No sooner had I published my recent article on the possible avenues a hypothetical Columbo reboot might follow, than a virtual rapping sounded at my proverbial door.
If you missed the article (shame on you – read it here), one of the possibilities put forward was a prequel chronicling Columbo’s fledgling years on the force as he worked his way towards becoming the best darn detective in TV history. I conjectured that this could be set in either New York or LA and take place in the late 50s or early 60s.
As it turns out, I’m not the only Columbo super-fan whose mind had turned towards the prospect. Indeed, this particular fan has done a lot more than merely think about a possible prequel. He’s written a complete teleplay intended to kick off a whole new chapter of Columbo’s career – and it’s set in 1957 New York.
“This story offers a tantalising glimpse of how a fresh-faced, young detective made his mark on the world before the ‘shop-worn bag of tricks’ became part and parcel of his persona.”
The fan in question will be known to regular readers as it’s lawyer/playwright/author/former prosecutor/Columbophile blog contributor/all-round Lieutenant lover, Richard Weill. The New York resident is one of the world’s most informed Columbo commentators and one of those people who just seem to be ruddy good at everything they try their hand at.
Rich has written a number of plays over the decades with his most noted, a mystery entitled Framed, earning rave reviews and sell-out performances in 2016. This, combined with his legal background, makes him as qualified as just about anyone to put a younger Columbo through his paces.
His proposed opening gambit for prequel series Det. Columbo, NYPD is entitled Curtains and is a murder mystery set on Broadway featuring an esteemed theatre director who sets up a murderous scheme after finding out that his beautiful actress wife is having a fling with the male lead of his new play.
And while I’m not at liberty to say too much about the actual content of the story, I can say that Rich has done a marvellous job at creating a credible means of introducing our hero. The new detective on the block at the fictional 12th Precinct in Manhattan having earned a coveted assignment to the homicide squad, Columbo has plenty to prove – and plenty to learn. The mystery leaves us in no doubt that the wily Detective Columbo has a promising future but he’s a long way from being the disarming, shabby sleuth with the razor-sharp deductive mind that we know from the 70s.
What impresses most with Curtains is that Rich has managed to convincingly convey a sense of authenticity in the younger Columbo, who speaks and acts just like I’d imagine the character really would have done a decade before his debut in Prescription: Murder. Reading the script, it’s crystal clear that Rich ‘gets’ the essence of the Columbo character just as much as he understands how to craft a good mystery.
Whether Curtains ever gets the chance to see the light of day remains a long shot. There’s no indication that a Columbo reboot of any type – let alone a prequel – is on the cards. However, this story offers a tantalising glimpse of how a fresh-faced and dapper young detective made his mark on the world before the raincoat, the cigar, the wife and the ‘shop-worn bag of tricks’ became part and parcel of his persona. Heck, I’d watch this on stage or read a novelisation of it in a flash and I do think it’s a story fans would really dig.
With that in mind, I caught up with Rich to discuss his prequel, the inspiration behind it and how it fits in around what we already know about the good Lieutenant’s life story…
Rich, what inspired you to write a Columbo script in the first place?
First and foremost, I love stage mysteries. I wrote a popular mystery play called Framed, which premiered in California in 2016, but I’ve been writing plays since 1976, many of which are mysteries of various types. I’ve also authored a World War II-era mystery novel, Last Train to Gidleigh, so writing mysteries, particularly in dramatic form, is something I greatly enjoy.
Obviously, I’m also a huge Columbo fan and I principally look at the show from a writer’s perspective. The quality of the mystery takes precedence for me over direction, acting, music, and the like. It’s one of my great disappointments that I was always at the wrong place in my life when the actual Columbo scripts were being written. In the ’70s, I was still in school; in the ’90s, I was established in a career with a wife and a family on the way. Writing a Columbo script was always something I wanted to do but couldn’t factor in – until now.
Why did you choose to follow the prequel path?
