Columbo episode review: No Time to Die

Columbo No Time to Die titles

It’s March 15, 1992, and you are cordially invited to the biggest LA society wedding of the year as supermodel Melissa Hayes ties the knot with dreamboat detective Andy Parma of the LAPD.

Not just a handsome lad with a physique to envy, Andy can also count on familial ties to the greatest homicide detective in US history: the humble Lieutenant Columbo, brother of Andy’s deceased mother Mary. What ought to be a day to be treasured goes horribly wrong, though, when Melissa is abducted from the honeymoon suite and taken captive by an obsessive fanboy, leaving Columbo and co. with an almighty mystery to solve.

Often referenced by fans as the single worst Columbo ever made, No Time to Die is certainly an escapade like no other for the Lieutenant. Is it as truly terrible as its reputation suggests, or could it be considered a brave and underrated departure for a series struggling for relevance? Let’s take the plunge and find out…

Columbo No Time to Die cast montage

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Melissa Hayes: Joanna Going
Det Andy Parma: Thomas Calabro
Rudy Strassa: Daniel McDonald
Sheldon Hays: Donald Moffat
Sergeant Goodman: Dan Butler
Det Dennis Mulrooney: Doug Savant
Bill Bailey: David Byrd
Alex Varrick: Daniel Davis
Tubby Comfort: Cliff Emmich
Albert Wagner: Don Swayze (Patrick’s brother!)
Directed by: Alan J. Levi
Written by: Robert Van Scoyk
Music by: Patrick Williams

Episode overview: No Time to Die

Columbo No Time to Die Andy and Melissa
The (momentarily) happy couple

LAPD detective Andy Parma – nephew to the one and only Lieutenant Columbo – has married the girl of his dreams, supermodel Melissa Hayes, at a lavish ceremony bankrolled by her wealthy father. His joy is short lived, however, when he steps out of his post-party shower and finds that his blushing bride isn’t lying coquettishly in wait for him in the marital bed, but has instead vanished without trace.

At first assuming it’s part of a prank laid on by his frat boy-esque detective pals, Andy soon finds evidence of foul play in the form of a chloroform-soaked cotton wool pad carelessly left on the floor. Summoning Uncle Columbo to help establish the facts, the two men swiftly deduce that Melissa was immobilised by assailant or assailants unknown and bundled away unconscious down the conveniently close service stairwell.

Leaving Andy to light the Bat-Signal and muster their fellow detectives, Columbo goes snooping. At the bottom of the hotel’s service stairs he spots the kitchen of a local restaurant and thoroughly pumps pot wash Bill for details on what he might have heard and seen outside in the past hour. Helpfully, Bill saw a white delivery van reversing down the alley shortly before Melissa went missing – and heard it being loaded and departing some minutes later. He didn’t see the driver, but it’s a useful start to the investigation nonetheless.

Cut to a dingy, sparsely furnished room, the dim light from under the door illuminating a bound and gagged Melissa as she lies in a negligee on a rancid mattress. As she stirs into consciousness, we see a flashback of her hanging her bridal gown in the hotel suite, during which she is disturbed by a galloping man in a green surgical hat and mask who threatens her with a scalpel before zonking her out with the chloroform. Wherever she is, it certainly ain’t the honeymoon suite no mo’…

Columbo No Time to Die
It’s Columbo, Goodfellas style!

LAPD’s finest, meanwhile, are racking their brains over doughnuts and cigars at the hotel. Could Melissa have been kidnapped for a ransom? Her dad is a squillionaire, after all. Or could vengeful ex-con Albert Wagner be looking to punish Andy after he shot and killed his brother three years earlier? Andy even admits he only personally knew about 20% of the wedding attendees, most of whom were Melissa’s guests from the fashion industry. They’re going to need to check out everyone on the guest list – no small task for the detective team.

