After four gruelling years, we’ve worked our way through 45 classic Columbo episode reviews – so now’s the time to ROCK OUT and celebrate all that’s good about the 70s’ series.
As a result, I invite you all to attend a glitzy and back-slapping awards bash at which I’ll be presenting awards in 20 Columbo categories, including (but not limited to) Best Episode; Best Killer; Best Episode Score; Best Gotcha and many more…
Dale Kingston refused to loan me his velvet tux, so I’ll instead take to the stage in the cabaret singer’s suit from Now You See Him – an apt outfit for an evening of such spell-binding entertainment.
Take your seats now please, ladies and germs, for the curtain is about to rise. And remember, these are based on my personal decisions, not a public vote, so please don’t jeer too loudly if your favourites aren’t recognised here tonight. So let’s push on and wish good luck to all our plucky nominees!
Best Episode – The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
It’s not the most important episode, but for what it represents to me personally, and for the pleasure it has brought me so often, Bye-Bye Sky High has no equal.
A lot of that I attribute to the splendid efforts of Theo Bikel as the pompous, yet ultimately fragile killer Oliver Brandt, while Peter Falk is on sparkling form as Columbo, adding just the right amount of whimsy to his performance as he investigates a murder at a society of geniuses.
There are flaws in this episode, but any shortcomings almost don’t matter because the episode as a whole is so good and so entertaining. It boasts several of the very best and funniest Columbo scenes and we even see what we’ve been waiting to see since the series debuted: the Lieutenant caught in the rain without his raincoat. It’s magical stuff.
The denouement is right up there with the series’ finest, too, with simple edits between the two leads’ faces building to a frenzied climax amid lightning and thunder. And it proves to the viewer what we’ve always known deep down: that the humble, dishevelled Lieutenant has one of the great minds of his time.
Read my full episode review here.
Highly Commended: Suitable for Framing, Publish or Perish
Best Killer – Riley Greenleaf (Publish or Perish)
When he set the series benchmark with Ken Franklin, it was going to take quite an heroic effort to top it. But with Riley Greenleaf, Jack Cassidy managed to out-do even himself to deliver the single most watchable villain of the series’ 35-year run.
I can’t imagine any actor having more fun in a role than Cassidy appears to have had as Greenleaf – and that sense of fun is absolutely contagious. He excels in too many scenes to list here, but the faux drunken antics he employs to establish his alibi are absolutely priceless.
Riley Greenleaf is Jack Cassidy in full flight, and that’s a truly magnificent thing to behold. That’s why no other killer can touch him.
Highly Commended: Dale Kingston (Suitable for Framing), Ken Franklin (Murder by the Book)
Best Gotcha – Suitable for Framing
Magnificent in its simplicity, the take-down of smarmy art critic Dale Kingston remains a joy to behold – whether at the first viewing or the 101st.
Keen to see his crazy Aunt Edna take the rap for the murder of his uncle Rudy, Kingston has planted some stolen Degas pastels in her linen closet, which the police duly find. Things look bad for Edna, but Columbo orders the artworks be dusted for prints as he accuses Kingston of slaying his uncle.
Knowing his own prints are all over the works, ol’ Dale remains cool as a cucumber. But it’s Columbo’s prints they’re looking for after he got his mitts on them when reaching into an art folder earlier in the episode. And when there’s a positive ID on Columbo’s prints being on the paintings, Kingston is running short on options.
Entrapment, he claims with desperation. Columbo must have touched the paintings just now while he wasn’t looking! Cue the legendary ‘gloved hand reveal’. Watch closely and you can see Kingston’s lip quiver in panic when the Lieutenant’s hands come out of the raincoat pockets. It’s the single best television moment of all time, and surely always will be.
Highly Commended: Candidate for Crime, A Friend in Deed
Best Non-Gotcha Scene – Columbo gets cooking
Ask just about any Columbo purist to name their top moments from the entire series and it’s a safe bet that the legendary cookery scene from Double Shock will be right up there.
Weighing in at a little under 8 minutes, the scene was almost entirely ad-libbed by Falk and Martin Landau and it’s an absolute gem. Called up on stage to be a reluctant assistant to TV chef Dexter Paris, Columbo is initially abashed and stunned, barely able to string a coherent sentence together – much to the delight of the live studio audience. Yet he warms to the task, making a few wisecracks and milking the audience applause.
The nature of the scene made it perfect for ad libbing, and Falk, in particular, absolutely nails it. He’s as warm and charming as we ever see him – just look at his face light up as he and Landau revel in playing off one another. This is Columbo at his most adorable.
Highly Commended: Greenhouse Jungle – hill fall; Now You See Him – handcuffs on stage
Best Season Overall – Season 4
A very tough task to assess given that the seasons have different numbers of episodes. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that the strength-in-depth evident throughout season 4 places it at the top of the tree.
Simply put, there’s not a weak episode to be found in the season’s half dozen episodes, with even the comparative ‘lesser lights’ of A Deadly State of Mind and Playback still hugely enjoyable romps with belting conclusions and superb performances throughout.
And even if its highs aren’t quite as lofty as the series’ very, very best outings, in Negative Reaction, By Dawn’s Early Light, An Exercise in Fatality and Troubled Waters, there is great variation in mood and theme, not to mention several of the series’ most celebrated baddies. What’s not to like?
I break down the relative merits of all the 70s’ seasons here.
Highly Commended: Season 1
Single Best Peter Falk Performance – Double Shock
I’m of the opinion that Peter Falk was at his very, very best as Columbo in season 2. He had mastered every nuance of the character and was still fresh as a daisy in the role with no hint of being jaded as was evident from season 5 on out.
The culmination of the season is the sensational Double Shock, which features a performance to marvel at from Falk. Because of this the episode gets better with every viewing as we uncover more elements of Falk’s turn to treasure – not least his showdowns with Mrs Peck, which allow Falk to flex his funny bone as well as open up his hurt locker. It’s scintillating stuff from an actor on the crest of a wave.
Highly Commended: Greenhouse Jungle, Negative Reaction
Most Brilliant Crime – Double Exposure
Dr Bart Kepple’s wickedly clever killing of sweaty, caviar-loving client Vic Norris is so smart that one could almost wish he’d got away with it.
Showing the attention to detail we’ve come to expect from Columbo murderers with high IQs, Dr Kepple knows exactly how to manoeuver his victim into the killing zone without drawing attention to himself. Despite Norris dispensing with his services, Keppell takes the news calmly and shows there are no hard feelings by rustling up a dish of salty caviar, knowing that piggy Norris can’t resist stuffing his snout in the trough.
Kepple has also taken the liberty of cranking up the heating in the cinema screen where Norris and his team will be viewing a motivational film. But his smartest move is adding subliminal cuts of tall, cool drinks into the film. It’s an astonishing trifecta, causing the uncomfortably moist Norris to dash out to a drinking fountain, where the coolly calculating Kepple sneaks up on him and guns him down.
The ingenuity doesn’t end there, though. Everyone in the auditorium swears that Kepple has been in the room with them all along, narrating the film footage from the stage at the front. This was all an illusion. He’d simply used his tape recorder to supply the voice-over, before stepping back into position just before the lights went up in the darkened room.
It’s evil genius at its very best, leaving Columbo no choice but to copy the subliminal cut procedure to ultimately catch his man.
Highly Commended: Playback, The Most Crucial Game
Most Sympathetic Villain – Grace Wheeler (Forgotten Lady)
On the surface, Grace doesn’t seem like she warrants much sympathy. A fading film icon, she peevishly kills husband Henry for refusing to fund her movie comeback. The sad truth, however, is that Grace’s dreams of a return to the silver screen are but a fantasy that could never be realised due to the swift decline of her faculties.
As Columbo uncovers via her husband’s medical notes, Grace has an inoperable brain aneurism, which she isn’t even aware of. This is causing unpredictable behaviour and progressive memory loss. In all likelihood she can’t even remember killing her husband. Experts predict she has a month left to live, perhaps two at most.