As I see it, a prequel is the best way to bring Columbo back and avoid the long shadow of Peter Falk. Setting Columbo in late 1950s Manhattan puts him in a time and place that Peter Falk never occupied. I’m greatly influenced in this view by the brilliant British series Endeavour, the prequel to Inspector Morse. It’s so well done. And there’s something special about evoking the past so vividly. It’s one reason for Mad Men’s success.
Some may fear that a prequel would be inundated with a flood of background information about the good Lieutenant. But, come on, aren’t there things you’re dying to know? For years, Columbo wore a raincoat in a place where it never rains. Aren’t you curious why? He’s clearly from New York. He tells us his boyhood heroes were members of the New York Yankees (Make Me A Perfect Murder) and he started in Manhattan’s 12th Precinct (The Conspirators). So how did he meet his wife, whose entire extended family is based in Los Angeles?
A Trace of Murder appears to acknowledge that he has only one eye (“Three eyes are better than one.”). If so, how did he ever get on a police force? Sprinkling a few of these tidbits into a prequel can’t do any harm and might prove very interesting to many. As a comparison, Endeavour shows us where Morse’s red Jaguar and house came from.
Character creator William Link has said that when Columbo was conceived “we wanted to keep him almost mythological, he comes from nowhere and goes back into nowhere.” Link was even vehemently against showing Columbo at police HQ but you see inside the police station as early as Prescription: Murder and you see his own office in Any Old Port in a Storm and Now You See Him; and in other offices in A Friend in Deed, Negative Reaction, and A Case of Immunity. That ship has sailed, as I see it.
Moreover, as a young detective, it’s logical that he would be less independent, have visible superiors, and confide in his colleagues differently than he would speak to a murder suspect. You would expect a bit more candor about himself than when he was an experienced detective, working much more on his own.
How did you go about establishing the timeline and fitting it in with what (little) we know about Columbo’s earlier career?
Wanting to move Columbo as far away from the Falk era as possible, I took my lead from a few lines in The Conspirators about the “sainted” Sgt. Gilhooley from New York’s 12th Precinct. As originally presented, Gilhooley was a “desk sergeant,” i.e., a uniformed officer. But the young Columbo has to be a detective. Uniformed officers don’t stick with a case long enough, so desk sergeant Gilhooley had to become Det. Sgt. Gilhooley, Columbo’s direct supervisor in the homicide squad.
I set the show in March 1957 because Columbo served in Korea (Swan Song) and needed enough time thereafter — even if he “worked harder than they did, put in more time, read the books, kept my eyes open” (The Bye Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case) — to work his way up to detective and earn an initial homicide assignment. And it had to precede the 1960s because one reference has him moving to Los Angeles in 1959 (in 1973’s Requiem for a Falling Star, he says he moved to LA 14 years ago). Why would such an NYPD up-and-comer suddenly relocate? I try to hint at that answer, too.
Can you give us a sneak preview of the story?
I wanted to write a classic Columbo story, much like the “perfect Columbo” I described in my article for The Columbophile on the subject. I also wanted to evoke the time and place where the prequel was set. So, I first needed a “perfect villain,” with specialized knowledge and skills, who was also an identifiable New York type (as much as Nora Chandler, Nelson Hayward, and Adrian Carsini were prototypical Californians).
Enter Noel Sheridan, Broadway director. Sheridan’s latest hit play, Vengeance is Mine, stars his wife, Mercedes St. John, and a young English actor making his Broadway debut, Paul Dunleavy. The title of the play refers to its final moment when Mercedes’ character finally breaks free from Paul’s character’s Svengali-like hold over her and shoots him.
Unfortunately, Sheridan — who continues to monitor the play periodically while its Broadway run is underway — spots the signs of a backstage romance between his wife and her co-star. He conceives of a perfect crime: whereby Mercedes will fire a live bullet at Paul at the end of the play (although the stage manager carefully loaded blanks minutes before) — while Sheridan is 100 miles away, trying to help a play with out-of-town problems in Philadelphia. How does he do this? Stay tuned (although I will tell you that the idea came from how one actor actually died in real life).
