Thoughts on Columbo?

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Over the past few weeks, I've been watching this old series on Netflix and have really enjoyed it. For those that don't know, Columbo is a homicide detective played by the late Peter Falk. It has quite the unique format. At the start of almost every episode, the viewer watches as the killer plans and executes the murder. The rest of the show is dedicated to discovering how Lieutenant Columbo goes about his investigation to prove that the person who the audience knows all along is the killer, is the one responsible. It's a very fascinating set-up, and quite well done. Peter Falk is flawless as Lieutenant Columbo.

I was wondering if any of our other members remembered this show. If you do, what are your thoughts on it? What did you like? What did you not like? It's quickly becoming one of my favorite TV shows, even though it's decades old now.

I did have a few observations, which I wanted to share. Almost without exception, the murderers seem to all be wealthy. This to me seemed rather unfair, as murder is not necessarily only committed by people who are affluent. I am wondering if anyone has heard any commentary on this. Was this purposeful on the part of Falk and the filmmakers involved? It seems to me that this would have to be purposeful, but whether or not those involved would admit it, I don't know.

I also find it a little bit strange that most of the murderers, even before Columbo has accused them of anything, always says how Columbo won't be able to prove that they were guilty, and seemed annoyed with Columbo as he goes about solving the murder. If someone I knew or loved had been murdered, I would want to be as helpful to the investigator as possible, and certainly wouldn't get annoyed at them for asking me questions. Even if they asked the same question over and over, I'd want to help the investigator as much as I could so the murder of my loved one or friend would be solved. I think that anyone who was innocent, or who was trying to portray themselves as such, would. Also, someone who was innocent, or who wanted to portray themselves as innocent, would never tell the investigator that they couldn't prove their theory implicating them. They would say how they were innocent, how it couldn't possibly be true what Columbo was saying, etc. Only guilty people goad the investigator about them not being able to prove their accusations.

Lastly, I found it a bit strange that Columbo only ever seems to have 1 case. This is something I notice a lot. Does anyone know how many cases homicide investigators typically are assigned to at any given time? I'd find it very hard to believe that it would just be one.

Because of my background, I often find myself questioning how many of these completed cases that Columbo solves would actually lead to a conviction, or hold up in court? It seems like a lot of the evidence Columbo uses to make his case could be pretty easily challenged, often successfully so.

I know that a lot of these things are done for dramatic license, and are merely part of the conceit of the show. I appreciate that, and at the same time, I'd love to hear what other people's thoughts might be who also enjoy the show about some of these questions that I've posed. Please post your own reflections about the show. I'd love to hear them.



will.15's Avatar
Semper Fooey
Another thing, Columbo works alone. Los Angeles cops work in pairs.

One of the co-creators said Jack Klugman could never have been a murderer on the show because he is a slob and Columbo is a slob. The reason the killer is always upper class is so Columbo seems to be a fish out of water in a duel of wits with seemingly a superior foe.

The thing that bothered me was not the final arrest, but how Columbo always zeroes in early on one suspect, often it seems more on premonition than anything else.
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I have only seen the pilot & I absolutely loved it.
Can't say much from just the pilot. But I just love the character, He comes across as a kind of a nosey no-gooder & not even a bit threatening, who has nothing better to do than trouble his suspects. But he really lays it out to the suspects in the end. This makes him quite special.

One of these days I hope to catch up on the entire show, One of these days.



will.15's Avatar
Semper Fooey
Which pilot?

They made two.

The first one with Gene Barry as the suspect has Falk not quite yet perfecting Columbo and there is still a few rough spots in the one with Lee Grant.



My old Lady still cracks up with scene when Columbo was falling down a hill. Personally I've never seen it, 20 years later she still cracks up...full on. I've never it though..



Which pilot?

They made two.

The first one with Gene Barry as the suspect has Falk not quite yet perfecting Columbo and there is still a few rough spots in the one with Lee Grant.
Only seen the first one.. Just love Columbo's character.
I only ended up watching this after enjoying Falk's spoof of Bogart in Murder By Death.



The reason the killer is always upper class is so Columbo seems to be a fish out of water in a duel of wits with seemingly a superior foe.
I only agree with the first half of this statement. As the show progresses (i.e. beyond the first couple of episodes) we the audiuence know Columbo is the superior intellect, and much of the entertainment factor comes from the way he manipulates his often arrogant, pompous suspects by appearing to be inept/shambolic.

I can only think of one later episode where this isn't entirely so, and that would be The Sky High I.Q. Murder Case in which Columbo goes up against a member of mensa.

Big fan of the show. Agree much of the evidence Columbo uses to nail his opponents might not stand up in court, but that's also part of the fun. Plus his almost superhuman sense of intuition regarding suspects is daft, but works as a kind of in-joke for hardcore fans. Ultimately I just love the character and Falk's performance which is utterly beguiling.

My fiancee loves it too. We're getting married in October so I'll soon be able to utter the immortal phrase

My wife's a big fan



will.15's Avatar
Semper Fooey
So if you're getting married I assume that cancer concern turned out to be nothing.