I think it’s impossible not to have huge sympathy with Grace, and, as she sits dewy-eyed in front of her home cinema screen at the emotional conclusion, her plight absolutely wrenches at the heart strings. It’s the only case in which Columbo lets the killer go – and that says it all.
Highly Commended: Abigail Mitchell (Try & Catch Me), Adrian Carsini (Any Old Port in a Storm)
Most Deserving Victim – Edna Brown (Swan Song)
Tommy Brown’s wicked wife Edna is the sort that gives evangelicals a bad name. Indeed, to describe her as a ‘shrew’ or even a ‘fishwife’ would be to do those particular demographics a great disservice.
To put it bluntly, Edna is an old HARPY, essentially holding Tommy to ransom so she can milk his talent to realise her dream of creating a TABERNACLE to show her love for the Lord. In order to manipulate Tommy, Edna turns a blind eye to statutory rape, keeping victim Mary-Anne around as a blackmail threat, rather than, you know, helping her…?
Granted, she may have raised Tommy from the gutter to make him a national star, but Edna’s as ungodly as they come and when she goes up in flames in Tommy’s artfully stage-managed plane crash, there isn’t a damp eye in the house.
Highly Commended: ‘Bullying’ Bryce Chadwick (Lady in Waiting), Tony ‘Idiot’ Goodland (Greenhouse Jungle)
Most Sympathetic Victim – Harry Alexander (A Stitch in Crime)
Has any Columbo killing been as senseless and cruel as Harry Alexander’s in A Stitch in Crime? Surely not, and his demise was simply the final link in what appears to have been several years of genuine heartache.
Get this: Harry’s a reformed drug addict and troubled Vietnam veteran who has struggled to get his life back together and now works in a child’s petting zoo. He had a short-term fling with nurse Sharon Martin (Dr Mayfield’s first victim), which ended in case he became too dependent on her. This bummed him out, but he was dealing with it as best he could.
The very last thing Harry needed was to be jumped on and chloroformed in his own apartment by the fiendish Dr Mayfield – but that’s exactly what he got. Mayfield then delivered a fatal dose of morphine to Harry, which caused his life to tragically end in a psychedelic haze as he tumbled down his apartment steps.
I feel so bad for Harry – who simply has no concept of who is out to get him, or why he’s become a cropper – that it saddens me to even write about it.
Highly Commended: Tomlin Dudek (The Most Dangerous Match), Lisa Chambers (Double Shock)
Best Supporting Male Character – Arthur Kennicut (Death Lends a Hand)
Ray Milland is sensationally good as Arthur Kennicut in Death Lends a Hand. Cast as a media mogul, it would have been easy to fall into a one-dimensional braying and adversarial performance. Not a bit of it. Milland gives depth and subtlety, as befits an Oscar-winning actor.
He succeeds in portraying Kennicut’s grieving, sorrowful side as effectively as he does the stern man of action. The dignified vulnerability he displays really touches the heart. Indeed, Milland delivers everything his performance as killer Jarvis Goodland in Greenhouse Jungle lacks.
Highly Commended: Ned Diamond (Forgotten Lady), Peter Hamilton (Lady in Waiting)
Best Supporting Female Character – Goldie (Blueprint for Murder)
You want impact? You got it with Goldie, whose sass, style and straight talking illuminate every scene she graces.
Coming from an era when girl power as we know it was a distant prospect (Charlie’s Angels wouldn’t hit screens for another 5 years), she’s a welcome breath of fresh air and quite unlike any Columbo character we’ve ever met.
Confident and cocky without ever being unlikable, Goldie effortlessly wins the hearts of viewers and the Lieutenant in the process. Her best moment? Undoubtedly when she asks a bashful Columbo to look away as she dresses because she “doesn’t want to corrupt” him. The world would be a more interesting place with more Goldies in it.
Highly Commended: Mrs Peck (Double Shock), Elizabeth Van Wick (Playback)
Best-Dressed Villain – Nora Chandler (Requiem for a Falling Star)
As befits an episode featuring costumier GODDESS Edith Head, fading film star Nora Chandler has a wardrobe to die (or kill) for.
So dazzling is her array of outfits that it’s hard to decide which is her very best look, although I think her flared navy and fuschia pink pant suit nicks it – and gives her a slight edge over the fashion turban-tastic Viveca Scott.
Highly Commended: Viveca Scott (Lovely but Lethal), Hayden Danziger (Troubled Waters), Grace Wheeler (Forgotten Lady)
Most Loathsome Baddie – Dr Barry Mayfield (A Stitch in Crime)
What puts Dr Barry Mayfield to the top of the list is that his ice-heartedness knows no bounds. In order to take credit for a revolutionary drug he’s been developing with senior surgeon Dr Heideman, he tries to put the latter out of the way through use of dissolving suture after a heart operation.
He then brains the nurse who figures it out with a tyre iron. And later he slays a reformed-drug-addict-turned-petting-zoo employee to frame him for the nurse killing. Oh, and he also laughs at and shoves Columbo in two separate incidents of barbarism…
He’s the first killer who elicits a genuine flash of anger and dislike from the normally placid Columbo – a sure fire sign that he’s bad to the bone.
Highly Commended: Milo Janus (Exercise in Fatality), Paul Gerard (Murder Under Glass)
Best Episode Score – Billy Goldenberg, Murder by the Book
The opening episode of Columbo‘s first season simply had to have impact, and with Steven Spielberg at the helm and Jack Cassidy as the quintessential villain, it certainly hit the ground at a gallop. But we should also not overlook Billy Goldenberg’s iconic score, which does so much to enhance the episode’s atmosphere.
Fittingly for a tale about murder between a mystery writing duo, Goldenberg samples typewriter keystrokes in the score’s haunting and sinister main theme. It’s as good as anything on the silver screen at the time from arguably the greatest Columbo composer of them all.
Highly Commended: Billy Goldenberg (Ransom for a Dead Man), Gil Melle (Death Lends a Hand), Patrick Williams (Try & Catch Me)
Most Underrated Episode – Lady in Waiting
The hidden gem of Columbo‘s first season, Lady in Waiting flies beneath the radar yet manages to stand proudly even amongst such titanic episodes as Murder by the Book, Death Lends a Hand and Suitable for Framing.
The transformation of Beth Chadwick from oppressed Plain Jane to assertive and sultry minx is the crux of its success. All credit to Susan Clark, who is superb as Beth, and who is ably supported by a fine turn by Leslie Nielsen as her star-crossed lover, Peter Hamilton.
Throw in some excellent humour, a memorable finale and a brilliant moment when Beth’s perfect murder goes awry and you have a magnificent 70 minutes of television. Why it doesn’t rank higher with most fans is a genuine puzzle.
Highly Commended: Double Shock, Publish or Perish
Funniest Episode – Negative Reaction
Despite its dark moments (notably the cold-blooded killing of Frances Galesko by husband Paul), season 4’s stand-out adventure Negative Reaction delights with some absolutely rib-tickling scenes.
Columbo’s request for a photo of a cocker spaniel to ease Dog’s broken heart is a gem, but it’s bettered by the Lieutenant being mistaken for a hobo by an eager nun, his chit-chat with Vito Scotti’s noble drunk and, best of all, by his encounter with Larry Storch’s highly strung driving instructor. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and the jokes never wear thin.
Highly commended: Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case, Double Shock
Most Jaw-Dropping Cameo – Jeff Goldblum
The world’s most popular actor popped up extremely briefly in a couple of scenes in season 5 outing A Case of Immunity as one of the student protesters raging outside the Suari Delegation. Although he did little more than chant a bit, wag a placard and be jostled by a police officer, knowing Big Jeff was actually in a Columbo episode is one of the world’s most reassuring thoughts.