The episode takes us to a Broadway theater, obviously, but also to the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, to a classic New York delicatessen, and a Times Square appliance store with an episode of The Honeymooners playing on a television set inside (that helps Columbo solve the case). There’s also a subtle allusion to West Side Story, which opened in 1957.
I also tried to incorporate into Noel Sheridan something I love to see in the best Columbo villains (e.g., Col. Lyle Rumford, Adrian Carsini, Oliver Brandt): where the seeds of his ultimate undoing are planted deep in the core of his character. I’ll say no more.
What are the similarities/differences between your younger Columbo and the one we know from the series proper?
The Columbo we know and love is a very talented man. The talent, I believe, always was there. Some of the knowledge wasn’t. The experience wasn’t. The confidence wasn’t. But the talent was. As a result, we see a lot of the same case-solving skills years before Prescription: Murder. Sgt. Gilhooley fills in some of the missing knowledge. Gilhooley, more than anything, tells Columbo to “be yourself,” thereby giving him needed confidence that he’s up to the job without imitating anyone else.
The biggest difference, I’d say, is that the younger Columbo isn’t as crafty and manipulative as his older self. That’s a skill that comes with experience. He has some of it, but not as much.
What are your hopes for your story?
If I could free the genie from the bottle, getting Det. Columbo, NYPD — at least this pilot episode, entitled Curtains — on the air would definitely be one of my three wishes. At a minimum, I’d like to get the script in front of someone who is able to start that ball rolling, get an honest, professional assessment, and let the chips fall where they may.
Getting the word out on The Columbophile certainly is a terrific first step. With your international readership of Columbo devotees, including several very influential followers, your support opens up the possibility that someone will read about Det. Columbo, NYPD here and take an interest. If any readers could help make this happen, I’d be eternally grateful.
If a Columbo prequel were to come to pass, who could you envisage in the role?
I’ve given a lot of thought to casting. The look needn’t be exact. Shaun Evans, who plays the younger Morse, doesn’t look much like John Thaw. But the age and height should be in the general range, and the manner somewhat the same. After considering many possibilities, I settled on Dave Franco (James Franco’s younger brother).
Granted, I’ve never seen him in a comparable role. I wish I could. The movie If Beale Street Could Talk was a big step up for him, which is an excellent sign. Dave is 34 years old (though looks considerably younger and exudes boyish charm, which could serve the character well), and stands 5’7”. In 1968, Falk was 41 years old and stood 5’6”. And allowing for the difference in age and the loss of a Southern California suntan, there is something of a resemblance.
So there we have it, folks. Sounds intriguing, no? Excitingly, since I grilled Rich about Curtains, he’s also drafted a second script for Det. Columbo, NYPD, this one entitled Bumped Off and concerning a wronged game show contestant who takes murderous vengeance against the show’s villainous producer.
Based on the real-life quiz show scandal in New York in the late 50s, it’s so hot off the press that I haven’t had a chance to read it thoroughly yet but from what I have seen, it’s a terrific yarn with a much more sympathetic killer than the dastardly Noel Sheridan.
Should anything come of Rich’s Columbo endeavours, you’ll hear about it here first. Maybe you could even help get it in front of entertainment industry eyes through sharing it with a friend of a friend of that guy/gal who works in TV? You might even be the player in the entertainment world who can help this project along? If you think you can help promote the project or would like to know more details, please speak up or contact me directly. I’ll put you in touch with Rich.
In the meantime, do share your thoughts on whether you think a 50s’ Columbo reboot would hit the spot and, if so, what aspects of the character you’d like to see explored. Until we meet again, so long!
I’m also writing a prequel to columbo, but I’m not as good as this playwright, I’m looking for feedback and maybe, since I’m not a professional, I can give you the ideas I had for a prequel.
