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Five best moments from Negative Reaction

Columbo's car
Picking up or dropping off, Lieutenant?

One of the very finest examples of a longer-running Columbo episode that never feels padded, Negative Reaction is one of the series’ most successful – and rib-tickling – outings.

The vein of humour running through it is so rich that this is surely the funniest episode of them all, with Peter Falk given multiple opportunities to show off his comic abilities. All the fun, however, masks a dark and dastardly double homicide, making the atypical casting of comedy clown Dick Van Dyke as photographer Paul Galesko particularly chilling.

There are countless moments to treasure in this one, making it one of the most rewarding episodes to watch time and again, but what are its very finest moments? It’s an extremely tough call, but my top 5 scenes are below…


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5. The final insult

Columbo Frances Galesko
Frances Galesko – a PhD in Fishwifery

Frances Galesko hardly endears herself to viewers during her few on-screen minutes, her ceaseless nagging at and chiding of husband Paul painting a miserable picture of their life together.

However, when faced with her husband tying her to a chair in the dust-filled ranch, and then menacing her with a gun, she goes down fighting even squeezing in one last insult before he squeezes the trigger when she queries whether this is all an attempt to scare her with some “new-found masculinity”.

It’s only at the very last moment that we finally see terror in Frances’s eyes as she realises her husband is in earnest about slaying her in cold blood. And of course this means that the ‘divine Revere tea set’ Frances had her heart set on from the auction at Lilleby’s will be heading somewhere other than Galesko HQ.


4. Lovesick Dog

In a classic unsettling move, Columbo ends a meaningful conversation with Galesko with some utter drivel – this time spinning a yarn about how he’s taking Dog to the vet to help cure his broken heart since the cocker spaniel next door moved away.

Columbo’s suggested solution to the problem is to ask one of the world’s leading photographers whether he has a snap of a cocker spaniel lying around so a pin-up can be made to ease Dog’s love pangs. As one might expect, a disbelieving Galesko cannot assist.

It’s a ridiculous moment on paper, but Falk plays it so earnestly that it really warms the heart, while Van Dyke’s reaction, which is just the right side of polite incredulity, is spot on. An underrated gem of a scene.


3. The trying nun

Columbo Negative Reaction nun
Why is this nun’s collar obviously made of paper?

The funniest Columbo episode of them all delivers another scene of comedy gold as the scruffy Lieutenant is mistaken for a hobo by a saintly nun at St Matthew’s Mission.

Seeking information from alcoholic down-and-out Thomas Dolan, Columbo instead runs into the Sister of Mercy, who tuts at his appearance – especially the state of his treasured raincoat (that coat, that coat, that coat…), which she makes her mission to replace, stat.

A bowl of stew is foisted upon the bemused detective before his protests can be heard, and he adopts an ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ approach as he spoons it down. Finally encountering the now-sober Dolan, Columbo is again interrupted by the nun, who tries to push a new coat onto him before staring wide-eyed in amazement when he reveals he’s a police officer, and lavishing praise on his appearance, which she believes is a disguise.

Boosted by superior comic turns from Joyce Van Patten and the ever-watchable Vito Scotti, this scene is pure delight from start to finish. Critics could argue that, ultimately, the scene has no pay-off, because Dolan can’t help Columbo with his enquiries. But when TV is as entertaining as this, it really doesn’t matter.


2. Crossing the moral boundary

Columbo Negative Reaction ending
“I feeeeel good! (diddle-diddle-diddle-did), I knew that I would…”

The gotcha here isn’t the first time we see Columbo employing suspect tactics to get his man (plant evidence much in Death Lends a Hand, Lieutenant?), but the conclusion to Negative Reaction is so good because it gives us genuine insight into just what Columbo is willing to do in the line of duty – and how he feels about having done it.

First, he deliberately develops a reversed version of the key photographic evidence in order to blow Galesko’s alibi. He then openly lies to Galesko about how he’d accidentally destroyed the original photo by dropping it in acid, forcing the desperate snapper to grab the incriminating camera that Columbo has cleverly placed in plain sight behind him. The trap is sprung. Only the killer could know which camera was used. Galesko, stunned, realises he’s done himself in.

