Opinion / Poll / Top 10

Columbo top 10 episodes as voted by the fans: 2019 edition

Which of your favourites make the top 10 this year?

What better way to end the year than with a celebration of the very best of Columbo in the shape of fans’ top 10 episodes?

Now in its fourth year, a poll on this site gives fans a straight – but difficult – choice: vote for your single favourite Columbo episode. The poll amasses thousands of votes every year, providing a highly relevant and statistically valid indication of genuine episode appreciation within the fan base.

After four years of this poll, there has been a level of stabilisation this year. The top 10 is now pretty entrenched, with very few votes separating 6th and 10th. The top 5, however, is pulling away from the rest and now seems very settled. To see how your favourite has fared, read on!

“The poll amasses thousands of votes every year, providing a statistically valid indication of genuine episode appreciation.”

10. A Stitch in Crime (last year = 5th)


Despite sliding a few places this year, A Stitch in Crime‘s popularity with fans is in no danger of being in terminal decline.

The delicious iciness of Leonard Nimoy’s Dr Barry Mayfield is a key reason for this. He’s sensationally good as the ambitious and heartless heart surgeon who commits a double homicide to cover up an attempt to kill a colleague with dissolving sutures. With a villain so callous that even Columbo loses his cool, A Stitch in Crime is heart-stoppingly good stuff.

Read my full episode review here.

9. Negative Reaction (last year = 6th)

Smiling assassin: Dick Van Dyke cruelly slew two innocent lambs in Negative Reaction

Who knew that Dick Van Dyke could be such a good baddie? Well, Columbo producers sure did, hitting the jackpot here by converting the lovable DVD into a truly nasty piece of work who executes both his wife and a hapless sidekick to free himself up to make a move on his beautiful young assistant.

A darkly themed episode is off-set by some of the series’ best humour as Columbo is first mistaken for a bum by a sister of mercy and later terrorises Larry Storch’s highly strung driving instructor with his haphazard skills behind the wheel. Throw in one of the series’ best gotchas and a good time is guaranteed in one of the series’ premier examples of a 90+ minute episode that never feels padded.

Read my full episode review here.

8. An Exercise in Fatality (non-mover)

Columbo Exercise in Fatality
It’ll be Columbo who lands the knock-out punch in this thrilling confrontation

The gloves are off in An Exercise in Fatality as Columbo goes toe-to-toe with one of his least-liked adversaries: corrupt fitness franchise kingpin Milo Janus.

The Lieutenant really can’t stand the guy, leading to one of the most dramatic confrontations of the whole Columbo saga when he publicly lays into Janus at the hospital, accusing him outright of murder in front of a gaggle of witnesses.

Also boasting one of Columbo’s most exhaustive lists of evidence against a killer, the ending is extra sweet because there’s simply no way Janus is wriggling out of the noose he created for himself.

Read my full episode review here.

7. Suitable for Framing (last year = 10th)

Columbo Suitable for Framing
“Why it’s frightful… that I’m not top of this poll.”

Dale Kingston and his velvet tux have been in and around the top 10 each year and Suitable for Framing now occupies its highest position in the chart, demonstrating its enduring popularity.

Blessed by a complex and layered crime that unveils itself slowly throughout, a tour de force performance of loathsome arrogance by Ross Martin, a cast including Oscar winners Don Ameche and Kim Hunter, plus the very best Columbo gotcha of them all and there’s a lot here to like – time, after time, after time.

Read my full episode review here.

6. Troubled Waters (last year = 9th)

Cheer up, Hayden! You’re supposed to be on holiday!

Unlike the episode’s never-ending rendition of Volare, Troubled Waters is an episode that never seems to outstay its welcome and has been a fixture in the top 10 each year.

The episode makes the most of its unique setting on a genuine Mexican cruise to deliver one of the most fun and memorable Columbo outings of them all – helped in no small measure by the awesome Robert Vaughn’s presence as pimp-chic killer, Hayden Danziger.

Read my full episode review here.

5. Now You See Him (last year = 4th)

Columbo Now You See Him
ALAKAZAM! And Santini is toast…

An iconic episode, combining an unforgettable magic backdrop with Jack Cassidy’s third and final Columbo appearance and you have 90 minutes of TV that simply demands affection.