Look, how about a construction supervisor who has great ideas for the subway, but his project is rejected by a corrupt bureaucrat, so he plans to kill him in a “construction accident”. Or this other one, a minor mobster plans to make his way into a large gang, but for that he will have to make use of the law of the strongest, I also thought of a chapter in which the murderer is an honest basketball player, who was a victim of a sports council fraud (based on the ccny scandal of 1949-53)
I’m starting to realize that the prequel idea is our best hope for the screen; it’s more practical than hoping a studio would back a new actor as middle aged or senior citizen Columbo. If the prequel doesn’t succeed, I would like to see new Columbo short stories or novellas for sale. I give anyone credit who can write good Columbos. And with the written word, we wont have to imagine anyone except Peter in the role.
As a recent comer to this site, I just came across this post. Congratulations Rich on completing your script! I think the concept sounds fabulous, and Dave Franco makes reasonable sense to me in the lead role. (Too bad Anton Yelchin died, he at least had the hair for it, if not the complexion.) Robert Gorrie or Aneurin Barnard if funding limitations dictate no A-listers? The surplus of chiseled jaws in modern Hollywood sure do slim the pickings. If this was a Columbo parody, I’d pitch Jason Schwartzman. 😉
I won’t pretend to be anything other than a hack so take this with a grain of salt, but I actually wouldn’t mind an abundance of Easter eggs sprinkled in. Obviously you can’t let them sink the story, but the opportunities seem endless. Ex: In ‘Goes to College,’ Columbo instructs students with the line “Don’t share everything you know,” which feels ripe for his mentor Gilhooley to pass down to him in the 50s, word for word even. Or a scene in which he witnesses a fellow cop bluff a suspect into confessing, perhaps with a trick later used in an existing episode. The raincoat, car, wife, etc can all receive origin stories, sure, but the strongest draw to a prequel for me would be watching how young Columbo developed his one-of-a-kind detecting style. Maybe that’s more of a series suggestion than a pilot suggestion.
And I hope you didn’t shy away from humor. When done well, it really does inject life into episodes. Super hard to write, I’m sure. Of course, when if comes to the subtle humor of Columbo, the actor may have to carry that burden to a large degree.
Best of luck with this project. We’re rooting for your success!
Absolute gold–even if I was the first writer to conceive of it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to read “Curtains” this morning and can report that Richard has done an excellent job creating a new sandbox for Columbo to play in. Based on Richard’s contributions to this blog – in particular his superb “Make Me a Perfect Columbo” – I knew that the plot and story elements would be well-done. But I was also impressed with how Columbo’s thought patterns and speech rhythms are duplicated here. This is no easy feat! There’s a fine line between re-creation, imitation, and mockery, but Richard walks that line quite well, and it all feels very authentic and unforced.
My only real issue is with the screenplay’s length – I wanted more! This had the impression of an episode a bit shorter than the best 74-minute episodes, and I think there’s more room for sparring between the lieutenant and the killer. Somehow, I don’t think Richard would have a problem giving more time to this if the screenplay’s production came to pass.
I did think it was a bit much when Sgt Gilhooley walked into the squad room with a tuba and showed Columbo how to play a few notes.
Richard, thank you for letting me have a peek at it and mentally watch a new Columbo episode! (I suppose I should add to CP readers that that I’m kidding about the tuba scene)
How can I see it ir read the script for curtains?
Sister Jean, my offer is open to anyone who can find me (by reading CP’s post carefully). [Interestingly, Debbie and Glenn (cyndis400) each found me a different way.] If you do, and agree not to post the script or share it with anyone who might post it, but will post your reaction (including no spoilers), I will send it to you.
I promise and you can trust me…I am a COLUMBOholic and I told you I net him in 1987 in Chicago where he started in Glengarry Glenn Ross.
I’m sure I can, but I can’t email anything back to you until you first email me.
Do I have your e-mail address?
Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send it to me
Gratefully, Sister Jean Kenny, S.P.
Thank you… I can’t wait to read it.
Sister Jean Kenny, S.P.
Thanks, Glenn. You’re right that the script is a bit shorter than scripts I’ve read for some classic 90-minute Columbos (which are about 75 minutes without commercials). Some of this is due to the fact that this is a reading script, not a final shooting script. Those tend to be longer. But it’s also due to my aversion to padding (and in the modern HBO/Nexflix/Prime era, program length is far more flexible). If the script attracts interest, and additions are warranted, I’m all for including them, assuming that they advance the story and maintain audience interest. There will be no musical instruments, circus regalia, or canine festivities.