Highly Commended: Edith Head (Requiem for a Falling Star), Jamie Lee Curtis (Bye-Bye Sky High)
Hottest Female – Jessica Conroy (An Exercise in Fatality)
Surely no Columbo guest star has set so many hearts a-flutter as Gretchen Corbett, who addled detective and audiences alike when opening the door to Columbo wearing only a minuscule cherry-print bikini.
The lover of the similarly dishy Milo Janus, Jessica rocks a variety of looks throughout the episode, but it’s the bikini scene that places her firmly in the role of true Columbo icon. Gretchen Corbett, we salute you!
Highly Commended: Kay Freestone (Make Me a Perfect Murder), Beth Chadwick (Lady in Waiting)
Hottest Male – Milo Janus (An Exercise in Fatality)
While numerous Columbo stars have good looks and engaging personalities on their side, none of them can match Robert Conrad’s Milo Janus in the slammin’ bod stakes. To use simple terms, he was all man.
Looking perfectly honed throughout, in whatever outfit he was wearing, Janus was a suitably chiselled figurehead for a gym franchise empire. His love affair with Jessica Conroy firmly places them as the Prom King and Queen of the Columbo opus. Phwoooooooar!
Highly Commended: Alex Benedict (Etude in Black), Carl Lessing (Lovely but Lethal)
That’s a wrap, folks. I hope you enjoyed this article and agree with at least some of the gongs handed out here. If not, please share your own thoughts on worthy winners of any chosen category.
This being a celebration of all things good about Columbo, I didn’t include anti-prizes for Worst Episode, Worst-Dressed Villain, Most Disappointing Gotcha etc, but have written a separate follow-up article giving out some Columbo Razzies right here!
Thanks for reading! Now get outta here and enjoy the after party. I hear there’s a particularly lavish bash being planned at Dr Ray Flemming’s penthouse apartment. Word on the street is that they’ll even be playing Boticelli – what a scream! Get there soon before the Champagne runs dry…
Best Episode – Death Lends A Hand
Best Killer – The Great Santini
Best Gotcha – Suitable for Framing
Best Non-Gotcha – the accidental killing in Death Lends A Hand
Best Season – Season 1
Best Peter Falk Performance – Forgotten Lady
Most Brilliant Crime – Make Me a Perfect Murder
Most Sympathetic Villain – Adrian Carsini
Most Deserving Victim – Edna Brown
Most Undeserving Victim(s) – Sharon Martin and Harry Alexander
Best Supporting Male Character – Ned Diamond
Best Supporting Female Character – Elizabeth Van Wick
Best Dressed Villain – Lesley Williams
Most loathsome Villain – Dr. Barry Mayfield
Best Musical Score – Ransom for a Dead Man
Most Underrated Episode – Make Me a Perfect Murder
Funniest Episode – Negative Reaction
Most Jaw Dropping Cameo – Jamie Lee Curtis
Best Episode: “Double Exposure”
Best Killer: Bart Keppel, “Double Exposure”
Best Gotcha: “A Friend in Deed”
Best Non-Gotcha Scene: Dinner with Carsini, “Any Old Port in a Storm”
Best Season Overall: Four
Single Best Peter Falk Performance: “Now You See Him”
Most Brilliant Crime: “Double Exposure”
Most Sympathetic Villain: Adrian Carsini, “Any Old Port in a Storm”
Most Deserving Victim: Edna Brown, “Swan Song”
Most Sympathetic Victim: Harry Alexander, “A Stitch in Crime”
Best Supporting Male Character: Sergeant Wilson, “The Greenhouse Jungle”
Best Supporting Female Character: Elizabeth Van Wick, “Playback”
Best Dressed Villain (Female): Nora Chandler, “Requiem for a Falling Star”
Best Dressed Villain (Male): Bart Keppel, “Double Exposure”
Most Loathsome Baddie: Barry Mayfield, “A Stitch in Crime”
Best Episode Score: Gil Mellé, “Death Lends a Hand”
Most Underrated Episode: “Short Fuse”
Funniest Episode: “Negative Reaction”
Most Jaw-Dropping Cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis, “The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case”
Hottest Female: The Model, “Suitable for Framing”
Hottest Male: Kerry Malone, “The Conspirators”
Dudek is the most loveable victim. I love every second he’s on-screen in “The Most Dangerous Match.”
Another category: food! Between Columbo’s tendency to forget to eat or to be sent to the crime scene before he has a chance to eat, and all the cooks on the show, “Columbo” keeps making me hungry when I watch it. The most hunger-inducing episode is “Murder Under Glass,” with Columbo getting fed everywhere he goes as he investigates. He gets Italian, French, and Chinese food, and even cooks a meal as he arrests Paul Gerard. Most recently I got hungry watching Columbo’s coworkers eat bananas in “A Trace of Murder.” Maybe I just need some groceries.
Least-appetising food in “Columbo”: the times when he takes an egg out of his pocket and starts eating it. Who carries eggs around in their trenchcoat?! 🙂
Forgot to add: when Columbo walks in carrying a brown paper bag, he either remembered to pack a lunch or the murderer is about to have a really bad day. There seem to be a lot of brown paper bags in the denouements!
Yes those paper bags were ominous. The schlmiel effect.
so much fun I want to play along
Best episode–A Stitch in Crime
Best killer, most loathsome villain–Dr. Barry Mayfield
Most sympathetic victim–Dr Howard Nicholson (was just doing the right thing, which got him brutally murdered, when he deserved to die in his much younger wife’s arms while making whoopee)
Most sympathetic murderer–Beth Chadwicke
Most sympathetic male murderer–Emmett Clayton (I felt sorry for such a smart guy having such a low emotional IQ)
Best male supporting character–Peter Hamilton
Best female supporting character–Goldie
Best gotcha–A Friend in Deed
Most deserving victim–Rosanna Wells (not only do I have no sympathy for the bed them and then blackmail them types, but also torturing everyone endlessly with Volare!)
Best cameo by a future star–Valerie Harper as Eve Babcock
Most convincing overall performances–Dog
*biggest disagreement with consensus–feeling Grace Wheeler was the most sympathetic murderer. Just getting sick doesn’t clear her of utter selfishness for me.
Worst stereotyped character–I vote for the Ricardo Montalban matador character. Matadors being utterly psychotic about others thinking them courageous is, it seems, the only way they are ever portrayed in American films.
I will start my list but may run out of time
best episode Try and catch me
best killer Dr keppell Double exposure
best gotcha suitable for framing
best non gotcha theirs too many so i cant pick a best one
best season i like them all maybe the season with last salute and a matter of honor might be my least favorite season 6 has only 3 episodes one of which is truly forgettable Old fashioned murder and fade in to murder which is very average but it also has one of the best in the sky high bye bye iq murder
single falk performance , He was good in all the seventies except for his character murder under glass but i also dont rate the episode very much
most sympathetic villain I have to give it to Bertie Hastings from the BYE BYE sky high IQ murder
most deserving victim i have to go along with Edna brown in swan song i May come
back on this one )
going to run out of time but will be back soon to finish the list .
Back again HERE IS PART 2
I made a mistake in part 1 most sympathetic villain is Abigail Mitchell Try and catch me and most sympathetic victim is Bertie Hastings
Best supporting male character off the top of my head Arthur keenicut
Best supporting female ( will come back on this as i need time to think ) however Margaret from ransom for a dead man and Nadia donner a deadly state of mind and Helen stewarts mother are among most annoying female supports
best dressed female for now ill go along with Nora chandler requiem for a falling star although I dont rate the episode too highly Kay freestone is my favorite female killer (make me a perfect murder )
Most loathsome baddie Dale Kingston suitable for framing nets this one
Funniest episode Negative reaction (I rate the episode overall very highly)
Most underrated episode Identity Crisis , a lot of people disregard this because of a rather flat ending but this never bothered me and i always enjoy this romp abd even makes my top 10 overall Patrick mcgoohan and leslie nielsen , val avery and dog are all excellent in this , a great script plenty memorable outdoor scenes with some humor thrown in for good measure
most jaw dropping cameo not sure what jaw dropping means but my fav cameo is Jamie lee Curtis as the waitress in the donut scene in the BYE- bye sky high iq murder ( small but very memorable )
hottest female Jessica conroy wins most undressed female but my favorites are Joan Hudson prescription murder and Kay freestone make me a perfect murder
Leslie Williams from ransom and Helen Stewart dead weight are other honorable mentions
hottest male I dont normally judge mens looks but for arguments sake ill go along with milo janus an Exercise in fatality
that was a long haul if I was too add a most overrated episode it would be any old port in a storm with etude in black 2nd and publish or perish ( I dont Dislike these episodes in any way and there all of a high standard but I just dont enjoy them as much as most people seem to .