Now You See Him is a blast throughout, with Jack on vintage form as The Great Santini, while there’s a welcome return for Bob Dishy’s naive Sergeant Wilson as a sidekick to Columbo. Some great humour helps the episode tread the line between light and dark, given the theme of Santini’s former Nazi SS Guard status, and the pay-off is as satisfying as one could wish for. Bravo to all involved.

Read my full episode review here.

4. Try & Catch Me (last year = 7th)

Columbo Try and Catch Me
“Tell ya what, grandma, if you give me these shoes I’ll let ya go free…”

Continuing to tip-toe up the rankings, season 7 opener Try & Catch Me‘s irresistible combination of mischievous fun and terrifying revenge makes it one of Columbo’s stand-out cases as he investigates a murder carried out by elderly mystery writer, Abigail Mitchell.

The chemistry between Peter Falk and Ruth Gordon is an absolute delight throughout, with the detective refusing to be fooled by Abi’s doddering old dear routine. With a unique murder (nephew locked in air-tight safe) and Gordon on sparkling form, this is an episode that stands tall in the memory.

Read my full episode review here.

3. Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (non-mover)

Columbo Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
This episode was sponsored by Burberry

Some readers were a little surprised this year when my Bye-Bye episode review saw the season 6 finale take the coveted crown as my favourite Columbo adventure of them all. However, given that it’s enjoying a rostrum position for the second consecutive year here, it’s evident that Bye-Bye has a sky high following amongst the fan base.

Boosted by a superior turn by Theo Bikel as tortured genius Oliver Brandt, a brilliant example of a strength-in-depth cast, not to mention 10 or 12 of the series’ best or funniest scenes, and you have a gem of an episode that you don’t need a towering IQ to enjoy to the max.

Read my full episode review here.

2. Murder by the Book (non-mover)

Columbo Murder by the Book
Corduroy jackets have never been worn better!

Arguably the most important Columbo episode of them all, Murder by the Book still has the power to mesmerise nearly 50 years after it first aired.

With Steven Spielberg’s direction injecting the viewer right into the action, Billy Goldenberg’s score a cinematic masterpiece and the rapport between Peter Falk and Jack Cassidy absolutely perfect, it’s easy to see why this episode means so much to so many fans.

Read my full episode review here.

1. Any Old Port in a Storm (non-mover)

Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm
Adrian Carsini is the Columbo Fans’ Man of the Year – AGAIN!

Looks like it’ll be a cold day in a Californian vineyard when Adrian Carsini relinquishes his grasp on fans’ hearts, as Any Old Port annexes the top spot for the fourth consecutive year.

A vintage episode stuffed with magnificent lines allows Donald Pleasence’s clipped accent to be put to superb use throughout (LIQUID FILTH, anyone?), but it’s the burgeoning relationship between Columbo and Carsini that provides the heart to the compelling narrative. The respectful exchange between the two men at the end, as Columbo drives Carsini off to a life behind bars, is simply one of the greatest TV scenes of all time.

Little wonder, perhaps, that Peter Falk himself rated this as his very favourite episode.

Read my full episode review here.

“It’ll be a cold day in a Californian vineyard when Adrian Carsini relinquishes his grasp on fans’ hearts.”

Best of the rest

While the top 10 episodes listed above have amassed a huge proportion of the total votes there’s still hot competition in the tier below them, with some of the series’ best-loved episodes jockeying for position inside the top 20.

Of these, A Friend in Deed, Swan Song, Double Exposure, Publish or Perish and Etude in Black have previously held top 10 slots. Is there a way back for them? Time will tell. However, it remains notable that there are no Robert Culp or Patrick McGoohan episodes in the current top 10 – nor have there been since Double Exposure held 10th spot back in 2016.

11. A Friend in Deed (non-mover)
12. Swan Song (last year = 13th)
13. By Dawn’s Early Light (last year = 14th)
14. Double Exposure (last year = 16th)
15. Publish or Perish (last year = 12th)
16. Etude in Black (last year = 15th)
17. The Conspirators (last year = 20th)
18. Prescription: Murder (last year = 17th)
19. Rest in Peace Mrs Columbo (last year = 23rd)
20. Forgotten Lady (last year = 21st)

Classic era vs comeback episodes

Columbo Goes to College
There there, Coop, maybe 2020 will see you back in the top 20

The ‘new’ Columbo episodes tend to fare poorly when pitted directly against the 70s classics, as is shown with only Rest in Peace Mrs Columbo troubling the top 20. Columbo Goes to College is next best in 21st place, with Agenda for Murder (29th) the only other to make the top 30.