I love the prequel idea, which has worked very well with Endeavour, a prequel to the Inspector Morse series. The problem is getting the rights to the character – if that can be done I think it would sell.
I think a Columbo sequel would work. I think it would be nifty if he showed up at the precinct for the first time all clean-cut and was more overt demonstrating his intelligence and Sgt. Gillhooley be the one to mentor him into toning himself down.
How Columbo should first appear, and precisely what influence Gilhooley should have on him, were two subjects that received a lot of attention while writing “Curtains.” My first draft introduced Columbo as a bit of a hothead (akin to the angry Columbo we saw occasionally later), with Gilhooley serving as a calming influence. It didn’t work. Even when I tried to tone down the aggression to a cold stare, it came off as unlikeable. It occurred to me that the angry Columbo of “Prescription: Murder,” “A Stitch in Crime,” “An Exercise in Fatality,” and “Deadly State of Mind” was anger with a purpose — anger born of experience. Inexperienced anger isn’t a feature but a bug, and not an innate character trait I wanted to give Columbo.
Gilhooley remains a calming influence, but in a different way. His example teaches Columbo the importance of silence, how to be a good listener, and to give people enough room to talk freely. (Columbo sometimes calls him: “Father Gilhooley.”) But most importantly, Gilhooley teaches Columbo to be himself, not to copy anyone else, and to trust his own instincts.
Exactly…be true to your inner self all ways
I am dying for more Columbo in my life. I would love, love, LOVE to read this. I’m a trustworthy little soul. Promise not to repost, plagiarise or spoil the contents. Columbo WILL return, and when it does it will be because wonderful people like yourself kept the flame burning. Keep up the sterling work.
Yours in hope. Chris.
Any chance of any of the rest of us getting to read this script, Richard? The more I hear about it, the better it sounds!
Hmmm. I can’t post it online. But if you’re clever, and have read this blog post carefully, you should be able to find my email address. And if you agree not to post the script online (or share it with anyone who might), but will post your honest opinion (without any spoilers), maybe, just maybe …
Gratefully, Sister Jean Kenny, S.P.
I met Peter Falk in Chicsgo in 1987 as he was starring in Glengary Glen Ross!
Wild! What part did Peter Falk play? 🙂
He and Joe Mantegna were the two stars in this play. I got to meet him and gave him a Chicago Bears Suoer Biwl XX tee shirt; he liked it. He was gracious and shorter in stature than I thought he would be.
I support your Columbo prequel 100%.
Sister Jean Kenny, S.P.
OK, I managed to obtain a copy of the ‘Curtains’ script through my cunning wiles. And as Columbophile says, it’s very good! You can definitely see traces of the older Columbo in the younger one from his very first entrance, and I could easily hear Peter Falk’s voice speaking many of his lines.
There are plenty of ‘call-forward’ moments to the future Columbo, where you see the origins of one of his traits or habits. Most of these are unobtrusive but make perfect sense. If I had a criticism here, it would be that there are possibly too many of them crammed into one episode – you want to leave some for future episodes in the series – though I’m sure Rich has considered this as well.
The setup and ‘gotcha’ moment are both relatively simple, but none the worse for that. I also really liked the supporting character of ‘Father’ Gilhooley, and there’s a lot of gentle humour in his interactions with Columbo. He plays a much bigger role than any of the police officers in the original series, but this makes sense given Columbo’s status as a lowly junior detective.
I’ll send Rich an email with more detailed feedback, but overall I liked it a lot. Unfortunately I’m not qualified to offer a ‘professional’ opinion, but speaking personally, I could definitely see this as the basis for a TV series.
Here was my reasoning on the “‘call-forward’ moments”: First, depending on how you define “call forward,” there are only three, one of which is exceedingly brief and another only slightly less brief. Second, a pilot, even if aired, guarantees no future episodes. And third, I see the pilot as the place to deal with these introductory matters and put them behind you. My second script (“Bumped Off”) doesn’t have any, I don’t believe (unless you consider the general development of the character in this category).
