For a show that ceased producing new episodes more than 15 years ago, there’s still a heck of a lot of Columbo activity going on in the world.
2018 has been absolutely no exception. Regular readers of this blog will be up to speed on most Columbo happenings, but if you’ve missed any of the antics and talking points of the past 12 months, here’s your chance to refresh yourself on them as I review the Columbo year that was…
The big one: Columbo turns 50
The big ticket item on every fan’s list this year was the 50th anniversary of the first airing of Prescription: Murder on 20 February. Thousands of fans doubtless took the opportunity (like me) to rewatch Peter Falk’s Columbo debut with fresh eyes, and it really does hang together delightfully, achieving a level of success…
However, while fans did their best to make something of the 50th anniversary, there was precious little to get excited about in terms of merchandise or any sort of official commemoration of the show’s enduring brilliance.
A new limited edition DVD boxset was released, but apart from some nice box artwork (and, allegedly a model Peugeot 403 in some regions) there was little to get excited apart. And the most annoying thing? Still no freakin’ extras! If there was ever going to be a time to really go to town with Columbo, and celebrate everything it has stood for for half a century, 2018 was it.
How about interviews with Stephen Spielberg, Dick Van Dyke, William Shatner, Jessica Walter, Ed Begley Jr, Matthew Rhys and many other past stars who are still with us and did so much to elevate the show to the stratospheric levels? Not a sausage! It’s so disappointing and frustrating. There’s still also no full Blu-Ray boxset available except for the Japanese version that has been knocking around for a few years. Come on Universal, give this treasure the treatment it deserves!
Some of you may also remember my 2017 campaign for Google to come up with a commemorative doodle for the show’s 50th anniversary. This didn’t happen either. A little something called ‘the Winter Olympics’ was on at the time, annexing the doodle for a fortnight. Sort your priorities, Googsters!
ColumboCon fails to surface
Another tantalising possibility, mooted in 2017, was that a ColumboCon would take place in Peter Falk’s hometown of Ossining, New York, in June 2018. Billed as a tribute to the show in its 50th year, the event was set to be the type of celebration fans were hankering for.
However, despite talkin’ the talk, the event organisers went absolutely silent on the subject in the latter months of 2017 and never even responded to my repeated requests for additional information – even just to confirm it was happening. Just as well I didn’t excitedly book expensive air tickets in advance, eh, ha-ha-haaaaa (looks about nervously)? Ho-hum…
Iconic story writer passes on
April 1 2018 struck a sombre note for Columbo fans with news that Steven Bochco had died at the age of 74 after a long battle with leukemia. Although small compared to his main body of work, Bochco’s Columbo contribution remains one of the most celebrated of all as he penned legendary episodes Murder by the Book, Etude in Black, Blueprint for Murder and Lady in Waiting, amongst others. Read my tribute to Steven here.
I will also be publishing an article about the Columbo stars we lost in 2018 in early January – always sad reading.
Columbo doyen pens new tribute
It wasn’t all bad news, though. TV critic and author Mark Dawidziak, writer of the revered The Columbo Phile book of 1989, took time out to pen a 50th anniversary tribute to the show. Why is this significant? Because Dawidziak is arguably still the authority on the show after being given unprecendented access to contributors – including Peter Falk – to write his 1989 masterpiece. You can read more about this, and the tribute itself, right here.
Another lovely written tribute came in the form of the Columbo micro-story competition, which ran from October-December, and invited fans everywhere to pitch in with a 200-word mini-adventure or moment featuring or inspired by the series. 130 entries were received, with the best of them to be featured on this blog in the New Year.
Full episodes go online
An absolute BONANZA for fans was the decision made this year by the official Columbo YouTube channel to start making full, HD episodes available to viewers – in some jurisdictions at least.
The channel has been up and running since late 2017, but in March made Murder by the Book available as its first full episode. Several more gems have followed, including perennial crowd pleasers Death Lends a Hand, Try & Catch Me and A Stitch in Crime (although the latter was taken down some months later).
At time of writing, six full episodes can be enjoyed, with the promise of more being uploaded in due course. Check out what’s available here. As always, however, I must add the caveat that these episodes won’t play everywhere – notably in UK, Canada, Italy and Germany – so disappointment and rage may ensue…
No takers for Columbo’s coat – again
After failing to reach its expected reserve of $80,000 at auction in New York in November 2017, Columbo’s iconic raincoat and shoes went under the hammer again in June 2018 – and again failed to sell, even at a much reduced reserve of between $30-50,000.