The least loved of all?

Columbo No Time to Die
No surprise to see No Time to Die propping up the rest

There are three ‘classic’ Columbo episodes in the lowest 10 places in the list – Old Fashioned Murder, Mind Over Mayhem and A Matter of Honor. Rock bottom of the standings, however, are Grand Deceptions and No Time to Die. Some would say it’s remarkable they have any votes at all! I can only conclude that jokers were testing the poll to make sure it worked properly…

Well folks, that’s about that for another year. Do let me know your thoughts on this year’s updated top 10. Any surprises here, or is it about what you’d expect it to be? All opinions welcome.

I will bid you adieu for 2019 and look forward to hanging out with you all again in 2020 – the year I start tackling Columbo‘s comeback episodes in earnest. Wish me luck…

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Vote for your favourite Columbo episode here

Further reading

Columbo A Friend in Deed
This is the look of a man who’s finished in 11th place for two years’ running
How did you like this article?

86 thoughts on “Columbo top 10 episodes as voted by the fans: 2019 edition

  1. It’s cruel having to pick just one when I love so many episodes of Columbo. I managed to get it down to a list of three – Suitable for Framing, A Friend in Deed and Negative Reaction. And after some considerable thought I plumped for A Friend in Deed. It may not have the humour of some episodes but it makes up for it with a brilliantly constructed plot, terrific performances and in my opinion it has the best gotcha from the entire show.

  2. My personal Top 20:

    20. Playback
    19. Swan Song
    18. Try and Catch Me
    17. Fade in to Murder
    16. The Most Crucial Game
    15. Prescription: Murder
    14. Publish or Perish
    13. Identity Crisis
    12. Suitable for Framing
    11. A Friend in Deed
    10. Troubled Waters
    9. Murder by the Book
    8. Negative Reaction
    7. Death Lends a Hand
    6. A Stitch in Crime
    5. By Dawn’s Early Light
    4. Any Old Port in a Storm
    3. The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case
    2. Now You See Him
    1. Double Exposure

  3. Late to the party, but here is my top 30 list. I love any of these below with different intense. Columbo has like 5-6 bad episode (Commodore and 4-5 others from the 90s), most of the series is just gold.

    By Dawn’s Early Light
    A Friend in Deed
    Columbo Goes to the College
    Negative Reaction
    A Stitch in Crime
    Suitable for Framing
    Swan Song
    Prescription: Murder
    Ransom for a Dead Man
    Death Lends a Hand

    A Deadly State of Mind
    Candidate for Crime
    Blueprint for Murder
    The Conspirators
    The Most Dangerous Match
    Any Old Port in the Storm
    Troubled Waters
    Columbo Likes the Nightlife
    Death Hits the Jackpot

    Forgotten Lady
    Double Shock
    Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo
    Lady in Waiting
    Short Fuse
    Agenda for Murder
    Sex and the Married Detective
    Publish or Perish
    Murder, Smoke and Shadows
    A Matter of Honor

    (Sorry for not including Bye-Bye Sky…, Try and Catch Me or Now You See Him, but I think they are a bit overrated. They would be in my 31-40 list though).

    • Try and Catch Me, Double Exposure, Death Lends A Hand, newer one Columbo Cries Wolf should be in the top ten best…Ya gotta admit the first one here is the wittiest of all with a message from the dying, so to speak. Whatever the obsession with the wine episode and the Bye Bye Sky High episodes here is beyond my understanding…

      • I love the Bye – Bye sky high IQ murder but I also feel its a tad overrated and has major flaws but its very enjoyable on the whole and has many funny and memorable scenes along with a good musical score and heart warming scenes and makes my top 10 relativity comfortably.
        However I am glad I found someone Who is NOT a fan of any old port in a storm as I have never even come close to understanding why so many love this episode so much I wouldn’t even put it in the top 30 seventies a very overrated episode in my opinion . I just dont get it ( by the way the scene in the restaurant (liquid filth is much overrated) I just dont find myself laughing at this I could think of so many more funny and memorable scenes but i will leave that for another day