Despite ultimately achieving his aims, this is a Pyrrhic victory for Columbo who knows he has crossed a moral boundary to close the case. Note how he avoids Galesko’s gaze and even mumbles an apology, while his slump-shouldered reaction at the closing freeze-frame says it all.


1. Livid Larry

Columbo’s encounter with Larry Storch’s irate and irritable driving instructor, Mr Weekly, never fails to delight.

When we meet Weekly, he’s furious at the roadside after a driving test he was overseeing went horribly wrong, leaving the car in need of towing and Weekly in need of a lift back to his office. What he didn’t need was time in the car with Columbo – a man not known for his careful driving or the road worthiness of his vehicle.

Weekly predictably finds fault with every aspect of the process and when Columbo nearly collides with a car pulling out from a side street, his shattered nerves can take it no longer. “Pull over!” he insists, dabbing his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief and deciding to walk back to the office to avoid spending another second in Columbo’s shabby Peugeot.

Even though the scene does little to push the plot forward, it’s a wonderful and well-paced 5 minutes of screen time that I suspect was largely ad libbed and that gives both stars the chance to flex their considerable comedic muscles.

“Columbo’s encounter with Larry Storch’s irate and irritable driving instructor never fails to delight.”


Whaddya think, gang? Is your favourite moment here, or is it creating a scandal by its omission? Let me know your thoughts below.

If you’re gagging for a more in-depth analysis, read my episode review here. And if you’d simply LOVE to remind yourself of the episode’s enduring excellence you can watch the full episode in HD right here!

Until next time, compadres, keep outta trouble and keep enjoying Columbo!


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62 thoughts on “Five best moments from Negative Reaction

  1. This is the episode I probably re-watch more than any of the others from the classic era. In addition to Dick VanDyke and Larry Storch still kicking in their 90’s (as of today), Antoinette Bower (Frances Galesko) is 88, Joyce Van Patten (Sister of Mercy) is 86, David Sheiner (Paul’s buddy Ray) is 92, and several others of the cast lived well into their 80’s, with Don Gordon (poor Alvin Deschler) passing at 90 several years ago.

    Vito Scotti is in top notch form in this one. My favorite line: “that is the prevailing theory” when Columbo asked what the mystery meat was that he was woofing down at the homeless mission. Scotti’s facial gestures and body language in both of his scenes was exquisite. I use “that is the prevailing theory” line as a smart a$$ answer to people’s questions occasionally. They must think I’m nuts. I love the way that Scotti could juxtapose being a ‘drunk as a skunk’ skid row bum, while waxing eloquently like a gentleman of classic breeding during his brief, lucid moments of sobriety. The way he stands when the Sister comes by him, reflects middle class ethics during his formative years. Columbo sees that in him and respects him for it.

    I also liked Mike Lally pointing the mission out to Columbo, then brushing him off, as he imagines he’s looking through a telescope. Columbo looking for an ashtray, then putting his ashes in his jacket inside Galesko’s house is another rib tickler. It’s also ironic that VanDyke called Vito Scotti’s character “the wino”, when in real life, VanDyke had recently stopped drinking himself after 15 years.

    I believe this episode and the one with Roddy McDowall are the only Columbo episodes where the murderer is seen in a dark room. (I still want to see those ‘special pictures’ that Roger Hanover (McDowall) took of Anne Francis…..but I digress). Joyce Van Patten was excellent in this episode, as opposed to her starring role in “Old Fashioned Murder”.

    Miss McGrath was of course delicious looking. I really hoped that Galesko would get away with it and jet to the Philippines with the “very…professional” Miss McGrath, after he offed Frances with the 9mm Luger.

    The only negative about this episode is Sgt. Hoffman acting like he’s in charge of Columbo several times, when Columbo out-ranked him. That’s the one thing that taints an otherwise classic episode.

     
    • I think you are correct about the darkroom, Columbo does deal with the wedding photographer in No Time to Die, but in the studio, not the darkroom (the prints are brought out from the darkroom.
      Darkroom scenes in films always work well, the black and red image being quite striking. Curiously, as a frequent darkroom inhabitant myself, I can attest to the rarity of red light (in fact i’ve never used it), most of us use amber which is safer for more modern papers and easier to work in for long periods, red making your eyes feel like they are popping out after 20 mins or so, red goes back to the early days of photography and stuck in the publics mind.

