Hopefully regular readers will notice that I’ve upped the number of posts recently as I try to do my small part to help Columbo fans stave off cabin fever during the COVID-19 crisis of 2020.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking I have cabin fever myself when you read this post, though, which takes a tongue-in-cheek slant on that centuries-old pastime of likening folk we know to other people / animals / inanimate objects.
For your viewing pleasure, I have compiled 23 examples of Columbo character lookalikes. Some are purely fanciful. Others will have you convinced you’re seeing double. Hopefully you’ll be mildly amused either way – although I stop short of offering a guarantee.
I’d like to urge fun-hating readers not to take this all too seriously. If it’s sober Columbo writing you seek, here’s an excellent, straight-faced article about life lessons we can all learn from the good Lieutenant. If you’re still here, excellent. Set your phasers for ‘fun’ and forge bravely on…
Mark Ruffalo and Lieutenant Columbo
What better place to start? Ruffalo appeared to be essentially auditioning for the title role in a remake of Columbo after he starred as Inspector David Toschi in acclaimed 2007 motion picture Zodiac. I’m not sure that was the intention, but Ruffalo certainly rocked the mac / tousled hair look and he’s such a fine actor that he’s the only person I would currently trust to inherit the role from Peter Falk.
Ken Franklin and Donald J. Trump
During the 2016 Presidential Election race, Donald Trump was likened to ‘an arrogant televangelist accused of murder by Columbo’ by British comedian Frankie Boyle (here’s the article). Around the same time, musician Michael Penn described Trump as looking like a Jack Cassidy Columbo villain (his views publicised in this tweet by Patton Oswalt).
Is there a resemblance between the 45th President of the USA and one of the most cherished Columbo guest stars of all? I didn’t think so until I saw the above still of Ken Franklin from Murder by the Book where there is at least a slight resemblance given how his hair is styled. That aside, though, the likeness is pretty negligible so I’d appreciate it if fans of Big Jack (of which I am one) don’t give me too much of a hard time.
Roger White and Rowlf from The Muppets
One of the above images is of a lovable, big-hearted, floppy-eared lug. The other is Rowlf from The Muppets – a puppet creation that looks so much like slain Double Exposure projectionist Roger White that only their skin tones set them apart.
Parking Boy Joe and Fred from Scooby Doo
Evidently Freddie saved up for his share in the Mystery Machine by acting as a parking boy at swanky art shows under the alias of ‘Joe’. And why not? He earned TWO BUCKS just for helping Dale Kingston check his car for a lost cuff link. As a result, Joe/Fred was able to secure the down payment on the van in record time in order to head off to a life of exposing sham supernatural crimes with his pals.
Freddie’s role in Suitable for Framing wasn’t quite enough to have Kingston blaming the pesky kid for his ultimate downfall, but his contribution to Columbo’s investigation was not insignificant.
Dr Kepple and Peter Fonda
After roaring through the American south-west following a major cocaine deal in the late 1960s, Bart Kepple used his ill-gotten gains to set himself up as a reputable expert in the field of consumer behaviour. At least you’d be forgiven for thinking that when you consider that Peter Fonda’s ‘Wyatt’ from Easy Rider is an absolute doppelganger for the crooked Kepple.
Thanks to Ben Golomb on Facebook for this one
Grace Wheeler-Willis and ET
Those sweeping, graceful necks, beautiful eyes, pleasant smile and delicate noses means that it would be child’s play to morph dear Grace into the universe’s friendliest extra terrestrial. Or have I totally lost the plot…?
Eddie Kane and Tim Roth
Until he metamorphosised into a grinning puppy dog upon hearing that Riley Greenleaf would publish his book on bombs, psycho hit-man Eddie Kane from Publish or Perish absolutely had the sort of glowering intensity (and floppy locks) that Tim Roth rocked during his Tarantino years. His insane grinning, though, was a terrifying look entirely of his own.
Lloyd Harrington and Maurice Moss
Viewers of Troubled Waters must surely have believed that out-of-love pianist Lloyd Harrington’s giant wedge of curly hair was a one-of-a-kind look, never to be repeated. They’d have been wrong. Just over 30 years after Troubled Waters aired, Harrington’s haircut was resurrected in cult British comedy The IT Crowd – and plonked directly onto the swede of series’ star Maurice Moss.
Thanks to @omokushima on Twitter for this one
Neil Cahill and Willy Wonka
Everyone’s favourite and slightly unhinged chocolate maker bears more than a passing resemblance to Neil Cahill, the shaggy-haired son of murderer Marshall Cahill in Mind Over Mayhem – especially when they both enter pop-eyed yelling mode. Wonka, however, is definitely the snappier dresser. Neil could never pull off the purple top hat look…
Assistant Ross and the Wolfman
It’s not often that an unmasked human could be said to bear a resemblance to one of the legendary Universal Monsters, but Dr Marshall Cahill’s wimpy assistant Ross from Mind Over Mayhem achieves just that. See for yourself! Note the bushy wolfish fringe, the wolfish nose and that bulging, wolfish lower lip. Put simply, once the wolfman’s face is shaved, his identity is plainly revealed to be Ross. And that’s a fact.