  4. Pingback: What’s YOUR ultimate favourite Columbo episode? Vote now! | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  5. Here are my top ten:

    1. Any Old Port in the Storm
    2. Swan Song
    3. A Stitch in Crime
    4. The Conspirators
    5. Murder by the Book
    6. A Friend in Deed
    7. Murder Under the Glass
    8. Now You See Him
    9. Etude in Black
    10. Negative Reaction

    I believe the love for these episodes come from my childhood love of the criminals in each episode. For example, Johnny Cash was huge growing up and how could you go wrong with Jack Cassidy? I would definitely say he was my favorite guest star throughout the series run.

    • Here is a rough copy of my top 10( seventies episodes only)

      1 – Try and Catch me
      2 – Negative reaction
      3 – Swan Song
      4 – Make Me a perfect Murder
      5 – The Bye- Bye sky high IQ Murder
      6 – Identity Crisis
      7 – Suitable for framing
      8 – Troubled waters
      9 – Now you see him
      10- Prescription murder

      • Here is my bottom (10 SEVENTIES ONLY) episodes

        1 – Dagger of the mind ,
        2 – Last salute to the Commodore
        3 – Murder under Glass
        4 – Old fashioned Murder
        5 – A matter of Honor
        6 – Dead Weight
        7 – The Conspirators
        8 – Requiem for a falling star
        9 – Short Fuse
        10 – Mind over mayhem

        • I agree with the majority of your list. Here is my list of the bottom 10 from the ‘70s:

          1. Old Fashioned MUrder
          2. A Matter of Honor
          3. Last Salute to the Commodore
          4. Lady in Waiting
          5. Short Fuse
          6. The Greenhouse Jungle
          7. Dagger of the Mind
          8. Mind over Mayhem
          9. A Deadly State of Mind
          10. How to Dial a Murder

          • yes Lady in waiting isn’t one of the best it almost makes my bottom seventies list I am surprised that columbophile rates it so highly , and I dont rate the greenhouse jungle that much either

    • Great choices. I’m glad someone else likes The Conspiritors as much as I do–or almost as much. It might be my no. 1 or 2, but I haven’t seen all the episodes or at least not in decades.

  6. How can “Dagger of the Mind” not be in the top ten, or at the very least the top 20? Columbo walking the same streets as Sherlock Holmes; Scotland Yard, a 20th Century Inspector Lestrade, Richard Basehart, scenes from Macbeth, Colonel Pickering from “My Fair Lady,” the denouement at the wax museum. C’mon!

    • I recently watched Dagger of the mind and I Absolutely Hate this episode as you may find a oft of people do , I am a Londoner myself but hate this episode maybe even more than the dreadful last salute to The commodore
      Firstly its a one off episode which should have made it a pleasure but its far far too silly and drawn out to be even considered a decent episode secondly the acting is terrible 3rdly I hate Shakespeare or anything Shakespeare related which also does not suit the columbo formula and to crown it all of it dosent have a satisfying endiing , columbo cheats and plants the pearl in the umbrella to nail the suspects WHich are the most weird and annoying in the whole series in all it could have been a better episode if all the previous things weren’t so true but as it is i have to put it at the very foot of the seventies . I liked Honor blackman in goldfinger / James Bond but not in this , Very Bad episode sorry to say .

  7. Christmas day line up on 5 USA from
    1. 50 pm
    The most crucial game
    A Deadly state of mind
    By dawns early light

    plenty to get stuck in to folk todays best episode for me By Dawns early light

  8. I wonder where did the Most Dangerous match finish up ? its a difficult one to assess its far, far from one of the Best seventies but still nowhere near the worst seventies which for me are old fashioned murder , Last saluteto the commodore , Dead weight , A matter of honor ,Dagger of the mind and Murder under glass

    • “The Most Dangerous March” finished at No. 42, just below “Greenhouse Jungle” and just above “Last Salute to the Commodore.” [If you click on the link above to “vote for your top episode” and scroll down, you’ll see a “View Results” button.]