Back to Melissa – still lolling on the stinky mattress in near total darkness. Her mysterious, soft-voiced captor introduces himself and frees her from her bonds. She has no idea who he is, but he knows all about her. He claims her marriage is a sham because it hasn’t been consummated and reveals that all he wants from her is for her to love him. Then he locks her in her room again and beetles off, doubtless to commit more unsung wicked deeds.

At this point, viewers disappointed not to have enjoyed some steamy viewing of the newlyweds canoodling get some steamy action of a very different kind as Columbo sidekick Sergeant Goodman visits a Turkish baths establishment to seek intel from Jabba the Hutt stand-in (and police informant) Tubby Comfort on the whereabouts of Albert Wagner. Columbo himself, meanwhile, is making a late-night call to wedding photographer Alex Varrick. He wants copies of all the photos from the day to cross-reference against the guest list. The weary snapper agrees to assist.

Back in her dungeon, Melissa is now conversing with her subjugator who explains that she will be detained until 3pm, then freed to prepare for an as-yet undisclosed event that will take place at 3.45pm. He laments that his dear, dead mother won’t be able to join them for it, casually dropping it into the chit-chat that his mother had her throat cut by his father when he was 8 years old – and that his father then cut his own throat leaving the lad an orphan. Quite the conversation killer, I know. Melissa is spared having to trade tragedy stories, though, as he’s spiked her drink with a sleeping pill and, for the second time in their brief acquaintanceship, she’s out for the count.

(Editor’s note: at this point I start weeping as I realise we’re only halfway through the episode)
Columbo No Time to Die Tubby Comfort
Moments later, Tubby the Hutt fed Sgt Goodman to his pet rancor

As the new day dawns, the police homies finally get a lead from our mate Tubby, who tells them the location of Albert Wagner, and reports that he was with a ‘spaced out’ woman when he checked into a seedy hotel at midnight. The lead doesn’t pay off, though. The girl with Wagner isn’t Melissa – just some smack addict he met at a bar. The cops seem no closer to a breakthrough.

Bleak as things look, Melissa is managing to keep her proverbial pecker up. Waking from slumber, she finds a healthy breakfast of fruit and salad (with oil and vinegar for dressing!) has been left out for her by her thoughtful jailer, as well as a note that suggests he has gone off to work for the day. Springing into action, Melissa checks out the door to her room and attempts to loosen its hinges with a fork and coat hanger – only to be stopped in her tracks due to the rusty condition of said hinges.

After initially damning her host for a lack of hinge-maintenance skillz, Melissa has the presence of mind to fall back on an old adage that vinegar has a million uses – including dissolving rust! We leave her excitedly applying the miracle tonic to the door hinges and head to police HQ, where the band of police bros are still agonisingly trying to finish the identification of every wedding guest. Only one man remains unidentified from the photos of the ceremony: it can only be Melissa’s floppy-haired abductor. Now they just have to find out who he is, and where he lives. Good luck with that…

Columbo No Time to Die
This is as close as we get to the standard Columbo boobery act in this straight-faced outing

Sending his underlings off to do some menial legwork, Columbo gate crashes Alex Varrick’s morning meeting with Feminine Flair magazine editor Eileen Hacker, as the pair pore over wedding photos for a six-page splash. The fawning Lieutenant obtains an additional photo featuring the unknown man, although neither photographer nor editor can identify him. Foiled again!

Rather than relying on the big, strong men to come to her aid, the plucky bride is forcing the issue herself. Through judicious use of vinegar and oil, she’s been able to unpick the door’s lower hinge and begins work on the upper one as the cops continue to toil. At last, Columbo makes a real discovery. A blow-up of his new photo of the mystery man shows him to be wearing a ring emblazoned with the word RAMSEY. The perp attended Ramsey College! Now there’s a real possibility of getting an ID in a hurry.

Andy and Sgt Goodman hit the college library to laboriously work through yearbooks in the hope of matching a name to the face of their suspect, while Columbo tracks down pot wash Bill to seek more information on the type of van he saw parking outside the hotel the night before. Both parties hit the jackpot: Columbo finds out that the white van at the crime scene was actually an ambulance. Even more importantly, Andy finds a match for their man in the yearbook. His name is Rudy Strassa.