Honorable mention for hottest female must go to Sam Franklin’s uncredited model in “Suitable for Framing.” (“Come back soon!” Count on it.) Also Brioni Farrell in “Case of Immunity” — nothing sexy about the role, but the single most beautiful woman ever to appear in a Columbo episode.
Don’t understand where you get off describing “By Dawn’s Early Light” as “belting” when you rated it so low. B-list? Come on.
Columbo b-list episodes are definitely still belters!
what about un- funniest episode from the seventies ,
Old fashioned murder and a matter of honor would be contenders along with mind over mayhem ,The most dangerous match and A case of immunity , ( I dont count by dawns early light as its an episode aside in that regard )
Best episode: Troubled Waters
Best killer: Theo Bikel
Best gotcha: Short Fuse
Best non-gotcha scene: End of “Any Old Port in the Storm”
Best overall season: 3
Best Peter Falk performance: Greenhouse Jungle
Most brilliant crime: Murder Under Glass
Most sympathetic villain Abigail Mitchell
Most deserving victim: Frances Galesko
Most sympathetic victim: Lisa Chambers
Best supporting male character: Peter Hamilton
Best supporting female character: Margaret Williams
Best dressed villain: Dale Kingston
Most loathsome baddie: Dr. Barry Mayfield
Best episode score: Dick De Benedictis for “An Exercise in Fatality” – Milo Janus jingle very catchy
Most underrated episode: The Most Dangerous Match
Funniest episode: Last Salute to the Commodore
Most jaw dropping cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis
Hottest Female: Lorna McGrath
Hottest Male: Lt. Columbo
I can’t find “comment” button(???)
So…using reply to post my list..hope that’s ok
Best episode: By Dawns Early Light
Best killer: Riley Greenleaf
Best gotcha: Friend in Deed
Best non-gotcha scene: End of “Any Old Port in the Storm”
Best overall season: 4
Best Peter Falk performance: By Dawns Early Light
Most brilliant crime:Double Exposure
Most sympathetic villain Grace Wheeler
Most deserving victim: Frances Galesko
Most sympathetic victim: Nurse Sharon Martin
Best supporting male character: Artie Jessup
Best supporting female character: Veronica (Try and catch me)
Best dressed villain: Beth Chadwick
Most loathsome baddie: Riley Greenleaf
Best episode score: Dick De Benedictis for “An Exercise in Fatality” – Milo Janus jingle
Most underrated episode: Death Lends a Hand
Funniest episode:Greenhouse Jungle (for the hill alone )
Most jaw dropping cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis
Hottest Female: Beth Chadwick
Hottest Male: Robby the Robot
If I was to make up an award it would be most sarcastic or comical killer/guest it would be Patrick mcgoohan all day long he delivers his lines so well in Identity crisis and Agenda for murder also ashes to ashes Not so much by dawns early light as its so straight laced , I love the line in agenda where columbo asks where did the coat get wet Finch replies outside where it rains perhaps , this is only one example i could go on My favorite female killer is Kay freestone from Make me a perfect murder which is on tomorrow 5 USA
on that subject here is tomorrows marathon line up
9.00 am A deadly state of mind
10.20 Murder in Malibu
12.20 Mind over mayhem
1.55 Make Me a perfect Murder (top pick)
4.00 Dagger of the mind
6.00 How to dial a murder
7.35 Double shock
plenty good stuff to watch bar the stinker from the 70s dagger of the mind and the rotten egg murder in Malibu the bad egg from the 90s .
Make me a perfect murder my clear favorite of these with A deadly state of mind and double shock a close 3rd
Ok while I agree with best gotcha and innovative way to murder (Double Exposure) as well as other awards you give, Bye Bye Sky High is one episode I don’t care for …ridiculous manner chosen to kill someone and totally unfeasible . My choices: Try and Catch Me and Columbo Cries Wolf, or Double Exposure
Since others have done, I also list my nominees:
Best Episode – Now You See Him
Best/Most Loathsome Killer – Dr Barry Mayfield (A Stitch in Crime)
Best Gotcha – A Deadly State Of Mind
Best Non-Gotcha Scene – The murder sequence in Make Me A Perfect Murder (not technically a scene, but close enough)
Best Season Overall – Season 5
Single Best Peter Falk Performance – Death Lends A Hand
Most Brilliant Crime – Lady In Waiting (if the murder had gone as planned, there’s no way he would have got her)
Most Sympathetic Villain – Abigail Mitchell (Try & Catch Me)
Most Deserving Victim – Edna Brown (Swan Song) [I don’t have much sympathy for blackmailers in general, but she’s particularly loathsome]
Most Sympathetic Victim – Harry Alexander (A Stitch in Crime)
Best Supporting Male Character – Peter Hamilton (Lady in Waiting)
Best Supporting Female Character – Elizabeth Van Wick (Playback)
Most Underrated Episode – Lady in Waiting
Love your choice for Peter Hamilton as best supporting male actor. For some reason I never even considered him, but Leslie Nielsen is terrific and Nielsen essential for the solving of the crime so may have to reconsider here.
I did consider Lady in Waiting for most brilliant crime and it’s up there in my top 3. The fact that she takes an enormous risk by executing her plan (her relationship with her brother will most definitely be investigated) made me choose Double Exposure.
we could debate till Christmas which is the best non- gotcha scene as there is millions but My favorite Non gotcha scene is The scene on the pier with Abigail in Try and catch me where columbo says dont count on that mam dont count on it and i will state my reasons in a simple formula
1) Its a lovely outdoor scene with clear blue sky’s , yachts 2 blokes line fishing ,seagulls chucking,and wind blowing in there hair
2) It gives a personal insight/heart to heart into columbos background stating how he lost his parents
3) It also features dog with a joke thrown in as well about how he seems to be scraping bottom
4) It also states a sub investigation where columbo states that he looked into Phyllis drowning but found out the police couldn’t to make a case of murder against anyone on board the boat #
5) What really makes this scene is that is is central to the case as well as memorable and funny where columbo states when he finds the keys , he find s the murderer and abi still believes she can outdo the lieutenant but he still holds his respect for her despite her age
and when he delivers his dont count on it line he still wants her neck despite her age
In conclusion this makes the scene very memorable and one i always enjoy , I didn’t base this conclusion on humor alone as it is not particularly funny but there is such good chemistry here and throughout the episode which is why i always rate try and catch me as the best
Most frightening murder was of Paul Galesko shooting his wife, forgot her first name. It’s grusome and heartless and drawn out. Just horrible.
Well the shooting at the beginning of Ransom , when Mrs Leslie Williams, the “lady lawyer” shoots her husband, Mr Williams, was pretty heartless and evil, too.
And the consequences it carries for Margaret, the stepdaughter: mother dead of illness, dad dead, murdered by his wife and finally the stepmother goes to prison- 👩🏻🦰Margaret is an orphan at what- 17, 16? Pretty evil that lady lawyer. “How can you function? Seems a strange time to play lady lawyer.”
Just my 2 cents; oh, this Sunday 3/15 @ 7 am on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries- Ransom for a Dead Man. ( The ides of March) I own the DVD and is available on IMDB for free but I always like to see it on TV.
