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…