       
    • I take your point about Sgt Hoffman. I think he’s a sharp, respected officer who knows Columbo’s reputation as a sharp, respected, but shambolic officer, and feels he needs some “by the book” guidance. But he’s the definition of deference when compared with the grumpy Sgt Kramer, whose attitude to the Lieutenant borders on insolence.

      Bruce Kirby started out as a grumpy janitor in Lovely, but Lethal, gets promoted to recurring character as Kramer, then becomes a grumpy TV repairman in Make Me a Perfect Murder. He reappears as Kramer in some of the later episodes, being the closest Lt Columbo got to a sidekick (apart from Dog).

       
  2. Ok here are 5 reasons why i skip the most dangerous match versus negative reaction on a typical sunday

    Most dangeros match
    Poor motive , i dislike chess and have no understansing at all but i wouldnt kill over it blah blah
    I dislike the dream sequences full stop
    Why did dog suddenly run up the steps after doing nothong all along too conveineient

    Any cut automatic cut off switch would be clearly marked and labelled on any industrial
    Hazardos machine post 60s and to boot emmet clayton is a bore and dosent interact with columbo, please tell me how the fatal dosage got in and amimisterd from outside the hospital as was stated and the ending is poor
    I will contrast this with negative reaction tomorow which is a far far better episode all around good night .

     
    • Have to agree, Laurence Harvey was a great actor, taken too young, but his intense, brooding style doesn’t really make for an engaging Columbo baddie. The poor guy was seriously ill when he made the episode, which also impares this performance I think

       
      • I think what matters to the Laurence Harvey character is not really the chess, but the prestige and fame that goes with being world chess champion, and being able to show everyone else how superior he is to them. Laurence Harvey was a fine actor. There has been discussion elsewhere of poor acting in Columbo in Dagger of the Mind, which I have defended as good actors playing bad actors. Laurence Harvey overacts when he’s persuading his opponent to write the letter, but this is deliberate, as it is the character who is being insincere. I have always wondered about why Laurence Harvey appears to change his shoes while on the elevator. I assume that there was a lunch break between him stepping on and stepping off, and the actor was wearing his own shoes.

         
      • Harveys performance is good enough here but for me its theoverall quality of the actual plot , murder and gotcha that lacks along with the element of humour that is missing which often contributes to a top tier episode which this for me just, isnt but its certainly not a poor episode .

         
  3. Identity crisis also has funny moments in particular the ending where the chineze re entred the games at brenners expence and nailed him but i dont find that face off at the jetty funny at all in
    Dead weight in fact after watchimg swan song twice this weekend ts an episode so good and johnny cash is brilliant and ida lupino plus the whole aviation theme as an ex pilot myself i could go into but i wont solid clues and the gospel songs and everything else
    Swan song is a top top top episode
    And shouldnt even be compared with dead weight or the most dangerous match wich are i took a bath while were on soory but lets hope cp gets agenda for murder reviewed soon as its very memorable and one to watch on a sunday a much better new one as mc goohan is very good inthis and sarcastic as always .

     
  4. The closest we got to see columbo in court was when he interrupted a trial in muder of a rock star while investigating , which was a rather funny scene .

     
    • You’re right. It’s annoying that we don’t get to see if that man was cleared or convicted of killing his mother. And I think we also see Columbo in court in Ransom For A Dead Man and Lady In Waiting, but he’s never a witness.

       
  5. Negative reaction is a very enjoyable , funny and also serious at times episode well written , dick van dyke superb and there is very little if anything wrong with it and is right up there with the with the best of the seventies run

     
    • Definitely a type 5 for me. Great villain and gotcha moment. Plus, just the way Galesko keeps thinking on his feet to counter each new Columbo accusation makes it a distinctive Columbo.

       
  6. You can argue anything in court. That’s why it’s never a good idea to review Columbo episodes through the “what might happen in court” lens.

     
    • It’s a shame that we never get to see Columbo in court. Does he have a smart suit? Does he behave the same way as when he’s investigating the case? Of course, when he takes the stand, he would have to confirm his full name . . .

       
      • I can see a wonderful crossover idea developing here, forget Alien vs Predator or Batman vs Superman – Columbo vs Perry Mason!