If this is to take place in late 1950s NYC, I’d love to see some CGI generated depictions of the old Penn Station and as well as the old Madison Square Garden, which was not located at Penn Station.
Coincidentally, Jon, the old Madison Square Garden (with its famous marquee on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets) is featured in “Curtains.” The old Penn Station is on my list, although by 1957 (when the series is set), its demolition already was in its preparatory stage.
I haven’t read the script, so I’m not sure what 1957 locations are required, but how about those glamorous Big Apple watering holes, The Stork Club, or El Morocco? Chance for some neat theatrical celebrity cameos, paging Nathan Lane and Patti Lupone! (I actually have one of the famous EM ash trays, somewhere.) 21, is still alive, and kicking? I hope, and Columbo passing that row of cast iron jockeys, and raising eyebrows would be a great.treat.
This is Columbo after all, Peter. The third episode has a scene in the old Alamo Chili House on 44th Street between Sixth Ave. and Broadway.
Great idea…millions will tune in and watch. Thank you. When is the pilot of CURTAINS?
Easy now, this has been written but there’s a long road ahead before it would ever reach screens.
Let the process begin! This tv series will be in the MILLIONS!
“Curtains,” actually, is the title of the pilot episode. The show’s name is: “Det. Columbo, NYPD.” When you start cold-calling studio executives, that’s important information to keep straight.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it …..
No one is suggesting that the original series needs fixing. The idea is to add to and complement it, not fix it.
I would love to see a prequel to Columbo.The Endevour series is really good.
I have to say I definitely agree with you about reboots or prequels really work when the original isn’t well known or at least isn’t a iconic classic and the roles weren’t definitive, I mean look at that tired Magnum, PI remake they did instead of just a continuation with Magnum’s daughter which would’ve been perfect for viewers who hadn’t seen Magnum before could watch and still get the original viewers to tune in because its a continuation of a classic series and you could see the original cast back in their parts even if it’s a minor guest spot. But no, the greedy temptation was too strong and now we’re stuck with a totally uninspired fast and furious take on an iconic series that only Tom Selleck and his three co stars defined so perfectly. But I digress… However, I do think if done right a prequel can work so who knows maybe a prequel Columbo could be separate enough yet familiar to work. I’ll take it over a pure reboot any day. No way am I watching another actor play Peter Falk’s Columbo especially if its the race or gender swap thing. I’m a poc who also loves a good female lead but… not a fan of that gimmick which is a GIMMICK only. ‘ahem hot female Higgins, ahem’
I think the move (back) to New York helps give the clear separation you’re looking for. Even Endeavour, a terrific prequel, is set in the same place Morse was (although when Endeavour started, Thames Valley as a police district did not yet exist). The radical change in setting here hopefully adds new interest as well as alters the show’s pace a bit. (The don’t call it a “New York minute” for nothing.)
Whilst I tend to be somewhat averse to prequels – with one or two notable exceptions (the prequel scenes in ‘The Godfather Part II’ for one, also I’m someone who has always believed the ‘Star Wars’ prequels had a dynamite story of real substance to tell, even if the overall execution of the released films was a little… uh… ‘uneven’) – nonetheless a good series with good writing and performances is what counts at the end of the day, so color me intrigued by the above teleplay.
Just one suggestion though; if Sergeant Gilhooley was specifically cited by Columbo as being a desk sergeant, then KEEP him as such… when you unnecessarily retcon something in a prequel, I think you diminish it’s credibility.
Columbo obviously started out as an NYPD uniformed officer, so I would suggest that is where he met Gilhooley, the latter of whom saw the inherent raw talent in the young cadet, took him under his wing as a friend and mentor, and even when Columbo is promoted to Homicide, he still stays in close contact with the world-wise and knowledgeable desk sergeant, who has a knack of knowing everything about everyone, and continues to be a mentor for the future Lieutenant we all know and love.