As all this detective work plays out, Melissa manages to remove the door and explore the house. The front door’s predictably locked, but she gains entry to Strassa’s bedroom where she is given a clearer insight into the madness of the man imprisoning her. Opening the door triggers a slideshow of images from her modelling career, accompanied by a jillion-decibel pipe organ version of Here Comes the Bride. Melissa knows she’s in real trouble when she spies a heavily shoulder-ruffled wedding dress adorning a mannequin, while a coat of heavy black paint covers the window.

Columbo No Time to Die Melissa Hayes
Melissa’s face conveys far more terror than the wimpy blade deserves

The outdated wedding gown finally triggers Melissa’s ‘flight’ impulse, but as she attempts to raise the window and escape, the music shuts off. In the most expected non-twist ever seen in a police drama, Strassa has returned! And he explains to Melissa that she is soon to be married again – to him! (please click below for appropriately dramatic musical cue)

(Editor’s note: how can there still be 15 more minutes of this tosh to endure?)

As the police desperately attempt to pinpoint Strassa’s location, the man himself is now resplendent in a white tuxedo and overseeing Melissa dressing in his mother’s former wedding dress and dolling herself up to his satisfaction. If the carrot of marrying him isn’t enough to keep her keen, the stick of his menacing scalpel blade will have to do instead. And guess what? Once they’re wed and have consummated the marriage betwixt some white silk sheets (rowwwrrr!), he’ll cut her throat – just as was done to his mama all those years ago.

Thankfully, Columbo is able to secure Strassa’s address from the hospital that employed him as a paramedic and the cops screech off in their black and whites. Help can’t come soon enough for Melissa, who is being worried at scalpel point into becoming Mrs Rudy Strassa. When she refuses to recite her vows, he even cuts her face with his minuscule blade before announcing them man and wife and kissing the bride. Next stop? The matrimonial bed, then a hideous death. Truly a day to remember, eh Melissa?

Just in the cliche-tastic nick of time, Andy and detective Mulrooney bust in via door and window. An enraged Strassa raises his arm to take a scalpel swipe at Melissa, but trigger happy Andy guns him down with four of the best to the torso. A gun-wielding Columbo (!) arrives at the scene in the wake of his younger colleagues and looks on in faint disbelief while Andy cuddles the traumatised Melissa as credits mercifully roll…

Columbo No Time to Die
“Twenty years from now we’ll look back on this and laugh, right guys?”

My memories of No Time to Die

Although I have definite memories of watching No Time to Die at least a couple of times in the past (on DVD, never while televised), I know it much more by reputation than by any real sense of familiarity. That reputation suggests that No Time to Die is a televisual debacle with no redeeming features, the very existence of which sullies the good name Columbo.

Columbo No Time to Die
Can ‘No Time to Die’ really be as bad as the hype?

Whether or not that’s entirely fair is about to be thoroughly explored. I can remember so little of the minutiae of the episode beyond the wedding party scenes and lack of an actual murder that I might as well be watching this for the first time. Nevertheless, with so many fans rating it as the worst Columbo episode of all, I went into viewing this fully expecting No Time to Die to take bottom spot in my episode standings by a country mile.

Episode analysis

If you’re one of the many, many Columbo fans who hold No Time to Die in low esteem, it’s probably worth exploring how it came to be in the first place before we take a deep-dive into its very murky waters. And while I don’t subscribe to today’s BLAME CULTURE, the one man most responsible for this extraordinary entry into the series is Peter Falk.

Columbo No Time to Die
I’d be hiding if I was responsible for this, too!

Back in 1991, Falk found himself as the sole Executive Producer for the show. A long-time stickler for the best stories and scripts, he sought advice from a trusted confidant about who might be able to deliver some red-hot mysteries for Columbo to solve. Their response? Check out Ed McBain, the pseudonym of Evan Hunter, who penned dozens of 87th Precinct novels between 1956-2005.