         
        • There are so many cross overs that would have been fun to watch. I would have loved to see Quincy turn up as the ME in a columbo episode, or Columbo travel to New York and encounter Kojak

           
          • Wow! What have I started? I love crossovers, and Columbo and Kojak would have been a good one. The shows have very different styles of course, but given that Lt Columbo was originally from New York, he might well have known Lt Kojak when they were both beat cops. Quincy would be a good, logical choice, and the styles of the shows were similar.

            My contribution would be Columbo going to San Francisco and helping Commissioner McMillan and Sgt Enright solve a case, whilst flirting with Sally McMillan, who finds him adorable. Columbo and McMillan both have wives who help them with their cases, but have very different styles (as hinted at in the Rock Hudson references in “Publish or Perish” and “Uneasy Lies the Crown”).

             
            • Interesting point you make about Columbo going to San-Francisco. The show had several “fish out of water” type episodes, but none with Columbo travelling inside the US, if I remember correctly. Does anyone know why? Did producers ever contemplated something like this? Or was it seen as “jumping the shark” moment to be avoided?

               
              • Columbo does briefly leave his jurisdiction in Los Angeles to go to other parts of California in “Murder By The Book” and “Short Fuse”, but he is on official business and cooperates with the local force.

                I think the nearest he gets to travelling inside the US is “Double Shock”, where he visits Las Vegas with Dexter Paris for a few hours.

                Columbo in Canada might have been good, in a “Due North” kind of way. (As I recall, Canadians successfully campaigned for their police to read arrested people their rights after they saw Kojak doing so in NYC every week).

                 
                • Interesting, we in the UK have had our rights read since 1912 in the form of:
                  “You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so but what you say may be put into writing and given in evidence.”
                  Although Canada became a country in 1862 it didn’t finally leave all aspects of UK control until 1982 (The Canada Act finally ended all ties) so I’m surprised they didn’t follow our “right reading” procedure from early on, I know the Australian police had close links to Scotland Yard and the home office right up until 1980 at least (they called the Yard on the Azaria Chamberlain case in 1980 and several cases in the 70’s).
                  It would be rather cool if Kojak inspired the Canadians to read rights though!

                   
                  • Yes, I’m sure I read that about “Kojak”. Perhaps someone in Canada can corroborate this? Kojak was probably the most realistic of the ’70’s US cop shows and did arrests “by the book”, even if he did add “Who luvs ya baby?”.

                     
            • I always thought it would have been great if Jack Klugman had played the ME in Uneasy likes the crown, they could either have done it with him un-named simply referred to as “doc” or I could have invisiged a Quincy Cameo, he would have done the “man you’re nut’s” bit after Columbo tricks Wesley, Columbo and Quincy would then walk off down the corridor of the Morgue, Quincy saying to Columbo, “i’ll buy you dinner at Danny’s”, but just as they go to leave Quincy is accosted by Asten who needs him to stay and work, Columbo would say something like “another time doc, see ya around” and walk off solo down the corridor whistling nik nak.

               
    • If we were to argue “what might happen in court”, well, pretty much every “Columbo” bad guy would get an acquittal.

       
      • Unlike “Dragnet” we never know what happens to the killers after Columbo arrests them, but I think the inference is that they always get convicted. Columbo saying “You’re under arrest sir/ma’am” is as good as Jack Lord saying “Book ‘im Danno. Murder one!” i.e., you’re going down pal.

        But there is a lot of wriggle room here. It took me a while to realise that California has the death penalty, so the killers are fighting for their own lives here. It seems pretty likely that Dale Kingston did indeed go to the gas chamber, given that he committed two deliberate, cold blooded, premediated murders, motivated by greed and jealousy.

        At the other end of the scale, we have Abigail Mitchell, who also committed a deliberate, cold blooded, premeditated murder, but one motivated by grief and justice for her niece.

        As she says, she is an old lady and otherwise quite harmless. She doesn’t attempt to kill the person who is blackmailing her, she had no accomplice to dispose of and she didn’t try to frame anyone. I like to think that Abi got a light sentence and wrote a successful play based on “Murder By The Book”.

        I think we can assume that Paul Galesko falls into the Dale Kingston camp, and Lorna attends his funeral in the same outfit she wore to Mrs Galesko’s.

        Do we have the basis for a whole new thread here? What happened to the killers after they were arrested, and what happened to the innocent people involved in the cases?

