makes it any different.

  19. Nice method how to calculate with masterpieces. With an average of 17 points per episode, my golden season is season 7 with “The Conspirators”, “Try and Catch Me” and “Murder Under Glass” in the Top 15 and “Make Me a Perfect Murder” and “How to Dial a Murder” in the Top 35.

  20. A great method of measuring each series you’ve come up with here – it beats my method of giving 3 points to an absolute gem (eg. Any Old Port), 2 points to a good (eg. Candidate ) 1 for a so-so (eg. Dead Weight) and 0 for a dud (eg. Last Salute) which tends to penalise S4 for only having 6 episodes.
    But by whichever method the quality does start to gently decline after S4 (but from a very high peak, so even S5 & 6 are still good and maybe a bit of an uptick in S7?).

  21. My top-most favourite episodes are from seasons 1 and 3, and a bit fewer in seasons 2 and 4. I love Dog Episode in 7. too. Judge overall season by season looks hard. I could see a change in Columbo air from season to season, sometimes more light and parody light and sometimes dead serious. In every season 1-7 there were good and not-so episodes making it hard to sway scales.
    Though it’s hard, I’d claim seasons 4 and 7 as worst, because in some eps in there they slipped into parody.
    I value seasons 1-2 hight and also season 3. because of its two last eps (star high!).
    It’s from seasons 2. and 4. I know how to tie a tie. Appreciate that.
    Season 5. is somehow weak. Too much blury psychology like in various contemporary TV series, which is not a Columbish trait.
    Season 6., I’d have to rewatch it, as isn’t very memorable.
    Seson 7. is a mix. I didn’t like seeing Columbo breaking rules of car driving. Kidna breaks character. Opposedly, in Negative Reaction even though that instructor was terrified, we saw Columbo knew what he was doing and wasn’t really a threat on roads. Here he’s just irresponsible, as if he couldn’t stop and fix that front mirror. All the same ep. Dial a Murder is brilliant and I see it very simmilar to Greenhouse. There’s essence of columbishness. Quite a gem. Also, the Try And Catch Me is quite moving and well… professional. And-the first time the victim solves the case for Columbo!

  22. I appreciate this site for it’s dedication to the wonder that is Columbo. The series has no agenda and simply is great entertainment. I just watch my 69 episode box set repeatedly as I do not watch normal TV anymore. I appreciate the fact that Columbo exists and there is still ongoing debate.

    • Thanks David, and welcome to the conversation. I’ve been incredibly heartened over the past few years just how much love there still is for the show, and how many knowledgeable fans from all walks of life are happy to get together here and discuss it.

  23. Generally I agree.

    The difference between Season 3 and 4 is that S3 had eight episodes, and S4 – only six. If you exclude weak (by Columbo standards) Mind over Mayhem and quite mediocre Lovely But Lethal, Season 3 would be definitely the strongest. Six Columbo classics or semi-classics in one season.

    On the other hand, Season 4 is the most consistent. Its peaks aren’t so strong as ‘Candidate for Crime’ or ‘A Friend in Deed’ (you’d add ‘Publish and Perish’, other Columbo fans ‘Any Good Port…’), but it doesn’t have any weak or even mediocre episode.

    Season 1 and 2, and that applies even more to later seasons, had less ‘peaks’ and more weak or mediocre episodes.

    • All of the ‘longer’ seasons (more than 6 episodes) seem to have 1-2 much weaker episodes. Perhaps the moral of the story is that 6 episodes would have been the optimum for a season to ensure quality, and unexplored ideas could have rolled on to the next season to be fully fleshed out. Of course that wouldn’t have worked for the studio, who needed more episodes to make more cash.

  24. I’m so unbelievably grateful that there is this sort of dialogue for fans, having just discovered this show so late in time. Evil Spock and Maude for the win this far.

  25. It’s so interesting reading what people think about each episode. For instance, I would have put “Stitch” and “Negative” at the top and moved “Suitable” and “Shock” down a fair amount of spots. That doesn’t make me right or you wrong, it’s just different perspectives from people who both love the show. Interesting list!

    • Well, we seem to have the same rating characteristics, because to me Double Shock is one of the weakest of all the original episodes (I cannot fathom why our esteemed host loves it so much), with both ongoing spiels – between the cleaning lady and Columbo, and between the two twin brothers – being way overdone and uninteresting. The former would be cute once or twice, but not ten times, and certainly not with the wild exaggeration. The one between the twins is a cheap idea that is likewise repetitive and unimaginative. It also has a weak plot, no really brilliant proof, and mediocre acting. Suitable is solid, but again, other than the great ending, I fail to see how our host can possibly rank it above at least ten truly sensational episodes. I wouldn’t put Stitch and Negative at the very top, but they both can definitely argue for top ten all time.

  26. Without trying to put a numerical evaluation on each season, I would say that of the first four seasons, on average, the best season is Season 3.

  27. Here’s the problem. We are all susceptible to a predilection (or revulsion) toward certain actors. I am soooo much a fan of Susan Pleshette that I have to rate Dead Weight higher than ‘Phile does. (I also love Kate Reid.)

    I also like Bill Shatner when he doesn’t (or pretends he doesn’t) take himself seriously (i.e Boston Legal). That puts the episodes involving such actors much higher on my list than on ‘Phile’s.

    Are there other actors that fans favor or disfavor in their appreciation of Columbo episodes based on their prior opinions?

    Are there favorite actors who disappoint in their Columbo roles? (Mine are Myrna Loy, Ida Lupino, and Ray Milland. All are fan favorites who I myself much admire for their prior work, but not so much on Columbo.)

    • I am completely able to separate any opinion of a particular actor with my opinion of a Columbo episode with them in it. So I have a lower opinion of the Suzanne Pleshette and William Shatner episodes, and I am not a big fan of Myrna Loy.

    • To me it only affects it if the actor’s “acting” is key to the episode. Pleshette is good and definitely gorgeous, but she doesn’t dominate the episode either way. By contrast, Claude Reville elevates the Conspirators from ok to superb because of his delightful character and his delicious rapport and rivalry with Columbo, and (for me) Troubled Waters is downgraded significantly because of the monotonous and humorless acting of the murderer, Robert Vaughn.

    • I quite like Roddy McDowall, so I am more inclined to give Short Fuse a pass than the Phile does, especially with how awful the robot episode was or the one with Richard Basehart. But even still, it’s not like Short Fuse was a good use of him or his talents. Makes me wish he’d have appeared later, when the show had its formula down better, might have made for a more worthy mystery for him to play out.

  28. As I have said before, three of my least favorite episodes, from the original series, are from Season 4, half of the season, An Exercise in Fatality, Playback and A Deadly State of Mind, Therefore, as is often the case, I disagree with you, although I would rate the other three episodes highly.


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