  9. I find it difficult to rate my top 10 seventies as there were so many so good so for now heres my top 10 NEW episodes

    1 – Death hits the jackpot
    2 – Agenda for murder
    3 – Columbo goes to college
    4 – Murder can be hazardous to your health
    5 – Uneasy lies the crown
    6 – The murder of a Rock Star
    7 – Murder smoke and Shadows
    8 – Sex and the married detective
    9 – A trace of murder
    10 – Columbo Likes the Nightlife

      • A trace of murder is one which tends to slip peoples minds I think it was an anniversary special ,but I think it is a tad underrated , I prefer it than RIP Mrs columbo , Its all in the game and Murder with too many notes.
        but there are at least 5 or 6 better new episodes . particulary Death hits the jackpot and Agenda for Murder

  10. Having just watched Columbo Goes To College I definitely would like that to come back into the top 20 next year. The cat and mouse game in that episode is among the best in the entire series.

  11. I’ve noticed my top 10/20 list changes like the wind (or underwear), depending on what mood I’m in when I watch them and other life events…..which just goes to show how the entire first run eps were masterpieces (excluding of course, Commodore and The Conspirators, IMHO).

    The last year I’ve really latched onto all 3 – Cassidy masterpieces, Negative Reaction, and of course, the Man in Black In Swan Song, along with ‘A Friend in Deed’ and ‘Any Old Port in a Storm’. I watched a lot of other Donald Pleasance films/tv over the last year and he truly was a legend of stage and small/big screen. If you get a chance, watch the “Changing of the Guard” Twilight Zone episode (season 3, #37, #102 overall). He was masterful in it. Another excellent reflection on coming to grips with the inevitable aging we all encounter (written by Rod Serling).

    Won’t dispute anything listed except to pitch that “Murder Can Be Hazardous to your Health” is one of the few post – ’70’s episodes that warrants more attention. I think when it’s time for review, a more in-depth look will reveal its’ greatness. Even “It’s a Wonderful Life” took years before the public caught on to it……..cheers

      • Good episode one of the best new ones , I prefer this than Hamilton’s 1975 episode A deadly state of mind it has great chemistry and clues and a bit of humor thrown in as well.

    • And CP makes it hurt even more by putting his picture right on top of the top ten list. Just looking at that photo shows you how much he puts into every facial expression.

  12. I don’t get why that wine episode is so highly rated. One cannot tell me that Try And Catch Me and Double Exposure don’t have more jaw-dropping conclusions and wittiness involved, of either the killer or the killed victim

    • I know Its beyond me as well why any old port is liked so much by so many
      I just dont get what it is that people find so great about it I mean it was a manslaughter not even a murder a good columbo should have a well planned murder, It Dosent really have any Funny moments ( the liquid filth scene is way overrated )and it certainly dosent have a great gotcha .
      Try And Catch Me is my favorite , Negative Reaction in 2nd swan song 3rd , Double exposure somewhere in my top 20 But The Wine episode Just not one of me or my dad favorites who is also a huge columbo fan and watches columbo every Sunday , Coincidentally any old port was on yesterday and I Didn’t make it my business to watch it , Glad to meet people who are also not Big fans of it .

    • Put aside for a moment that pitting Columbo against a wine connoisseur might be the height of the working-class-versus-upper-class motif that the show epitomized. And put aside the superb cast — where you can find as brilliant an actress as Julie Harris (5 Tony Awards, 10 Tony nominations, 3 Emmys, 11 Emmy nominations, 1 Oscar nomination) in a relatively small role.

      “Any Old Port in a Storm” has got one of the great Columbo “gotchas” — because it requires not only the killer’s expertise, but also his snobbish intolerance of even the slightest imperfection in a wine, to bring him down. Columbo believes that, due to how the victim was killed and the weather conditions under which the murder occurred, the wine in Carsini’s special wine cellar overheated. But Columbo has no way to determine this himself. Nor does he have any expert who can determine this — except Carsini. So he arranges for Carsini to do just that. Carsini’s perfectionism was his fatal flaw. I think, as inverted mysteries go, it was just brilliant.