By the way, a lot of people say that about Columbo. he is putting on an act, acting like that, but we see him acting like that even when he is not with a suspect. I think it is a misreading of Columbo, that is his personality, but he knows he comes across that way and takes advantage of it. He may be exaggerating a bit sometimes to put a suspect off guard, but he is not pretending to be something he isn't. He really is slovenly and forgetful at times (about non detective work), drives a bad car, has problems disciplining his dog, and cops who don't know him when they first meet him have a bad impression.



So if you're getting married I assume that cancer concern turned out to be nothing.
I have no idea what you're talking about. Please explain yourself.

Don't believe I've misread the character either - I find that mildly insulting. Yes Columbo is shambolic by nature, but he's also self aware and knowingly uses this aspect of his demeanor to play on the prejudices of his suspects. My statement still stands.



will.15's Avatar
Semper Fooey
I mixed you up with the usual suspect.

Mildly insulting because I disagreed about Columbo's character?



I mixed you up with the usual suspect.
Ahhh, thank goodness for that. I got a bit paranoid there for a while.

Mildly insulting because I disagreed about Columbo's character?
No, the implication I've misread Columbo all these years despite owning the entire series on dvd, having seen every episode at least three times, and read Peter Falk's autobiography. As a massive fan of the show I find that mildly insulting, but I know I haven't misread him, and that you didn't mean to be malicious; so no biggie.



I love "Columbo". I watched it when it was originally on TV, I have the entire series on DVD, and I also watch it every Sunday night on MeTV.

The charm of the character is the way he zeroes in on the killer, he gets close to them, sometimes to the point of annoying them enough that they tell him not to bother them again, and in many cases, he finds a way for them to out themselves as the killer.

There was also a spinoff show "Mrs. Columbo" (1979-1980) that only lasted 13 episodes. It starred Kate Mulgrew, (aka Star Trek Voyager's Captain Janeway), but as far as I know, Peter Falk never appeared on the show. It wasn't as good as Peter Falk's "Columbo" series, and it's hard to find, but if you can track it down, it's worth a watch.



I could take or leave COLUMBO...I would watch it if there was nothing else on, but I didn't plan my television viewing schedule around it. I know that when I did watch it, it never failed to entertain and I loved the idea that we knew whodunnit from jump and it was fun watching Columbo figure it out.



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I really like the show actually, and I think it usually tells a good plot as how he gets the killer. One episode that seems to be well regarded as one of the best is The Bye Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case. But I saw it recently finally, and thought it was just an average episode, nothing more. Can anyone tell me why this one is regarded as one of the best usually?



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I love the show. MeTV is taking Columbo off the air because the company that owns the show has canceled their agreement with MeTV. However, Columbo is still available on Tubi TV.



I love the show. MeTV is taking Columbo off the air because the company that owns the show has canceled their agreement with MeTV. However, Columbo is still available on Tubi TV.

I watch Columbo on MeTV a lot. I'm glad I have the whole series on DVD.
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There was also a spinoff show "Mrs. Columbo" (1979-1980) that only lasted 13 episodes. It starred Kate Mulgrew, (aka Star Trek Voyager's Captain Janeway), but as far as I know, Peter Falk never appeared on the show. It wasn't as good as Peter Falk's "Columbo" series, and it's hard to find, but if you can track it down, it's worth a watch.

It morphed into Kate Loves a Mystery. They buried the whole wife of Columbo thing pretty quickly. Mulgrew is the perfect counterpart to William Shatner (hammy AF). Episodes are available on YouTube.



Peter Falk is obviously a goat character actor. I love Columbo because he's the exact opposite of Clouseau. Clouseau is an idiot who pretends to be a brilliant detective, Columbo is a brilliant detective who pretends to be an idiot. The only thing I've disliked about the show is that they always reveal the killer in the first 10 minutes, which I guess was normal for these kinds of TV shows.



"How tall is King Kong ?"
Almost without exception, the murderers seem to all be wealthy. This to me seemed rather unfair, as murder is not necessarily only committed by people who are affluent. I am wondering if anyone has heard any commentary on this.
It's mainly about the contrast with Columbo. Columbo has an old car, an old coat, simple manners and simple tastes. He stands out better around ostensible wealth and sophistication.

But Ignacio Ramonet has a very interesting chapter about this, in his excellent book about pop culture (can't find an english translation, which is odd, I even found a greek one once - anyway, the title should translate as either "chewing gum for the eyes" or "silent propaganda"). He argues that both Columbo and Kojak represent the "guardians of median order", as they both represent the middle class' justice catching criminals who'd consider themselves respectively "above" or "below" the law. The very tidy, well dressed, well behaved Kojak contrasts with the street thugs he investigates. The neglected, socially clumsy Columbo brings justice to aristocrats. They're both "us", the average viewers, and our sense of intimidated otherness in front of two diametrically opposed classes that we suspect to smugly, threateningly disregard the laws we abide to. They are the somewhat normal and relatable people who comfortably intrude to keep in check social abnormality (the disquietingly rich/poor).

So, in that perspective, investigating the rich is as fundamental to Columbo as investigating Beverly Hills is to Axel Foley. It's his narrative function. It's part of the "joke", of its socially comforting role. Robin Hood in a way. It could also be considered populist in a way, but what popular (or aiming at being popular) tv series isn't ? It's also a change from self-identification to high-life sleuths à la Hart, Banacek, Persuaders or Magnum. Different detectives focus on different castes...
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