Just a suggestion, of course…
The Columbo backstory is notoriously inconsistent. In 1990’s “Uneasy Lies the Crown,” Columbo says he’s been on the LAPD for 22 years — which would mean that he joined the force around the time Dr. Ray Flemming was strangling his wife (“Prescription: Murder”). And this script was written by Steven Bochco, who should have known better. So while references to the past provide a rough guide, they’re too contradictory to treat them as gospel.
You could do it that way, but my understanding (though I’m far from an expert) is that NYPD sergeants can sometimes transfer between the uniformed and plainclothes departments. If Columbo did, maybe Gilhooley could have done as well – in fact, maybe that’s how Columbo got his break in the first place.
This is quite exciting and an excellent angle IMO. Good luck!
Damn, I really want to read those scripts now! Unfortunately I don’t know anyone in film or TV.
I believe you mean “Noo Yawk.” 🙂
Hardly anyone drives in New York because, ironically, there’s so much traffic. If they don’t take public transportation they get around by taxi. But let’s say the streets of 1957 New York are a lot less congested, and young Columbo has his own car; he’d probably be driving an old used car, like a 1940 Ford Standard.
Great news! Kudos to Richard Weill! 🙂
Felicity, I agree about owning a car in NYC in those days. It’s not necessary. A car can await Columbo’s arrival in L.A.
Or maybe Columbo could buy his ‘59 Peugeot new to relocate from New York to LA via a long road trip that he wished he’d done as a kid. That could help explain a few dings in the fenders… It could be the first car he’d ever bought, having saved for YEARS to get one, explaining his later pride in the old heap.
Perhaps the car could have been his fathers, maybe his dad was a cab driver, they lived in Little Italy, the 1959 car was originally a yellow cab. Frank Columbo was going to John Jay College. Perhaps the father was murdered which further fueled his ambition. After several years in NYC, he said goodbye to Mama and his sisters and with their blessings and encouragement headed off to LA, with that yellow cab, repainted grey, the car means so much to him. Quick someone, I need an agent. Stop laughing this is how Levinson and Link started. Maybe even see him dating various women given the audience the chance to think is that The Mrs. Columbo?. We all know that he was not the smartest in the class, and we also know he worked the hardest. Perhaps having him use a New York City diner, as a base, and the waitress owner takes a liking to him. Him constantly running off to a case, and she packing up some hard boiled eggs for him to take on the road. Or a running joke of him hungry getting a call for a case, and him having to run, and this grabbing chilli to eat.
That’s exciting news! I’m also a fan of Richard Weill’s contributions here, and hope to see this produced or published in some form someday.
I’m very much on Link’s side as far as background information about Columbo goes. Keep the focus on the villain as much as possible. Yes, Columbo comes to dominate as the episode goes on, but that happens in tandem with the villain losing control either to a crisis of conscience or, as in “Ransom for a Dead Man,” to a helplessness that comes from not having a conscience and not being able to understand people who do. That does leave room for some light touches about Columbo himself, but please, no multi-episode development arcs.
Thank you, Acilius. Your frequent “likes” appended to my comments haven’t gone unnoticed.
About “multi-episode development arcs,” while I’ve only written two episodes thus far, each is independent of the other. The pilot has a few light touches of biographical insight (that I doubt a new viewer would even recognize); the second episode is much more mainstream. Even Gilhooley’s role has been reduced. The only multi-episode theme is the sights and sounds of New York City in the late 50’s. (Episode 2 features the DuMont Building (which used to house a TV network), the Manhattan DA’s Office, the New York General Post Office (with its “Neither rain nor snow …” facade), and the New York Public Library (the one with the twin lions bracketing the entrance).)
Sounds fantastic! Unfortunately my only Hollywood connection is my niece’s husband, who produces low-budget horror movies. Doubt he’d be much help!
New York Public Library and Bryant Park great locations.
Is the public library where the first ghost is encountered in Ghostbusters?
I don’t know CP; but it’s a fabulous building. Was there in 2016. Having worked in the Melbourne State Library for many years I had to see the NYPL.