      • Yes, the gotcha is superb, particularly as you explain it Richard. Its an “extended” Columbo ep but it feels like it has no filler at all – every scene is earned. The pair of credited writers is an interesting one….I knew that Stanley Ralph Ross wrote a boatload of Batman episodes (!), but didn’t know that the story credit writer, Larry Cohen, would go on to direct many low-budget horror movies, and also wrote the screenplay to Colin Farrell’s Phone Booth. While not a wholly successful movie, the challenge of writing a film set virtually entirely in a telephone booth is a puzzle that only a gifted writer would even attempt.

      • Indeed, Julie Harris’s scenes with both Columbo and Carsini are priceless and she lifts the show up a few notches all by herself. The class issues between Columbo, Carsini and her are also central to its greatness.

        • I couldn’t agree more. It’s one of several episodes where one supporting actor does a great deal to elevate the whole thing. Val Avery’s turn as Artie Jessup is one of the major reasons “A Friend in Deed” is #1 on my list, Gena Rowlands’ portrayal of Elizabeth Van Wick pushes “Playback” into my top 20, and Karen Austin’s complex and subtle take on Dr Paula Hall raises “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine” all the way up to, let me check the list as I have it written out here, #63 out of 69. (Karen Austin is wonderful, but come on, there’s only so much one person can do.)

          As for Julie Harris as Karen Fielding, I would particularly single out the dinner scene. It turns out at the end of the episode that it is in that scene that Carsini gave Columbo a vital clue by declaring that the wine had been stored at an extremely high temperature, but the audience can’t be relied on to know that while they are watching it. The interest of the scene for a first-time viewer is in the effect it has on the relationship between Karen and Carsini. Julie Harris handles her end of that relationship so brilliantly that you don’t need to spend that time sitting there trying to figure out what Columbo is doing.

          • “#63”? You’ve put every Columbo episode in order of preference? Wow! I have a top-10 list (which allows me to bypass all the 90’s episodes), but even that’s only in series order. The most I could put in actual order of preference was a top-5 list, but even that one became a top-6 list when two episodes tied for the final spot.

            • I took an hour and ranked them all- obviously I don’t take the product very seriously, but it was a worthwhile exercise. It helped me figure out what I like most and least about the show.

    • Double Exposure is my favorite episode, but Any Old Port is a terrific episode also. Agree with Try An Catch Me as well but there are so many really good episodes in this superb series so there are a lot of varied opinions.

    • I think much of the appeal lies in Pleasence’s performance. He’s so good as Carsini it’s hard to believe the character was only a one-off creation. Pleasence performed like he’d been in the role for years. It helped that he had such a good script to work with, full of memorable lines. The growing respect between the two throughout the episode is another reason it’s so highly rated. The relationship appears genuine and authentic, with the closing scene in Columbo’s car one of the series’ greatest moments. It’s not in my personal top 10, but I can see why so many rate it as their number 1.

      • Yes, the chemistry between Falk and Pleasence is superb, As i wrote in a different post it’s two great actors in their prime and the ending really showcases that. A couple other episode endings, (Bye Bye and Try And Catch me) remind me of this with the chemistry and respect between Columbo and the killer. What a superb series with none like it.Keep up the great work Columbophile.

      • The ending car scene was also done in swan song and Johnny cash which is for me 10 times a better episode than Any old port in a storm

  13. Number 1 – Any Old Port in a Storm was on British TV yesterday, followed by Lady In Waiting. In Any Old Port In a Storm, Columbo drinks quite a bit of wine. In Lady in Waiting, he states that he doesn’t drink. Love Columbo, but was pretty disappointed by that contradiction.

  14. Is Johnny cash really dead? Or is he with Elvis and columbo. Take out negative reaction and put in cash and the playboy mansion.

  15. Very strong list….no surprise Any Old Port is #1, it’s a fan fave. Surprised not to see a Robert Culp episode in the top 10, his were all strong episodes.

  16. All right!!! Top 20!!!
    Our local station is changing Columbo’s time slot from 2 hours down to 1.5, plus they will begin airing the classic episodes. They’re going to have to cut a lot out! I wish they would have kept the 2 hour slot.

  17. Do you happen to have, or have you considered a Patreon account? I’d not mind donating a monthly amount for all the great work you do here!