That recommendation alone appears to have been enough for Falk to go out and splash the cash on the rights to two McBain novels – So Long as You Both Shall Live and Jigsaw. Never you mind that McBain’s work bears no relation to the type of mysteries Columbo usually investigates, being very much more police procedurals with a large team of detectives working together to solve a variety of crimes. What could possibly go wrong?

The choice of So Long as You Both Shall Live (the novel adapted into No Time to Die) was a particularly perplexing one because it features no murder; no interaction between Columbo and the chief villain; a race against the clock; and demands its star man lead a team of colleagues, rather than follow his usual lone wolf modus operandi. Any one of the above elements could jeopardise viewer enjoyment. All of them combined threaten to derail the Columbo experience entirely, making No Time to Die a serious risk for Falk, the production team and the ABC network.

Was it, therefore, a brave or foolhardy move to bring this story to the screen? Well, history and hindsight tell us that No Time to Die is a major blot on the copybook: a Columbo episode in name only that is hated by the fanbase and tarnishes the reputation of the entire series. Amazingly, though, No Time to Die was a huge ratings hit for the series, attracting the highest viewership figures of any post-70s Columbo episode (including all the episodes that would follow until 2003). Falk and ABC could certainly claim that their courageous gamble to mix up the formula had paid off.

Now, 30 years after it first aired, No Time to Die is an interesting study. Played absolutely straight and presented as a dark, tense thriller, this is the series’ biggest departure since Last Salute to the Commodore in 1976 – and it has aged similarly poorly. The Columbo we know and love is replaced by a gritty and stern police detective who seems as much at home in the city’s underbelly as he does nosing around the mansions of the rich and famous. The character quirks and mannerisms so beloved by fans are almost completely absent, and there’s not an intentional laugh to be had throughout its 90 minutes.

Columbo No Time to Die
Columbo fails as a buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy-buddy cop drama

The change in formula and tone isn’t necessarily what damns the piece, though. The darkness and lack of humour in 1973’s A Friend in Deed were entirely successful, after all. And for all its many faults, the whodunnit aspect of Last Salute had merit. The nature of No Time to Die’s source material means it had to be played with a straight bat, so tonally Falk and director Alan J. Levi got it right. The episode’s biggest issue is that the police procedural aspects are wretchedly mundane. For a supposed thriller, the investigation unfolds at such a microscopic rate that it’s impossible to ever feel excited or nervous. This is the most boring Columbo since Grand Deceptions.

It’s also extremely hackneyed: a damsel in distress who needs rescuing by a team of tough cops who break the case through sturdy but deeply uninspiring police work, busting a drug dealer and leaning on a police informer along the way to the gun-toting conclusion. It not only feels dated for the time (the original novel was published in 1976) but could be an episode of any humdrum police drama over a 30-year period. We should never feel that way about Columbo.

“For a supposed thriller, the investigation unfolds at such a microscopic rate that it’s impossible to ever feel excited or nervous.”

A chief bugbear for fans is the portrayal of the Lieutenant himself throughout. As referenced above, the beguiling charm of his eccentric mannerisms and bumbling humility are conspicuous by their absence. However, given the subject matter, it’s hard to see how to better pitch the character. We’ve always known that a lot of what we see of the Columbo character is a deliberate act designed to disarm the killers he’s closing in on. We also know this façade drops at different times depending on who he’s interacting with – a trait that harks right back to Season 1 when Columbo tough-talked the hapless golf pro in Death Lends a Hand.

Columbo never even meets kidnapper-cum-slasher Rudy Strassa in No Time to Die, so he has no real need to unleash his “shop-worn bag of tricks” schtick that we’ve become so familiar with. He’s largely in the company of colleagues, extended family members or non-suspects that he needs info from fast. Melissa’s abduction is also an event that impacts him and his family directly, making this a stressful and deeply personal matter that simply doesn’t afford him opportunities to act in anything other than a direct fashion.