Commissioner Mark Halperin and The Master
Doctor Who’s (im)mortal enemy has a beard so evil that none could ever doubt his inherent wickedness. It’s a look shared by another evil-doer – murderous police commissioner Mark Halperin from A Friend in Deed, who was a seriously bad cop, not to mention the heir apparent to The Master’s diabolical galactic schemes.
The Master and Leon Lamarr
We all know that the Master has shape-shifting, regeneration abilities to fall back on in times of catastrophe, so it’s perhaps little surprise to see him pop up again later in the Columbo universe, too.
Here we can see Anthony Ainley version of the mean-spirited Time Lord took up the alias of Leon Lamarr in Death Hits the Jackpot – doubtless with the hope of using his lottery millions to fund some sort of hideous weapon of mass destruction. Thank God Columbo again foiled his dastardly scheme.
Thanks to Twitteratti @FrChrisR and @Antiq_Craft for this one
Margaret Halperin and Tootsie
Just for the record, I am NOT SAYING A Friend in Deed murder victim Margaret Halperin looks like a man in drag. I am saying that Tootsie’s hair and glasses appear to have been styled directly on her.
Graham McVeigh and Fozzie Bear
Tubby McVeigh’s abysmal stick-on beard proves that he has a long way to go before he can be considered a master of disguise. He seems to have found inspiration from another of those rascally Muppets – this time Fozzie Bear. Strange Bedfellows indeed…
Thanks to Susan Dal Dosso for this one
Grace Wheeler-Willis and a scarfed dog
Poor Grace just can’t get no rezpeck, can she? This likeness dates back to September 2016 and a #ColumboTV livetweet event of Forgotten Lady. One of the regulars tweeted the above comparison during the event, and the tweet was so well received that she won the spot prize for best contribution. Admittedly 90% of participants were drunk, but it raised a few smiles – except in the Wheeler-Willis household…
Ken Nicholls and Pink Panther beefcake
Big Ken, the tree-necked former Barbarian lover of Kathy Goodland in Greenhouse Jungle, was all man, boasting a physique as chiselled as a block of marble. After being ditched by Kathy he fruitlessly attempted to impress chicks with his muscular frame at Bicep Beach in Pink Panther episode Come on In! The Water’s Pink (which I heartily recommend viewing here). His whereabouts since then are unknown.
Bertie Hastings and a boiled egg
I never promised this would be highbrow, did I? While the skin tones leave much to be desired, Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case’s diminutive (and ticklish) victim was simply the human personification of the phrase ‘egghead’. Poor Bertie…
NB – Yes, I actually did draw a face on an egg and photograph it specifically for this article. Gotta problem with that?
Miss Cochrane and Michael Jackson
Most folk reckon that the King of Pop’s reconstruction work was done to make him look more like Elizabeth Taylor. I beg to differ. Jacko’s look circa 1995 was clearly inspired by Miss Cochrane, Trish O’Neill’s lovely dog-handler from 1978’s How to Dial a Murder.
Harold Van Wick and Boris Johnson
Bumbling BoJo – the UK Prime Minister, for those with limited political knowledge – must be immensely proud of his blond mop as he’s sported it almost unchanged for well over a decade. But I’d argue that it was worn better some three decades earlier by gadgets kingpin Harold Van Wick in 1975’s Playback.
Abigail Mitchell and Gimli, son of Gloin
Given that she’s the same height as the dwarfish star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Try & Catch Me villainess Abigail Mitchell cements the similarities further with her identikit plait, her chain mail-esque woollen night-dress and her playful approach to killing. Come to think of it, it’s really only her lack of beard and her softer voice that set the two apart.
Beth Chadwick and Strawberry Shortcake
Once Beth Chadwick was freed from police custody after lover Peter Hamilton refused to give evidence against her, she completed her boardroom coup and switched the family business from advertising to toy production. Using her own favourite power-dressing ensemble as the inspiration, Beth created Strawberry Shortcake in her own likeness – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Unnamed detective and OJ Simpson
For a while I was convinced that I’d unearthed a jaw-dropping find from 1973 Columbo outing Lovely but Lethal – in the shape of a young OJ Simpson making a cameo as an unnamed detective at the end of the episode.
Given that OJ was on his way to winning the NFL Player of the Year Award in the same year, I have to admit it’s almost certainly not him – but by gum, they look similar.
Steinmetz and Eric Prince
Notwithstanding the fact they were both played by the same actor, many eagle-eyed fans have noted the striking similarity between Nelson Brenner’s alter ego Steinmetz, from 1975 spy romp Identity Crisis, and Ashes to Ashes’ 1998 Funeral Directors Man of the Year Eric Prince.
Knowing Patrick McGoohan’s penchant for the eccentric, would anyone bet against the assumption that he based his appearance as Prince directly on Steinmetz as a cheeky in-joke? I certainly wouldn’t…
That’s all for now, dear friends. If you can think of other Columbo lookalikes I might have overlooked, please alert me. As serious or silly as you like. If they’re absolute gems I’ll add them into the article and give you due credit. And of the ones I’ve provided, which do you think is the most lookalikey of the lot?
I’m going to have a lie down after all that silliness. Normal service will be resumed presently on the blog with a review of Sex & The Married Detective set to be posted this coming weekend. For those hanging tough in these self-isolating times, I salute you! Keep out of trouble until we meet again…