Whether or not we’ll see the coat and shoes put up again must be doubtful after this dual snub. Why didn’t they find a new home? I offer my thoughts here.
Definitely suitable for framing…
Something fans were flocking to buy, however, were limited edition prints of the iconic Columbo painting from Murder: A Self Portrait, when they went on sale earlier this year.
Only 20 prints of the stunning Jaroslav Gebr original were made, and after being promo’d on this blog, all but two were snapped up within a couple of weeks (and they’re likely long gone now, too).
Weighing in at a cost of $300 for an unframed version, and $500 for a framed one, this was a serious investment for serious fans (myself included), but it’s nevertheless heartening to see that there is a genuine appetite out there for high quality Columbo memorabilia. Universal, take note!
Get cooking with Columbo!
Another very nice item, and one well worth seeking out, is the Cooking with Columbo recipe book, released in March 2018. Featuring scores of favourite recipes from Columbo guest stars (including Peter Falk), this is a charming little book that I can’t recommend enough. Find out more here!
Onwards and upwards – the Columbophile blog
Regular visitors may be aware that this humble blog hit a significant milestone in October 2018, reaching the one million views mark a little over 3 years since launching. This was a proud day at Columbophile HQ, and one that is a testament to the enduring love hundreds of thousands of fans still have for the dear Lieutenant.
At time of writing, there have been more than 735,000 visits to the site this year alone, and this post marks the 51st (and last) of the year, so not a bad return for a full-time worker raising 2 x adorable Columbo juniors!
In the annual fans’ poll of favourite Columbo episodes, Any Old Port in a Storm retained top spot for the third year running in a list that featured two new entries and a re-entry. The least popular episode of all, according to this poll at least, is the dismal Strange Bedfellows. The poll is open in perpetuity, so you can vote for your favourite episode right here!
Elsewhere, I got through 10 full episode reviews, starting in January with Publish or Perish and concluding with A Deadly State of Mind in November. I’ll be pushing into Season 5 in January. If you’ve missed any reviews, you can access them all here.
In the annual fans’ poll of favourite Columbo episodes, Any Old Port in a Storm retained top spot for the third year running
So, all in all, quite a blockbuster year in Columbo circles. I wonder what 2019 has in store? Stick with me to find out! And thanks, as always, for visiting. I think Peter Falk would be delighted to know the Lieutenant’s still held in such high esteem.
Quiet now please, it’s been a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery long and busy year…
Have a happy new year Columbo!
Looking forward to seeing what you write in 2019!
would like to get hold of the columbo cook book is it possible to buy one in a good bookshop in a high street in the UK ?
Hi Steve, I think it’s only available online. Perhaps the author will spot this comment and respond to confirm!
Thank you columbophile , I can order it online but i like to do things like that the old fashioned way. ill keep an open mind.
on that subject has columbophile ever thought of doing an update such as columbos top 5 food moments , mine would be unknowingly squirrel meat in swansong , Garlic and snails in RIP mrs columbo and in a case of immunity ., cooking omelettes in double shock and maybe eating Irish stew in a homeless shelter with an obseesive nun in negative reaction . im sure you could dig a few more out and put them in some sort of order either by funniest ./ most memorable , but us columbo fans would
like to see episode reviews of forgotten lady and a case of immunity first.
Thanks for all your hard work Columbophile.
A question for everyone…on Blueprint for Murder, after Bo slaps Markem, he says’and if you’re thinking of…………………forget it” What is the line? I can never decipher it.
It’s been some time since I’ve seen “Blueprint for Murder,” but from a script available online, this may be the section you’re referring to:
Elliot: You really are a Philistine, aren’t you? What? All you care about is money.
You wouldn’t recognize art if you fell over it. We have a chance to do something extraordinary here and you’re trying to ruin it.
Bo: That’s right. Quite right! And if you’re on some kind of an ego trip you find somebody else to pay for it.
Elliot: Bo, I have a thought. Would you commission me to design your burial vault? That would be about your speed.