Based on that premise, I think Falk actually hits the right notes throughout. We do get one scene where Columbo puts on his excitable act when crashing the editorial love-in between Alex Varrick and Eileen Hacker, but that aside he’s as sombre and serious as any man investigating the kidnapping of his niece-in-law would be.

Columbo No Time to Die
Even Falk’s ravishing appearance can’t salvage this televisual turkey

However, while Falk’s performance may be grounded in a gritty reality, it only serves to underscore another major problem with the episode: watching Columbo behaving like any other cop is no fun at all. We even see the Lieutenant jalloping around with a gun in hand during the action-packed finale, for Pete’s sake! Such a scene represents everything that series creators Bill Link and Dick Levinson didn’t want for the character. As custodian of Columbo (the show and character), Falk should have known better.

Having Columbo as one cog in a larger team is also counter productive. We love seeing the Lieutenant mentally locking horns with a single opponent. Watching a bunch of other detectives that we’ll never see again eliminating suspects from lists and photos, collecting van hire brochures, or flipping through college yearbooks is seriously dull stuff. The couple of action sequences are over in a flash, so do little to combat the ennui. The only element from the team set-up that works is the reinforcement of Columbo’s leadership credentials and street smarts, but he’s much more watchable when flying solo.

We haven’t even touched on the woolly mammoth in the room yet: the lack of an actual murder in the episode, which makes Falk’s choice of buying the rights to the story in the first place extra questionable. An easy way of putting this to rights could’ve been for Strassa to have been forced to kill a luckless bellhop or chambermaid witness when attempting to escape with Melissa’s unconscious form. Columbo finding a corpse with a slit throat in the service stairwell would have served two purposes: firstly, it would have been a hardcore killing in keeping with the episode’s dark theme; and secondly, it would have upped Strassa’s threat level, which, to put it bluntly, is almost non-existent.

Played by Daniel McDonald (who sadly died of cancer at the age of 46 in 2007), Strassa certainly comes across as being a creepy weirdo, but he never feels dangerous. Given that No Time to Die aired only a year after The Silence of the Lambs brought two truly terrifying psychopaths in Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter to a global audience, Strassa is an absolute zero by comparison, who is about as threatening to life as a fart in an elevator. His only genuinely unsettling moment comes when he applies Melissa’s lipstick to himself as the two prep for their impending nuptials. The rest is absolutely by the numbers.

Columbo No Time to Die Rudy Strassa
Melissa was devastated that her fave lippy looked better on Rudy than it did on her

Strassa’s lack of credibility is heightened by his choice of weapon to keep Melissa in fear of her life: a surgical scalpel. While I accept that this could do a lot of damage if used against someone unexpectedly (or if they were unconscious), it seems so laughably feeble. In Melissa’s position, I’d take my chances against that pathetic blade in a heartbeat – especially after her MacGyver-style vinegar-and-oil escape from her prison. Not lacking in courage, she’d have been better off lying in wait for his return, then rushing at him while keeping her chin down, kneeing his gonads and smashing a chair over his back. We’ll see how much damage his widdle knifey-wifey does then, won’t we?

Naturally, there’s no depth of character for Strassa, who is a straight-up TV loon with no extras. We hear about his childhood trauma, but the roots of his obsession with Melissa are never touched upon and his plan to kidnap her appears to have been no more intricate than to wait outside her hotel suite listening at the door until an opportunity arose. Just as well the newlyweds didn’t hop straight into bed to romp, or he’d likely have still been waiting there the next morning. It’s just a really shallow characterisation, making Strassa one of the series’ least convincing (and least memorable) villains.

Cast as Melissa, Joanna Going is arguably even more poorly served. Left alone in a locked room for much of the episode, she has the dubious honour of having to talk to herself about the merits of vinegar and oil before having to play the helpless female to Strassa’s pin-pricking lunacy. To Going’s credit, she conveys the reluctance and fear required in the script, but Melissa’s hardly from the Ellen Ripley school of heroism, and her lack of true fight smacks of unadventurous writing.