         
        • I quite like the idea that Joe Devlin is extradited back here to blighty (as his terrorist offenced trump bumping off a South American gun runner), serves a sentence at the notorious Maze prison before being released under the Good Friday agreement, and would by now be a respected Sinn Fein MP.

          Had there been any more episodes after “Likes the Nightlife” you could have had Columbo encountering him again on an away day in the Emerald Isle, that would have been fun, Clive Revill is a great actor, still with us at 90!

           
          • That’s a plausible outcome for Joe Devlin. Whatever happens to the killers after they are arrested, I think we can assume that, one way or another, they won’t be doing any more killing. They only time we ever find out what happens to a killer arrested by Columbo is in “Rest In Peace Mrs Columbo” but we never saw the original case.

             
  7. I do love the #1 pick with Larry, but I would have Vito in the food bank in the top 5 (maybe include that with Van Patton)? I also would put like the junkyard scene with Vito as well (all too short). Plays a great drunk…

     
      • I like all his perfomances very much,except for his role in murder a self portrait which he has more screen time not that theres anything wrong with it i just dont like the script and charachters much or the entire episode for that matter , I was hoping i would enjoy it last sunday after not seeing it for ages more than i expected to but i didnt
        in fact i found it unbearable at times and the acting is very b list and I didn’t enjoy the dream sequences .

         
  8. The lovesick dog scene isn’t drivel. Columbo was telling Galesko that even a dog misses another dog more than Galesko misses his just murdered wife (whom he says he was madly in love with but obviously displays no loss). Columbo was telling Galesko that he sees through him.

     
  9. Dick Van Dyke was not only a villainous character he was a sociopath too, lets not forget how easily disposable ex con Alvin Deschler was to Galesko. His character Paul Galesko couldn’t care less about killing someone to advance his own ends. I think adding humorous elements, even if they didn’t move the plot along in anyway gave the show a lot of charm. I remember that it was something that you would look forward to back in the day. Simply a great episode and Vito Scotti shows his versatility as a down on his luck drunkard.

     
  10. No argument with scenes 1 through 4. For scene 5, however, I would nominate the scene where Columbo comes to Galesko’s office bringing a pile of crummy snapshots he took, with one addition: the discarded Polaroid of Mrs. Galesko rescued from the cabin fireplace. It’s a classic example of Columbo pointing the finger of guilt directly at his suspect, and not doing so, all at the same time. When Columbo extracts Galesko’s critique of the discarded photo, and then says, “I guess Mr. Deschler’s like you. … I mean, a perfectionist like you. Otherwise, why would he take another one?” — priceless.

     
    • I agree. I was wondering why that moment was left off, it was a key moment in Columbo getting the suspect to confirm his suspicions.

       
  11. These Are definetley the 5 best moments , The funeral scene is also guite emotional and funny and also gives a little insight what Frances was like as Lorna mcgrath says to Paul I know what she did too you and from what we seen at the start she was pretty controlling reminiscent of Edna brown swan song which is also a top top episode . columbos entrance at the junkyard where the officer mistakes columbo for a customer is also funny but the ones listed are definetley the elite 5 .
    Coincedentley Negative reaction aired 0n 5 USA last Sunday exactly the same day this article was published along with true greats publish or perish , swan song Now you see him and Troubled waters , Fantastic .

    This is an episode that i enjoy more and more every time i watch it and i Rate this very highly and comfortably makes my overall top 10 and is right up there with My other 2 favorites Try and catch me and Swan song ( on another note murder a self portrait was on
    the only new one scheduled last sunday and I hadnt seen it for like ages and watched it with an open mind but I did not enjoy it in the least bit sadly, a load of tripe from start to finish , Not for me but Cps next review of Agenda for Murder and Uneasy lies the crown will be cracking 2 of the much better new ones .

     
  12. I hope it’s all right to leave a link to an article that has nothing to do about this episode at all. But here’s a GQ interview in which Matthew Rhys, after being asked about the new “Perry Mason”, tells a charming story about working with Peter Falk on the last ever Columbo, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”. Maybe The Columbophile can link to it later when reviewing the last episode.

    https://www.gq.com/story/matthew-rhys-perry-mason-interview

     
      • I have to say, after years of watching Matthew Rhys on “The Americans”, it was pretty amazing to finally get to the end of my DVD set and listen to Rhys in his native Welsh accent. And it’s even cooler to read that it was Peter Falk who decided that Rhys would use his own accent.