    • I have considered, but I can’t come up with a meaningful incentives packet for donators! Supposedly Buy Me a Coffee allows for monthly payments, but the option never shows up on the plug-in on the website and I don’t know why.

  18. My top 6 would be:
    1. A Friend in Deed
    2. By Dawn’s Early Light
    3. Murder by the Book
    4. Prescription: Murder
    5. Blueprint for Murder
    6. Make Me a Perfect Murder

    CP’s reviews taught me something about myself. He classifies numbers 1, 2, and 6 on this list as three episodes that have very little humor. So I learned that I prefer the non-funny ones. And Richard Weill’s comments taught me that I prefer the episodes where the killer is the main character and Columbo a supporting player. So I thank both of them.

  19. As I write this,I’m having a Columbo Sunday fun day, watching some of my favorite episodes. My personsal favorites in order are, Identity crisis, friend in deed, Exercise in fatality and Bye bye. A big part of my list is the filming locations of these episodes and the set decorating. I love 70s style furniture and wish I was alive then to experience the whole LA vibe back then.

  20. I cannot get enough of Columbo. Sadly, I just cut the cable cord and am having a tough time finding streaming Columbo.

  21. I’m at a loss as to why Grand Deceptions is so hated – it’s one of the better ‘newer’ episodes – maybe all will be revealed when you get round to reviewing it?

    • It may be sitting a little lower than it ought to if the poll enabled every voter to list every episode in order of preference, but I’m not surprised that very few consider this their single favourite. It’s a bit of a ‘meh’ episode for me.

      • I see what you mean, I think I misunderstood the poll when I first read it, it’s not the worst episode just the least number of people rank it as their favourite.
        Sorry it doesn’t take much to confuse me!

      • I misunderstood the rankings as well, now it makes more sense. And now I have to ask… if ANYONE voted “No Time To Die” as their favorite? Could it possibly have garnered zero votes?

      • Yes Grand deceptions is not one of the best new ones , Another blog said it was far from one of the best new ones and it takes an AGE for columbo to get to the investigation but its a more preferable than Murder a self portrait , No time to die , Undercover and that awful Murder with too many notes , I also prefer it to columbo goes under the guillotine

      • I agree Grand deceptions one of the lesser new episodes watched a bit of it last Sunday, a bit of a meh episode for me too even though I am not sure what meh means .

  22. Columbo being such a great series it’s hard to argue with any in the top 20 since it’s so much down to personal taste and preferences. My only surprise is the high ranking of R.I.P. mrs. Columbo, I rank it in my bottom 10 – but then also for that one I can see it’s appeal. I’m also surprised by the very low ranking of Grand Deceptions. Not that I think it’s one of the greats but certainly there are worse episodes than that one, like Undercover and Strange Bedfellows.
    Same as last year I’m delighted by the relatively high ranking of The Conspirators, for some reason the target of some hate here, but a personal favourite only beaten by Any Old Port.

  23. My personal top 5 list:
    1. Murder by the Book
    2. A Friend in Deed
    3. By Dawn’s Early Light
    4. Suitable for Framing
    5. Any Old Port in a Storm/Troubled Waters (tie)

      • Why not? It has a formidable villain (with relevant specialized knowledge), a clever crime, terrific clues (starting with the feather that puts Danziger squarely in Columbo’s sites), excellent banter, and an extraordinarily well set up “pop.” In addition, the business about the golf gloves that Sylvia forgot to pack is a precious foreshadowing of much that is to come (and takes a second viewing to appreciate). Plus, I like ships. A top 5 episode to be sure.

  24. For me, the only one that does not belong in the top 5 is Sky High, and not just because of the ridiculous title. I really enjoy it, but whereas the other 4 are all practically flawless, Sky High has numerous faults, including among others: 1) the ridiculous and repulsive tickling of Bertie; 2) having a supposedly brilliant killer do something as stupid and utterly reckless as dumping the gun in an open (on all sides) garbage can when he knows that Columbo will return in a minute; 3) the excessive time spent on the weight puzzles that every college kid must have run into at least once; 4) the idea that he would have such an incredibly loud argument upstairs and nobody would hear a thing.