I always look forward to reading Richard Weill’s posts here on the CP blog because his comprehensive knowledge of Columbo results in insightful ideas that provoke further contemplation of whatever the topic under discussion was. I think our beloved detective is in trustworthy hands and I hope someone will be useful in bringing to production the script described above. The only caveat is that Mr. Weill retain significant control over what is done with his product. We don’t want an idiot like Riley Greenleaf getting his paws on it.
Many congratulations Richard, on writing your play, I sincerely hope we will get to see it performed. I’d love to see the result! As suggested by PKING, maybe this is something for Steven Moffat to look at?
I most definitely don’t want to impose, but if you ever feel a Dutch writer and theatre director could be of any assistence to you regarding your play, please let me know.
That depends, David. Do you have an “in” at Universal Studios, who evidently still owns the rights to the character? I wonder if anything could be performed publicly, even in a Dutch theater, without Universal’s permission.
Alas, I don’t have an in at Universal I’m afraid. I do have a few suggestions as to some actions you could take and, if you’d like to read them, I’ll see to it that they find you. But again, feel free to ignore everything I tell you.
I welcome all suggestions. If you send them to our host, I’m sure he will get them to me.
How about the Steve Moffat that frequents this site and CP actully communicates with? And, a little young but I suggest Thomas Barbusca for the part.
Mercedes is by far the most popular car for Columbo-vilains. 19 murderers in 69 episodes have one, much more than whatever other car.
I’m glad there will ve a “Mercedes” in “Curtains” too. 🙂
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the ritzy, space-age NYC Mercedes-Benz show room, with turn-table displays.(that could have held art critic Ross Martin’s classic 300 saloon,new) I think Max Hoffmsn was the distributor that made the then exotic MB mainstream, and was responsible for public (rich!) access to the fabulous 300 SL gullwing. Later Columbo villian Jackie Cooper, owned one in “real life.” I understand the 1969? 280SE cabriolet, used in the 1971 pilot , and the Patrick O’Neal episode was actually actor Jack Cassidy’s car.
I’d love to see more from the Columbo universe and if it is to be done a prequel would be the way forward. A modern day Columbo wouldn’t work with all of the latest technology and I wouldn’t want anyone else replacing Falk.
I can tolerate a prequel though as we’ve never seen this version of the character. Furthermore who wouldn’t want to see 1950s New York on screen?
Rich certainly respects and knows more about the series than most. Who better to do a new Columbo programme than a super fan? It could very much work.
I think Richard’s on to a great idea there and can’t wait to read it – Perry Mason is about to come back on HBO, and that is a kind of prequel as it’s set in the 1930s (when the original books were written I believe – I’m no expert on Perry Mason so forgive me if I’m wrong) so it may help start a trend for prequels for T.V. detectives.
Funnily enough I’ve been working on a few ideas for a new Columbo script – must be the lockdown!
No. No. No. No. No
The temptation to revive a franchise is always strong, And it can work if the original wasn’t that good, the original leading cast not definitive and the departure from the original is large. That gives the new a chance to shine in its own right escaping easy comparison.
Battlestar Galactica was an example of a reboot vastly better than the original.
But such an example is very rare. Endeavour is good in its own right, but is it is always not quite Morse. Star Trek spin offs work best when they avoid comparison with the original.
But Columbo was Iconic, and it’s leading actor entirely identified with the part. The only way the viewer would avoid comparison would by never having seen the original.
Columbo is a body of work that stands complete and of itself.I will never get bored of Any Old Port In A Storm, and I need to know nothing about his young life to enjoy it or explain it more. Indeed the worst mistake such reboots, sequels and prequels do is to fill in a backstory that requires no exposition, and risks worsening the audience relationship with the character in question.
A big exception is probably the Star Trek franchise. That original series will always stand on its own, but the following series all added needed gist to the classic cannon.Hello Jean Luc Picard! I have never really liked, or enjoyed seeing the original characters in often unrecognizable “prequel” mode.But it obviously sells.