         
    • I’ve been meaning to mention how great Matthew Rhys is as Perry Mason and I’m not surprised Peter Falk seemed impressed with him too, thanks for sharing the interview.

       
  13. I have watched the ending of this scores of times. I love the fact Columbo apologises and can’t look Galesko in the eye; an insight into how he feels about bending the rules to catch a dangerous killer.

    I think it’s a shame Dick Van Dyke didn’t get to play more villains; his performance in this was legendary.

     
    • Dick Van Dyke as a villain? Check out the first episode of Matlock (1986). Not the pilot movie, the first episode of season 1.

       
    • Apology? Uh, no. Bending the “rules”? Nope. Because he says “Sorry, Sir”? He caught the murderer and broke no laws in the process. Nothing to be sorry about. And he did look at Galesko.

       
  14. Great episode, great acting by all!

    Does anyone else remember Joanna Cameron (Lorna McGrath)as Isis- Egyptian heroine who said, “OH MIGHTY ISIS!”. This was on in 1975-1976 in the U.S. and sometimes was part of the Shazam/Isis hour.

    I agree with CP top 5 momemts but also have to give a shout out to the funeral scene with Columbo trying to take pictures inconspicuously. Epic fail. I found all the roses in this scene to be just breath taking. I gind that many Columbo’s have some of the most beautiful scenery.I also love Van Dyke’s reaction to the pictures later. Priceless! 😎

     
    • For all Lorna McGrath fans (I love her “Judy Jetson” voice) the only problem with Negative Reaction is that we don’t get to see Lorna more often.

      Here in the UK, I don’t think we ever got the SHAZAM! or The Secrets of ISIS TV shows, but we did get the DC comic book versions in the 1970’s.

      Over 30 years later, I finally saw the lovely Joanna as Isis when I got an imported R1 DVD in 2007. I thought at first that it was copying the format of the Wonder Woman TV series that starred Lynda Carter, but I eventually realised that it was made before Wonder Woman, which may have taken part of it’s inspiration from Isis.

      As Isis, Joanna wore a short, sleeveless white dress, showcasing the charms we enjoyed in “Negative Reaction”.

      When she later appeared in the 2-part Spider Man TV episode “Deadly Dust” (released theatrically as “Spider Man Strikes Back) Joanna is first seen in a short, white tennis outfit, in what I assume was a reference to Isis, but also showcased her charms again.

      And there’s a real treat when she appears later in a white bikini! It’s got something to do with her not being able to conceal a weapon, but also because the villain likes girls in bikinis.

      Oh yes, and Dick Van Dyke was good in “Negative Reaction” too.

       
  15. Larry Storch was superb in his role, he and Falk were hilarious together. Also Dick Van Dyke is 94 years old and still going strong, amazing.

     
        • It was quite common for actresses to make their birth date a mystery or trim a few years off, she obviously isn’t confirming when she was born. As her dad was variously a real estate broker and teacher (both professional occupations) and Jewish I find it hard to believe neither NY state or her synagogue hold a birth certificate or record – could simply be the paperwork was never filed properly, by the 20’s record keeping in New York was pretty good I imagine.
          Anyhow, you never ask a lady her age!

           
  16. I’m somewhat leery of the phrase “funniest Columbo episode” – “Last Salute” tried to be funny, and we all saw the carnage from that one. Rather, I’d instead say that “Negative Reaction” had the most artful and effective use of its filler time.

    We know that padded Columbos generally lose quality, but if the extra added minutes are used creatively and with purpose, they don’t have to seriously detract from the whole episode. Filler time that uses humor will work if the funny comes from the quirks of Columbo’s character. Just looking at what CP posts as clips or photos from “Negative Reaction” points to Columbo’s appearance, driving ability, Dog, and his Peugeot. This can be overdone, of course, but a deft touch to these can give us humor and some character insight.

    Filler time shouldn’t just use comedy. The house visit Columbo pays to Alex Benedict in “Etude in Black”, doesn’t seem to serve any real purpose, but it does give Columbo an extra chance to needle his target, and puts a focus on the class differences between the two. (Note: This scene was filmed weeks after the rest of the episode when the run time was extended). Or, we can get insight into the villain, which is how several scenes with Kay Freestone are treated in “Make Me a Perfect Murder”. They might also nudge the plot along, which I would note happens in the soup kitchen scene, because Columbo finds out that he now can’t rely on Vito Scotti to confirm his account about the gunshots.