Regards from Miami, FL 👍
Ed the librarian 📚
Her name was Frances , Negative reaction is right up there with my overall favorites .
Dick van Dyke is amazing
Yes Dick van dyke was great plus he is still with us , I rate Negative Reaction Very Highly overall , However I am not a big fan of Lady in waiting .
Let me add a category: Best Last Line.
My choice: “You wanna know the irony of all this? That is my idea. The only really good one I ever had. I must’ve told it to Jim over five years ago. Whoever thought that idiot would write it down?” (”Murder by the Book”)
“Suitable for Framing” wins for Best Last Gesture; “Murder of the Book” wins for Best Last Line.
Thanks for adding that category
Ooh, good idea! I think I’d have to go with ‘Candidate for Crime’: “I dug this bullet out of that wall, three hours before you said that somebody fired it at you three minutes ago.”
Murder under Glass: ‘Columbo, I wish you had been a chef.’
“This far and no farther”… ‘The Conspirators’… great last line!!!
My choice, too–The Conspirators, that is.
Hugely enjoyable article, thank you. Yes please – bring on the Columbo Razzies!
So many fine women in Columbo episodes , I especially liked Tisha Sterling, Julie Newmar, Rosanna Huffman, Leslie Ann Warren, Faye Dunaway, Kristin Bauer & Jennifer Sky.
Sometimes the “brilliant” killers make the dumbest mistakes, like Kepple not getting rid of the caliber converter, which he had plenty of time to do. That would have foiled Columbo’s technique.
My own nominations and commentary:
Best Episode – ‘A Friend in Deed’
Highly Commended – ‘Make Me a Perfect Murder’, ‘By Dawn’s Early Light’
This one has it all: a great concept and plot, a wonderfully hissable villain, funny and sympathetic supporting characters, and of course a brilliant gotcha. ‘Bye Bye Sky High’ didn’t really make much impression on me, and I barely remember it. ‘Candidate for Crime’ also ranks highly with me.
Best Killer – Mark Halperin (‘A Friend in Deed’)
Highly Commended – Kay Freestone (‘Perfect Murder’), Colonel Rumford (‘By Dawn’s Early Light’)
I tend to prefer the more sympathetic murderers in general, but Halperin is just such a great villain. What can you say about a police commissioner who covers up a friend’s murder/manslaughter of his wife, drowns his own wife in the bath for money, blackmails his friend into keeping quiet, then sets his best detective on the case in order to frame someone else entirely? He’s *awesomely* evil, and his unique position as Columbo’s superior leads to a highly unusual and tense dynamic between the two of them.
Best Gotcha – ‘Suitable for Framing’
Highly Commended – ‘A Friend in Deed’, ‘Candidate for Crime’
No arguments with Columbophile here! However I also like the episodes where Columbo outright lies to and tricks the murderer (e.g. ‘Death Lends a Hand’ and ‘Negative Reaction’), whereas Columbophile often seems to see this as cheating.
Best Non-Gotcha Scene: Kay Freestone’s ‘countdown’ sequence (‘Make Me a Perfect Murder’)
Highly Commended – Columbo’s discussion with Artie Jessup (‘A Friend in Deed’)
The countdown scene is hands-down my favourite in the ENTIRE series, but the Artie Jessup dialogue comes a close second. I love the way it shows a different, softer side to Columbo (in contrast to the harder-than-normal edge he shows when dealing with his boss). The cooking scene from ‘Double Shock’ leaves me cold; it’s not bad but IMO it drags a little.
Best Season Overall – Season 3, as I commented on the previous article.
Single Best Peter Falk Performance – ‘A Friend in Deed’
Highly Commended – ‘A Stitch in Crime’, ‘Double Shock’
Much as I appreciate the humorous ‘stumbling and bumbling’, I tend to prefer Columbo in his more serious moments. Just about anything from ‘A Friend in Deed’ does it for me, but especially the scenes mentioned above. His confrontation with Mayfield in ‘A Stitch in Crime’ – where he lets the mask slip for a moment and tells the ‘good’ doctor exactly what he thinks of him – sends chills down my spine. And yeah, him confronting the housekeeper in ‘Double Shock’ is also very good.
Most Brilliant Crime – I’ll pass on this one, as I don’t remember the details well enough for most episodes.
Most Sympathetic Villain – Kay Freestone (‘Perfect Murder’)
Highly Commended – Col. Rumford (‘By Dawn’s Early Light), Beth Chadwick (‘Lady in Waiting’)
I do feel sorry for Grace Wheeler, but only because she’s suffering from a brain disease which almost certainly caused her to commit the murder in the first place. As far as sympathetic *motives* go, I have a soft spot for people mistreated by their families and loved ones (Kay Freestone, Beth until her sudden personality change) or having genuinely noble ideals (Rumford). Kay also gets a lot of extra character development which really endears her to me.
Most Deserving Victim – Bryce Chadwick (‘Lady in Waiting’)
Highly Commended – Karl Lessing (‘Lovely but Lethal’)
I have real trouble picking between those two. Bryce is downright controlling and abusive towards his sister, while Karl comes across as an outright psychopath who likes to see other people suffer. Edna Brown is an awful person but then so is Tommy, so in my view they deserve each other.
Most Sympathetic Victim – Sharon Martin (‘A Stitch in Crime’)
Highly Commended – Jean Davis (‘Requiem for a Falling Star’), Maryann Cobb (‘Swan Song’)
Even more than Harry Alexander, I feel sorry for Sharon because she was just trying to do the right thing. Whatever her suspicions, I doubt she ever imagined that Mayfield would go so far as to kill her – and she saw what was coming as he approached, so her last moments must have been terrifying. Jean’s only crime was being a loyal assistant, and Maryann… OK, she took part in Edna’s blackmailing scheme, but she was a teenage girl for crying out loud. One who’d been sexually exploited by her murderer to boot (I won’t say ‘raped’ because 16 is technically the age of consent where I live, but either way it was an appalling abuse of power and trust). I think Tommy would get far, far less sympathy if that episode were made today.
I’ll pass on the other categories, but I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Mayfield for ‘Most Loathsome Baddie’. The Great Santini gets bonus points for being a literal Nazi, but I’m judging by what they actually do in the episode.
yes I love the countdown scene from make me a perfect murder love the music and the really loud gun shot , the cooking scene in double shock is a tad long but i dont mind it , but 2 non gotcha scenes that really annoy me are columbos car check up or roadside MOT test dont find it at all funny more annoying , also the candidate for crime scene in Haywards office and his home are painstakingly long , the scene in by dawns early light at the breakfast table , if you pass me the butter will u promise to tell me why your conversation with budle boy wasnt satisfactory goes on for what seems forever but no1 spot goes to that scene at the jobcentre desk where columbo is trying to get details off the female secretary in an exercise in fatality bores me no end .
Very enjoyable as always!