“There’s no depth of character for Strassa, who is a straight-up TV loon with no extras.”

Elsewhere, the cast perform as a capable unit without any standouts. Columbo’s sidekicks are all identikit TV cops that could have appeared as supporting characters in any number of police dramas. They never threaten to rise above the dreary nature of the story, although soap opera fans can catch a glimpse of two of Melrose Place’s most famous almuni – Thomas Calabro and Doug Savant – sharing screen time a few months ahead of the roles that would make them household names.

Probably the most annoying character in the episode (and perhaps in all Columbo) is the appalling TUBBY COMFORT, the greedy, overweight, sauna-loving informer played by Cliff Emmich. While there is a police informant in McBain’s original novel, the choice to give him one of the stupidest names in TV history and cast a morbidly obese actor to compound that name was down to the production team. Tubby’s presence can only be considered a horrible attempt to inject humour into an episode that takes itself very seriously.

Luckily, that same staid story limited the opportunities to include the sort of drivel all too often thrown up in the ‘new Columbo’ era, but a handful of other dismal moments still managed to make the cut. For starters, I could happily have lived my whole life without seeing the Lieutenant jigging away like an old fool at the wedding reception as his colleagues roar with laughter from the sidelines and the twerking bride eggs him on with cries of “Go baby, go!” As my daughter now says every time I crack a side-splitting dad joke: “CRINGE!”

Columbo No Time to Die dancing
PLEASE make it stop. No, really…

Even worse is his explanation to Melissa’s mother for Mrs Columbo’s absence, who is allegedly looking after her mother, who has broken her hip while learning to skateboard. Give me strength! Whoever penned such SWILL ought to have been relieved of their duties immediately and never worked in TV again. Are we supposed to take this seriously? Or must we assume that Columbo is trolling the seriously ill mother of the bride? Either way, the mystery of the unseen wife, so charming in the 70s, is now more of a ball and chain to the series than anything else. Either show her to us or don’t mention her at all rather than treat us like idiots with writing of this standard.

Similarly awkwardly handled is the question of Columbo’s first name. Even at a wedding with family members and colleagues galore, he is only ever introduced to folk as Lieutenant Columbo. Looking at things logically, if Columbo won’t allow himself to be properly identified in a safe environment like this, we can only assume his first name is a source of deep embarrassment to him, and that Mrs Columbo is literally the only person who knows it. There’s no shame in the name ‘Frank’, so we can officially discount that as his true appellation and deduce that his actual Christian name is one of: Zebedee, Hercules, Todger, Adolph, Buster, Sherlock, Kermit, Tarzan, Gaylord or Kevin. I rest my case, Your Honour…

While there’s no disguising the fact that No Time to Die is a bit of a train wreck, viewers that brave it can find occasional crumbs of comfort amongst the detritus. Chiefly, Falk absolutely rocks the tuxedo and raincoat look, and is really looking rather delicious throughout with his 5 o’clock shadow. Series regular Patrick Williams contributes another strong score that is sparely used to ominous effect, while there’s blissfully not so much as a hint of This Old Man. Easy-on-the-eye Andy and Melissa are the show’s hottest couple since Milo Janus and Jessica Conroy, Donald Moffat sports eyebrows that would make Gandalf jealous, and David Byrd makes dishwasher Bill one of the most authentic bit-part players of the era.

No Time to Die’s high viewing figures at least partly vindicate the decision to bring it to the screen.”

That aside, No Time to Die is desperately poor. With just about everything that made viewers fall in love with the character and series missing, viewing it today is a jarring (not to mention boring) experience. The original novel was such a poor fit for Columbo that it was really a doomed enterprise from the start. Yet for all that, I can still see worth in the attempt. After all, the majority of Columbo episodes since 1989 had fared relatively poorly in the ratings. Why not take a chance on a fresh approach? No Time to Die’s high viewing figures at least partly vindicate the decision to bring it to the screen.