Bo: You really would like to see me dead, wouldn’t you? But I’ll tell you something.
It wouldn’t count for much.
Elliot: Well, maybe your wife might have other ideas.
Bo: Don’t mean a thing because when I die all of my money goes into trust. Jennifer’ll get her share every year, you can count on that. But there won’t be any cash to build cities with. If you’re thinkin’ of any uglies forget it.
This is the best that I can do unless someone else has a better take on the dialogue.
Thanks…..I didn’t think he was saying ‘bumping uglies’ but I couldn’t quite catch it.
I love this episode…
You had me from day one with Prescription Murder…I guess that’s why I voted it as my favorite. The truth be told, I never met an episode I didn’t enjoy, especially all the Robert Culp and Patrick McGoohan episodes.
Thank you, Columbophile, for your thoughtful and incisive reviews of the Columbo episodes and on other Columbo-related events. I always learn new and interesting things from your reviews and columns, and I appreciate the comments from many of those participating in the analysis of the episodes and one of the most beloved characters in detective fiction, whether we agree or not.
As 2018 comes to a close, we should also acknowledge the sad passing of Chuck McCann this year on April 8, 2018. Chuck performed just once in the entire Columbo series, but he appeared in one of the best episodes ever, as the memorable projectionist and victim Roger White in “Double Exposure,” co-starring the “culpable” one, Robert Culp. To the best of my recollection, Roger White was the only character in Columbo to actually solve the crime before Columbo did. Other victims had certain information that threatened to expose the murderer, but White was the only one to my knowledge to put the whole scheme together.
I’d also like to point out that Chuck McCann and Robert Culp were actually friends in real life.
Chuck was also a co-founder of the Sons of the Desert, a group devoted to the lives and films of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Both Chuck and guest murderer Dick Van Dyke (from “Negative Reaction”) were friends too, having a love and appreciation for Laurel and Hardy in common.
Thanks James. Chuck will appear in the next article on the blog, which chronicles the Columbo stars we lost in 2018.
I meant too bad the convention didn’t happen. And I wanted the coat for my husband. Maybe next year. Not.
Too bad the Columbo convention in Ossing. Wanted to buy the coat for my husbnd. If they would just lower the price a tad. Ha ha! Keep up the good work and Happy New Year!
This might not be the right site to ask this question, but I’m stumped. i just watched Season 9 Episode 4 (I believe), titled “Good Night Mrs. Columbo”. A) It’s one I don’t remember watching very often, and this is my question: B) could you PLEASE tell me who does the rendition of the song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” in it? It’s a “spine-tingling” version, but didn’t see it credited once the show ended. Thanks for any help you may provide.
Many have asked the question over the years, but there’s no known answer. In all likelihood it was a studio session singer who will be forever uncredited.
I enjoy your blog. Re:the raincoat. My husband has one just like it in his upstairs closet.He won’t part with it. I’ve always appreciated Peter Falk’s acting.I watch Columbo often. Like the LA settings,guest stars.I’m just an old ’70s gal @ heart. Thank you.
Thank you for the work you put into this. I Enjoy and look forward to reading your posts and I can imagine how much time it takes. Keep it coming….
there certainly seem to be a lot of reasons to be sad and frustrated in 2018 vis a vis Columbo….especially seeing what anniversary it is. But the bright and shining star of the Columboverse is this wonderful blog. Thank you so very much, CP and happy hols to you and your family. (btw, tho i imagine I’ll either be the object of derision or simple silence, I tweeted to Wm. Shatner, asking him if he’d consider a Reddit or similar the subject of Columbo and his involvement with the series I can only die once, i suppose)
Thank you for being a constant in a mixed year, always a great read; feel your pain with the ColumboCon, but on the upside you’ve been reviewing a strong season (how will you maintain the equilibrium when reviewing the later seasons?). A personal highlight was the short story competition and the continued strong fan base, 800 new member to the ColumboTV Facebook Group, which is just one of many.
Thanks Ian! And, yes, the short story competition was an excellent initiative and I look forward to sharing the top stories on the blog in the new year.
Thank you for all your wonderful work in 2018. Because of you Columbo remains not just a wonderful thing from the past, but he is as relevant and alive niw as he ever was.
Keep up the good work in 2019! And I wish you a very happy new year.