I’ve always thought a good award would be Best Scene not featuring Columbo (excluding murder scenes), for which I’d have to nominate Milo Janus confronting Gene Stafford in his office. “When I grow, you grow… “
My nominees would be:
Best episode: A Friend in Deed
Best Killer: Mark Halperin (A Friend in Deed)
Best Gotcha: A Friend in Deed
Best Non-Gotcha Scene: Abigail Mitchell and Columbo trade poverty stories in a Rolls Royce (Try and Catch Me)
Best Season Overall: Season 3 (5 of the 8 among my top 20 episodes, only 1- Mind Over Mayhem- near the bottom of the list)
Single Best Peter Falk Performance: Ransom for a Dead Man
Most Brilliant Crime: Swan Song
Most Sympathetic Villain: Abigail Mitchell (Try and Catch Me)
Most Deserving Victim: Bill Haynes (By Dawn’s Early Light)
Most Sympathetic Victim: Lenore Kennicut (Death Lends a Hand)
Best Supporting Male Character: Chuck Jensen (The Conspirators)
Best Supporting Female Character: Elizabeth Meadis Van Wick (Playback)
Best Dressed Villain: Paul Gerard (Murder Under Glass)
Most Loathsome Baddie: Barry Mayfield (A Stitch in Crime)
Best Episode Score: Identity Crisis, Bernardo Segáll
Most Underrated Episode: Dead Weight
Funniest Episode: Negative Reaction
Most Jaw-Dropping Cameo: Jamie Lee Curtis (The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case)
Hottest Female: Mary Choy (Murder Under Glass)
Hottest Male: Ric Carsini (Any Old Port in a Storm)
For a moment I thought all you favourites would be from A Friend in Deed… Thanks for doing this, like many of your choices. I was hesitant in posting my own but you broke the ice so here it comes:
Best episode: Any old port in a storm
Best Killer: Riley Greenleaf (Publish or perish)
Best Gotcha: Double Exposure
Best nongotcha scene: impossible to choose so I’ll name three of my favourites:
– dining scene (Any Old Port)
– Columbo and Kay Freestone conversing in her abandoned parental home (Make me a perfect murder)
– Columbo and Joe Devlin shooting limericks at each other (The conspirators)
Best season overall: season 3
Single best Peter Falk performance: Any old port in a storm
Most brilliant crime: Double exposure
Most sympathetic villain: Adrian Carsini (Any old port)
Most deserving victim: Bryce Chadwick (Lady in waiting)
Most sympathetic victim: Harry Alexander (A stitch in crime)
Best supporting male character: Sergeant Wilson (Now you see him)
Best supporting female character: Mrs Peck (Double Shock)
Best dressed villain: Paul Gerard (Murder under glass)
Most loathsome baddie: Milo Janus (An exercise in fatality)
Best episode score: Billy Goldenberg (Ransom for a dead man)
Most underrated episode: Dagger of the mind
Funniest episode: Negative Reaction
Most jaw dropping cameo: Edith Head (Requiem for a falling star)
Hottest female: Della Santini (Now you see him)
Hottest male: Peter Hamilton (Lady in waiting)
Some great choices there!
Maybe not all my choices were from Friend in Deed, but if I were giving five nominees for each category like they do with the big awards shows it would have been somewhere on almost every list. Except for Funniest Episode, of course.
It may not be my all time favourite but I agree that A Friend in Deed is a terrific episode. When voting for best supporting male actor Artie Jessup was a close second behind sgt Wilson.
male character I meant
I was leaning toward Artie Jessup for best male supporting character, Margaret Halperin for most sympathetic victim, Mark Halperin’s press conference for best non-gotcha scene, and Hugh Caldwell for Hottest Male, but having given the first three spots to A Friend in Deed I wanted to acknowledge other episodes.
Very good job on these but your hottest female isn’t even close…..two right off the top of my head that were much hotter were Joan Stacey (Any Old Port) played by Joyce Jillson, and Gloria West (Greenhouse Jungle) played by the beautiful Arlene Martel. Your funniest episode is right on spot, great scenes with Joyce Van Patten, Larry Storch, and my favorite repeat actor, Vito Scotti.
I love the fact that you guys even did this I love columbo I still watch it I like bots season 1 through whatever 7 I can watch the same episode over and over and over and over again and I do what’s my favorite wow a lot of them that you already mentioned I love negative reaction the ones with Jack Cassidy I think the one with lady-in-waiting I like that episode a lot I mean I just love columbo just just love them I had a crush on him I go back and watch his own movies hooray for columbo fans
My female tastes are a little quirkier. Margaret (Patricia Mattock) in Ransom for a Dead Man. A bit young for me, I think she was 19 during filming, but then i wasn’t even born yet! Very feisty, glasses and red hair. Also had a bit of a crush on Ruth Lytton (the actors name escapes me) in Old Fashioned Murder.
The (take a deep breath) Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case has so much potential for awards. Best Ice Cream in a cameo role. Best umbrella in or out of a chimney. Best nerdy teenager. Best song. Best novelty murder method. Best tickling in a detective tv drama. Funniest overacting by a character called Bertie. Best puzzle involving a penny scale. Greatest “Columbo has just done me up like a kipper” moment. Best dismissal of a wife who you won’t be needing… anymore. It’s probably not one of the best episodes technically of Columbo, but it’s definitely one of the most entertaining.
May I recommend:
Her name was Patricia Colleen Mattick, 1951-2003, she was an awesome actress- TV and theater.
Thanks. I knew she died young, didn’t know it was from cancer. So sad. She looks so beautiful in the “Mannix” photo. I’ve never actually heard of Mannix, even though according to Wikipedia it was created by Levinson and Link. Either it didn’t make it over here (UK), or it wasn’t repeated when i was old enough to see it. It says it currently airs here, but on an obscure channel i can’t get.
I didn’t know she was in an episode of Ironside, i used to like that. Haven’t seen it on tv here in years, but they recently started repeating Perry Mason so maybe a chance Ironside will be back on after they’ve shown all of those.
Interesting looking at all those stage roles. All of them seem in to be in the US, although maybe they are the only ones well known. I wonder if she ever made it to these shores.
Hello, Patrick! Thank you for visiting the Everipedia page- trying to make it as complete as possible- she was such an amazing actress. When “Ransom” came out I was 2 y/o but I saw it many years later and found Margaret an interesting character. I am working on a Wikipedia page too-is harder, but I’m persistent. She is also on Pinterest and her memorial page on Find a Grave. (See below)
I received the mail today and got the FBI DVD with her episode- so I’ll be adding more screenshots soon. The hard part is finding a recording from her theater performances- she really loved the theater. From the people I spoken to, from an author of a theater book that interviewed her to Playwright Caridad Svich, who directed Patricia in the play “Alchemy of Desire”, 1994, she was a consummate actress, accomplished, awesome. 👩🏻🦰🎭
So sad she passed away so young- only 52! When I looked her up in IMDB and I saw 1951-2003 I was shocked- she was born on the same date as my sister- coincidence. Wish I had met her- such an interesting person, so lovely. But her work lives on and I’m doing what I can to get her a better online presence.
Oh, if you go to You Tube and do a search for her name you will find a group of videos under her name- Cry Rape (made for TV movie), Insight, Lou Grant, Owen Marshall, Longstreet, etc. Check them out if you like, she shines in all of them.
Best regards, Ed from Florida 🙂
I like these choices. Happy you mentioned Dale Kingston’s quivering lip– it makes the scene and it’s hilarious!
Omg I can’t believe you missed “Rest in Peace Mrs. Columbo,” my all-time favorite episode. My 2nd fave is with Abigail Mitchell, “Try and Catch Me,” for her performance, and that episode also gets the prize for best music score of all Columbo episodes.
Rest in Peace mrs Columbo is actually from the second batch, the 90’s episodes, so not yet a contender here.
I’m no good at picking superlatives myself, but I did say “Oh, YES” at a good many points during reading, heheh. And I would love to see a corresponding list of worsts.
Colombo. Totally the best tv cop. I mush have watched all dozens of time. I love his style. “Oh just one more question” , his hand and fingers up to his lips, his funny wee style of running. 10 out of 10 Peter Colombo Falk. Your a REAL legend in my mind.
Have you considered doing videos ? This kind of sequence description list would be very well suited to that
I have considered it. I just don’t have the technical skills to do a good enough job.
When you’ve reviewed the second batch of episodes, you might not be so forgiving of them, and we could well have a worsts list as well as a bests list for them.
And then it would be really interesting to compare them, best-for-best, and worst-for-worst. So, yes please to a worsts list for the first batch, when we have a context to make it worthwhile. Are the worsts of the first batch always less bad than the worsts of the second batch?
Personally I hope there won’t be a list of Anti-Prizes. As Richard said it’s all very subjective and, while it’s fun to read about which episodes, scenes, actors etc stand out for our fellow Columbo fans, I’m not fond of bashing the scenes, episodes etc that may not do much for one person but that others do really like. However that may just be my sensitive nature.