    Contrast those types of filler scenes with ones that serve no real purpose at all. Choose any from this list: Columbo pushes buttons, plays the tuba, waits for a computer readout, squeezes into his car while it gets driven around in circles, at the dentist, “Volaaaaare”…..Feel free to contribute your own!

    For me, the best Columbo humor comes from the small offhand throwaway lines or moments, and not from entire filler scenes (even if they do have Vito Scotti). C’mon, Columbo cracking an egg with the murder weapon in “Stitch” should’ve been a Top 100 moment! But “Negative Reaction” does skillfully turn the downside of extra episode padding into a virtue.

     
    • The house visit in “Etude in Black” does serve a purpose. It shows Columbo just how much Alex Benedict had to lose if his mistress had made him divorce his wife. Interesting that it was added some time later. Did they have to hire Pat Morita specially? That could explain why we don’t see him anywhere else in this episode, or Blyth Danner in this scene.

       
  17. My wife and I have been binge watching Columbo episodes on Peacock and recently saw this one. Definitely a gem. Just wanted to comment…. oh just one more thing… only take a second…. not where did I leave that comment… oh yes here it is. We love Columbo. We love your blog as well.

     
  18. This episode just happens to be on 5USA right now. When Al asks Galesko if he’ll need the camera again, he replies, “No I don’t think so. In fact I’m positive”. Was this another clever pun like “I’m expecting a bulletin any moment” in Candidate For Crime, or am I just reading all this in?

     
  19. That climactic ‘were you a witness to what he just did?” scene is pure dynamite… and proof why the NBC run was, at it’s best, simply untouchable in the pantheon of murder-mystery television shows…

    I was surprised to read recently that ‘Columbo’ co-creator Richard Levinson was adamantly opposed to the show returning back to screens in the 1980’s, and it was only after his death in 1987 that it did so… I can see why he thought that… the NBC era set such a high bar that it would have been nearly impossible to equal much less exceed… more so considering the state of U.S. network television in that decade.

    Really looking forward to the upcoming review of ‘Agenda for Murder’ though…

     
    • Well, it doesn’t help Columbo’s case, but the wino’s testimony in court would have confirmed that two shots were fired at the abandoned junkyard, which is what woke him up. Galesko himself is quite open about him being there.

       
  20. Whenever Columbo “plants evidence”, it is never with the intention of it being presented in court to get a conviction. It is always to trick the murderer into doing something that will give them away. He even apologises for the shabby trick he pulls in “Mind Over Mayhem”.
    He would never commit perjury, but he wouldn’t be happy about crossing the moral boundary, even in a good cause. That’s why the end of “Suitable For Framing” is such a triumph, because Columbo manipulates Kingston into giving himself away with evidence he put there himself, but it’s genuine evidence.

     
  21. I have always had an issue with the way Galesko frames himself, I’ve always been a keen photographer, doing it the old way in a darkroom, and at one time I owned the same Polaroid camera seen here. The other cameras on the shelf arn’t all Polaroid’s, and even those that are don’t all take the same film stock and make the same sized prints. So Galesko has, as experienced photographer perhaps only two or three cameras to choose from, he would automatically rule out the rest based on his photographic knowledge – he could certainly argue educated guesswork in court!

     
    • You make a very valid point that as a professional photographer, Galesko could reasonably have worked out which camera on the evidence shelf was used by his wife’s murderer. But he could have taken a bit longer over it. “The original negative will still be in the back of the camera, probably one of the ones on this shelf. Let’s see, yes, probably this one I would say”. Instead, he just picks it up.

      However, I would suggest that as the actual cameras on the shelf were put there by the Universal props department (and back in the days before High Definition and Zoom) a viewer with a lot of photographic experience might well be able to tell them apart, but the “average” viewer will just see a lot of different cameras, any one of which could be the one used by he murderer.

      It’s similar to movies set in the past where character’s drive cars or dance to music that won’t be produced or written until a year or two after the story is set. To the “average” viewer, it’s close enough.

       

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