Unfortunately, No Time to Die is far too tepid and workmanlike a police story to stand the test of time under the broader Columbo umbrella. Should it ever have been made at all? Probably not. But it could very easily have been a whole lot worse had Falk and Levi tried to deviate from the sombre mood of the source material – a thought far, far more frightening than the scalpel-wagging Rudy Strassa could ever be.

Columbo No Time to Die Joanna Going
Melissa wasn’t sure how to take it when Rudy told her she’d only feel a little prick

No Time to Die: the unseen fallout

Five years have passed since the events of No Time to Die. Despite an ostensibly happy ending to the Strassa abduction, Melissa has been unable to shake the PTSD connected with the event. Subsequent wedding anniversaries caused her such anxiety that she was forced to file for divorce from Andy after three years of wedlock. He spiralled into alcoholism and was discharged from the force after boiling Tubby Comfort alive in a Turkish steam bath. Andy’s whereabouts are currently unknown, his well-wishing colleagues’ hunt for him hampered by the loss of LA’s only reliable police informant.

Despite hitting the coke hard, Melissa managed to salvage her career in modelling and found a workable version of love with lecherous photographer Alex Varrick. The photos he now takes of her in their home studio are not fit for publication, although she continues to grace the cover of Feminine Flair, Vogue etc on a regular basis and remains in demand by several of the world’s leading designers. Due to a range of OCD complications, there are no doors in Melissa’s home, nor does she allow vinegar or oil to be served with her salad lunches.

It’s not all bad news, though. Mrs Columbo’s mother made a full recovery from breaking her hip and continued her skateboard renaissance, ultimately securing a top-20 finish in the ‘street’ discipline of the Pensioner X-Games in 1997. #winning

Columbo No Time to Die Alex Varrick
Is that a telescopic lens in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

How I rate ’em

No Time to Die is hard to rank alongside other Columbo episodes as it features so few of the series’ traditional elements. It’s safe to say that it’s a interminably dreary slice of television, but does it offend me more than the very worst Columbo outings I’ve encountered up to now? I actually think not – and that’s why (shock, horror!) it doesn’t take the bottom rung on my current rankings ladder.

Yes, it’s terrible. No, I don’t care if I never see it again. But compared to the pseudo-soap stylings, cheap production and appalling acting of Murder in Malibu; or the lifeless, joyless and thoroughly tedious Grand Deceptions, No Time to Die doesn’t seem quite so bad. However grim the final outcome, it has a level of ambition and intent about it that has to count for something. What is more worrying is that there’s a second McBain story lurking round the corner in the shape of 1994’s Undercover – an episode I now fear will be a whole lot worse than this one.

If you missed any of my previous ‘new Columbo’ reviews, access them via the links below.

  1. Columbo Goes to College
  2. Agenda for Murder
  3. Death Hits the Jackpot
  4. Columbo Cries Wolf
  5. Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo
  6. Columbo Goes to the Guillotine
  7. Sex & The Married Detective
  8. Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
  9. Murder, A Self Portrait
  10. Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star
  11. Murder, Smoke & Shadows
  12. Uneasy Lies the Crown
  13. No Time to Die
  14. Grand Deceptions
  15. Murder in Malibu

I haven’t yet slotted the new episodes in amongst the classics in an overall rankings list, but you can see how I rate the 70s’ run of episodes right here.

Columbo No Time to Die
“Third from last? I’ll drink to that!”

Now then, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on No Time to Die, which I suspect will make for enjoyable reading. Does it have any redeeming features? Or does it deserve every bit of criticism it has received over the last three decades? Don’t pull your punches!

Once the asbestos has settled on this woeful adventure, the next stop on our marathon Columbo journey is the series’ 61st episode, A Bird in the Hand… starring the ever-watchable Tyne Daly and thinking housewives’ favourite heartthrob Greg Evigan! Until then, farewell…

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Columbo No Time to Die wedding
“Oh yes, it’s laaaaaaadies’ night, and the feeeeeling’s right…”
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