By the way, I’m not sure if I could ever name my single greatest none gotcha scene, but here’s one of my favourites, from my favourite episode:
Most sympathetic victim, how could you not pick Anne Francis?????
Best villain, sorry, should be Ken Franklin.
Funniest villain should go to William Shatner (Ward Fowler), for disguising his voice during the robbery and for delivering these lines, “an alligator bag that is six years old is apt to be worn looking, isn’t worth very much, probably isn’t” and “part of being an expert marksman is hitting a moving target”
Best supporting actress should go to two: Kim Cattrall (How To Dial A Murder), and Best Cameo should be Timothy Agoglia Carey (Fade In To Murder) “you gotta mix it up a little, you gotta LIVE, SWEETIE….”
Honorable mention for best supporting female: Mrs. Peck (Double Shock)
Best Beard EVER, ANYWHERE: Dick Van Dyke as Paul Galesko.
Best Dressed Villain should have gone to the lovely Vera Miles as Viveca Scott
Highly agree with Hottest female Gretchen Corbett, Best Baddie Leonard Nimoy, Most Deserving Victim should be Frances Eleanor Galesko, Best Episode Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (The Conspirators was really good too), Single Best Columbo Scene with Columbo, Mrs. Peck and Mr. Paris’ favorite Health Cookies, Best score Billy Goldenberg’s Murder By The Book (I am partial to Goldenberg’s A Stitch In Crime and Dick DeBenedictis’ Old Fashioned Murder). Funniest episode Negative Reaction, Best Dressed Villain Anne Baxter…and yes, Carsini was totally snubbed here (you Adolescent Imbecile Hedonists…)
Best Dog EVER: Dog.
Best car on Columbo: Ric Carsini’s ‘67 Ferrari 330 GTS
Peter Falk on Johnny Carson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfhxa73_jxo
Barbara Rhoades in “Identity Crisis” is a total hottie. How can you not love a tall redhead?
I am watching Requiem for a Falling Star as we speak. Nora Chandler was a fashion plate. If only Beth Chadwick had Edith Head as her personal dresser.
Speaking of “Lady in Waiting”, I concur with your assessment that it is the most under-appreciated episode and Susan Clark makes one feel sympathy & revulsion simultaneously. Bryce Chadwick & Mrs. Chadwick treat Beth with utter contempt and disdain. Yet when Beth becomes cruel later in the episode one wonders if she exhibited this sort of behavior in the past. Mrs. Chadwick noted Beth was constantly getting into one mess after the other. One wonders what sort of messes? Yet Mrs. Chadwick & Bryce Chadwick won’t even entertain the idea that Peter Hamilton genuinely loved Beth. In my mind, it is the saddest Columbo epiosode of all including “Forgotten Lady.”
It is almost too sad and uncomfortable to watch. It’s like Lizzi Borden or deHavilland’s Heiress. They don’t have a hope in hell of a happy life.
Thank you, Columbophile, for distributing all these Columbo-awards, most of them being really deserved.
May be it’s the moment too, after 45 episodes, to clarify the criteria used by appreciating, or not, the episodes. I think we all have some, but not always are conscient of them.
Reading the comments of the CP-followers, we see how the appreciations can differ from one reader to another, and not only because of the “this is the first episode I saw…”. We read how CP-followers find the murderer (or the victim) sympathetic, or not, find the story credible, or not, the confrontation between the murderer and Columbo rich (or poor), the actors credible, etc., etc.
May be you could, starting from the 45 analyses you wrote, define your criteria.
Here I give mine, with examples from the 69 episodes (reminding that everyone can have his or her own!).
1st essential criterion
The story is credible, and the people act in a credible way.
We understand how and why they act the way they do, and may be we’d act in the same way if we were in the same situation (unless the murder, I hope).
Most episodes are credible. But some are not (or some scenes are not).
Are not credible or less credible:
– A Case of Immunity
– Mind over Mayhem
– Strange Bedfellows
– Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (the military experts)
– Identity Crisis (the CIA)
– Lady in Waiting (the transformation of Beth Chadwick and the way it’s accepted by the board)
– Rest in Peace (the way Vivian Dimitri reminds her husband)
But there are some exceptions on that criterion:
– The first and essential exception: Columbo himself. We accept Columbo as he is, although the character is not credible, not realistic: (1) he continues to drive a car he shouldn’t, and (2) he smokes everywhere, which makes him, himself and his clothes must stink all the time. That means he can’t go anywhere without leaving a very strong tobacco-stink behind. However, the other characters never notice Columbo’s presence. One who doesn’t accept that character, should look at other series!
– Some completely incredible scenes: the cooking scene (Double Shock), the tuba scene (Sex and the Married Detective).
I think that even if dog spoke to Columbo in one or another scene, we should accept it.
2nd essential criterion
The murderers are powerful, important, rich, influent people, who underestimate Columbo.
Most episodes answer to that criterion. It’s even the brand of the feuilleton.
Do not answer to it:
– Last Salute to the Commodore
– Undercover (But this is not really a Columbo-episode. It’s a movie with Columbo in it.)
– No Time to Die (But this is not really a Columbo-episode. It’s a movie with Columbo in it.)
– A Trace of Murder (but Patrick Kinsley is investigator in Columbo’s team)
– It’s All in the Game is a special case, because the very rich Lauren Staton does not use her wealth (she uses her charms)
3. There’s a (long and) rich confrontation between the murderer and Columbo, who finally catches him/her.
The very strongest is and stays Prescription: Murder.
Not any episode reached the level of the conversation between dr. Ray Flemming and Columbo. (although it’s not the doctor but the young actress who finally crashes.)
Other good confrontations:
– Any Old Port in a Storm
– Double Exposure
– Make Me a Perfect Murder
– Sex and the Married Detective
– Columbo Goes to College
– How to Dial a Murder
– Fade in to Murder
– The Conspirators
– Murder: A Self Portrait
4. (Don’t ask me why, but for me it’s a criterion too) The episode plays in Los Angeles (or with L.A/ people on a boat, sorry: a ship).
Episodes that don’t play in L.A. are less credible (criterion 1) and give to much attention to the local colour (and that’s boring).
5. Strong empathy with one or more of the characters. Mostly it’s the murderer, because the murderer is very present in the episode.
– Joan Allenby (Sex and the Married Detective)
– Vivian Dimitri (Rest in Peace…)
– Harold Van Wick (Playback)
– Sharon Martin (A Stitch in Crime, not a murderer)
Bad examples: there is not any main character you can feel empathy with
– Columbo Cries Wolf
– Columbo Goes to College
– Murder: A Self Portrait
– Murder in Malibu
– Blueprint for Murder (Columbo is loosing his bet)
– Short Fuse
– Make Me a Perfect Murder
– The Conspirators (Columbo is loosing his bet)
– Columbo Cries Wolf (Columbo is loosing his bet)
– No Time to Die (yes, even this one can have some quality)
– Last Salute to the Commodore (we ain’t interested anymore to know who’s the murderer)
– Murder in Malibu (we ain’t interested anymore to know who’s the murderer)
– A Bird in the Hand…
– Strange Bedfellows
– Columbo Likes the Nightlife
7. Strong final scenes
– Death Lends a Hand
– The Most Crucial Game (the clock)
– The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
– Columbo Cries Wolf (the watch)
8. Beautiful landscapes, interesting architecture and sites, pleasant quotes, good music and pretty women
– Murder by the Book (landscape, music)
– Ransom for a Dead Man (landscape, music)
– Short Fuse (industrial and natural landscapes)
– Old Fashioned Murder (the quotes of Oscar Wilde and Victor Hugo)
– Dr. Joan Allenby in Sex and the Married Detective (the way she walks!)
– Vivian Dimitri in Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo
– The Conspirators (L.A.-Harbour)
– Étude in Black (the open air concert)
– Sex and the Married Detective (the Concert Hall)
– several houses (Stahl House, etc.)