    As for 5-10, there are two that I’d contend with. Fatality is the worst of the bunch by far for for me, with lots of weaknesses, including a meh ending. I would put at least 10 other episodes above it. By contrast, I see why Troubled Waters ranks so high. The plot and Columbo’s ability to solve and prove it are all exceptional. However, for me it is knocked down a bunch of notches because of Robert Vaughn’s acting, which to me was far worse than it apparently was for many other viewers and experts. To me, the great murderers were those who could say and do so many different things with so little: a lifted eyebrow, a 1-second smirk, a sudden spurt of rage, a remark laced with irony, a witty retort, showing pent-up anger w/o any outward expression thereof, a face that screams deceit and cruelty, an arrogant and hate-filled sneer, a dismissive shrug of the shoulder. Vaughn is the exact opposite. His acting in this episode, in Commodore, and in every other show I can remember seeing him in was identical. Did he ever have a role where he did not speak in that monotonous, lifeless drawl? Does he ever show a drop of passion for anyone? Was he capable of falling into a rage? He just bores me to death. Put Cassidy or Van Dyke in this episode and it might make my top-5.

    • I agree The bye bye is a tad overrated due to its flaws but still deserves a place in My own top 10 as its so enjoyable and more importantly I Agree An exercise in fatality is easily the worst of the bunch listed , I Dont understand why so many people like it so much , I actually think its one of the poorer seventies episodes , I could think of several better episodes than it not listed in the top 10 . And Again Any old port in a storm is top and I just dont know why people worship this to this high level so continuously much , Swan Song , Try and Catch Me , Negative Reaction Make Me a perfect murder , Prescription Murder, Double shock Suibtable for framing and more are much better episodes also a bit surprised to see the conspirators in the top 20 .

      • Dear Mr. Steve, allow me to compliment you on one more insightful comment. I confess I enjoy reading your contributions as I’m almost always in disagreement. Nevertheless, it makes me put in perspective the Columbo universe.

      • “Exercise” is not my favorite episode, but it is up there for me. There are several things we love about the episode, not the least of which is the cleverness of the murder itself. The interplay between Milo Janus and Columbo eventually devolves into the Lt losing it. And everyone seems to love the girl, too.

        • “Exercise” demands a colossal suspension of disbelief: you must accept as true that every right-handed person ties his shoes exactly the same way. (My wife of almost 30 years still ties her shoes kindergartner style: make two loops and tie them together.) To compensate, however, you have fitness freak Robert Conrad playing fitness freak Milo Janus. It’s almost as if the part was written especially for the actor.

          • I don’t buy the shoe-tying thing either; I’m right-handed, and I watched myself tying my shoes in the exact opposite way.

            • But didn’t Columbo compare the way the sneaker was tied to the shoes left in the locker? Janus shoulda untied the victim’s shoes.

        • I’ve just never enjoyed An exercise in fatality on a great level, it has a great gotcha and end scene though but its not one of the best seventies .

  25. Interesting! Many thanks, Columbophile. No Ransom? Very disappointing not to find the “lady lawyer” episode among the top episodes. I guess it happens….

    • I have never understood why Ransom never rates higher. I think the Columbo approach in the two pre-series episodes was through the roof, and his battle with the arrogant and brilliant lady lawyer is so good throughout, that it makes the spectacular gotcha ending even better, because of Columbo’s (and the viewer’s) satisfaction in turning the tables on the cold-blooded murderer that she really is.

      • I see what you both mean and agree to some extend. For me Ransom is a great episode: great killer, great story, only let down by the performance of Patricia Mattick as Margaret. That’s the only reason why it’s not a top 10 episode for me.

        • Agreed. I never got why producers of such a super premiere, could not pick a better actress for such a key supporting role.

          • Indeed. Patricia Mattick was very good as Margaret- she did a fine job. She had to show she was angry and suspicious at her evil, domineering stepmother (from the story we quickly learn they didn’t get along well from the beginning.) and she had to prove it in a legal, proper way that it was Leslie the criminal. This is a teenager that lost her mother to illness, “someone” just killed her dad and now she is stuck with her stepmom that is stealing her money…. And besides, her acting had to meet the approval of her director, Richard Irving….. Columbo was kind of cool to her in the diner scene, …. all in all, she did a fine job. The first of her many tv credits in the 70s, before switching to the theater.

            Best regards,

            Ed the librarian


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