9. Unity of style
(Very) good example
– The Most Crucial Game (the sunny sunday atmosphere)
– The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (the open air scene in the park)
– Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (two completely different episodes in one)
10. Bad points for unnecessary complexity
– An Exercise in Fatality (Buddy Castle, what’s his role?)
– Murder in Malibu
– A Bird in the Hand…
– The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (the two assistants)
– Make me a Perfect Murder (the Valerie Kirk-story)
11. Bad points for Cardboardhousing for poor people:
– A Friend in Deed
– Columbo Likes the Nightlife
– Negative Reaction
But when a read the list of all the episodes, there must be other criteria, because there are several good episodes I didn’t mention. For instance: the way Columbo misleads the murderers, the way he uses old and new technologies (telephone!), and son on.
Sorry, I should have written:
One who doesn’t accept the (not so credible) character of Columbo (his car, his cigars), should look at other series!
Cause we, we like it. I’s essential for the series, in which the murderers underestimate Columbo.
Excellent essay. Just one point I disagree with: the scenes between Columbo and Joe Devlin in The Conspirators are at the top of the list for me. I love their exchanges of poetry and the collegial drinking scenes–though they do drink too much–especially the final one, as they watch the Coast Guard boats and planes chasing down the ship with Devlin’s guns.
Very enjoyable post, CP! Way to go the extra mile. I think if you ever saw Trisha Noble (“Playback”) in a cherry print bikini, you might re-think Hottest Female. Just a thought. Keep up the good work! My sympathy is with you as you endeavor to review Columbo’s later seasons.
Yes; and not many may know but Trisha Noble is Australian.
My best episodes are (I know, nobody asked!): Double Exposure, Negative Reaction, A Deadly State of Mind, Double Shock. And for the underrated: Dagger of the mind.
Greetings from Brazil!
Some excellent choices there, Paulo (Dagger of the Mind aside…).
Just goes to show that there is no definitive list of best Columbo episodes. Most people (including me) don’t like Dagger of the Mind much at all. But then i like some episodes that aren’t so popular. Death Hits the Jackpot, Old Fashioned Murder, Lovely But Lethal, Dial Me a Murder and The Most Crucial Game would all be a lot higher on my list than most peoples.
I recently had a conversation with someone who hates The Most Dangerous Match, which i love. It was one of the first Columbo episodes that drew me in as a youngster. Maybe because i play chess. Really not convinced you could have a game of chess with assorted condiments and olives, but it’s a fun scene anyway. The same person actually likes Last Salute to the Commodore, which is something i can’t even begin to comprehend. But there you go. Everybody likes different, thankfully there is plenty of Columbo goodness to go around!
Awesomeness all over as always, Columbophile- you are superb. But no mention of Ransom for a Dead Man? Lady lawyer Leslie Williams is a horrible villain- kills her husband, is greedy beyond measure- to the point of leaving his young stepdaughter Margaret Williams penniless and ends going to prison- leaving Margaret an orphan. 👩🏻🦰 lets see….mother dead (illness) father dead (gunshot) stepmother in prison-hopefully Margaret kept that mansion! My 2 cents….kindly thanks, Ed from the Magic City 🙂
I think we all would agree that these awards are highly subjective, and that many of our own lists may vary considerably from CP’s. None of us is wrong.
I would like to make one comment about one category, however: “most brilliant crime.” Some of the cleverest Columbo murders employ the specialized skills of the murderer’s advertised area of expertise. This includes “Double Exposure,” but also “Murder Under Glass,” “Playback,” “By Dawn’s Early Light,” and others. For me, this puts a chink in the crime’s brilliance. There’s such an obvious link between the “who” and the “how.” Once you have an initial reason to suspect the “who” (and Columbo always does), you have a roadmap to finding the “how.”
This is one reason my vote goes to “Swan Song.” It’s a very clever crime that required expertise, but not in Tommy Brown’s obvious area. Brown’s specialized knowledge is hidden well in his past. This enhances the brilliance, in my view.
My “highly commended” would go to “Murder by the Book” because, while creating a perfect alibi would seem right up a mystery writer’s alley, the episode effectively masks whether Ken Franklin in fact has any expertise in this area at all. Indeed, the evidence that Franklin is not a writer is what provides Columbo with his key to solving the case.
That’s Jessica Walter receiving an Emmy but not for Columbo…she’s an amazing presence for decades
Award for best Columbo blog goes to—-YOU!!!
Hear, hear! The Columbophile rocks👍👍👍
the variety of dodgy wigs used in columbo do warrant a mention in the best supporting actors category, from Milland in a greenhouse jungle to Landaus in double shock and not to mention the character huge caldwell in a friend in deed. There have been some shocking wigs used in the greatest tv programme of all time……
Blimey, deciding on ‘Worst Wig of the Series’ would be an impossible task!
Surely that hairdo of Margaret’s in A Friend in Deed has got to be a wig! She’s Tootsie all over!
I would agree with much of your awards but a few disagreements:-
not many would rate ‘Bye Bye…..’ as their top episode but I understand this was the first episode you ever saw ( mine was ‘Dagger of the Mind!’).
Also I think you over-rate the ad libbed scene with Martin Landau too highly – it goes on a bit too long.
With regard the Hottest female – no mention of Joanna Cameron/Lorna McGrath from ‘Negative Reaction’?
Lorna McGrath is indeed lovely. A top 5 hottie fo’ sho’.
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to notice this oversight. Lorna McGrath was a lovely bit of eye candy.
I would agree with most of these (particularly the recognition of Billy Goldenberg’s music, although ‘Ransom for a Dead Man’ has the edge on ‘Murder by the Book’ in my view, apart from the main theme – I have ‘Ransom for a Dead Man’ on my iPod). However, for ‘Best Episode’ I have to put in a word for ‘A Friend In Deed’. It shows Columbo’s humanity in his befriending of Artie Jessop, his commitment to truth and justice in standing up to Mark Halperin, and the ‘gotcha’ is one of the best.
All these ‘best of’ lists are a bit of fun and we would all do them differently, but I had to play advocate for my favourite ever episode.
I either wholeheartedly agree with, or can at least accept as a reasonable choice, all but 3 of your awards: 1) best episode: I’ve already indicated on numerous occasions that Birdie cannot come close to the top, given how many utterly ridiculous pieces of the puzzle there are (such as dropping the murder weapon in an open garbage can right behind Columbo’s back, or having the murderer and victim shout it out before the murder just above a room of 30 people who all know their voices). 2) best gotcha: Your choice is flawed in that the viewer must go through in his mind when Columbo put on the gloves and whether a good lawyer could argue his way out of this “proof” based on when he could have touched the painting. By contrast, Friend in Deed’s gotcha not only is instantly recognized as incontrovertible proof, but the satisfaction it gives to both Columbo (who would otherwise lose his job in disgrace), and Val Avery to see the cold-blooded murderer who is supposedly the chief crime fighter (who was ruthlessly framed) is triple priceless. 3) best season: To me, season 3, with three top 10 episodes (Friend in Deed, Port in a Storm, Publish or Perish), and three other superb episodes (Double Exposure, Candidate for Crime, Swan Song) out of eight total, must be the best season.
Finally, you left out the most important category of all: the “best written review of a complete episode,” although I can understand why, since there are over 40 superb competitors for the top prize!
Sorry, one line got all messed up. It should have stated: By contrast, Friend in Deed’s gotcha not only is instantly recognized as incontrovertible proof, but the satisfaction it gives to both Columbo (who would otherwise have lost his job in disgrace), and Val Avery (who was ruthlessly framed as the murderer) to see the cold-blooded murderer (who is supposedly the chief crime fighter) caught with his pants down, and to do so thanks to a brilliant trap they set for him in unison, is quintuply priceless.
Re. ‘Finally, you left out the most important category of all: the “best written review of a complete episode,” although I can understand why, since there are over 40 superb competitors for the top prize!’
You silver-tongued charmer, you!