"Just one more thing, sir...": The Columbo Thread

I feel the need to solicit some opinions on what is, IMHO, the best detective/cop show of all time. No random gunplay, no huge pools of blood; just great plotlines, well-written scripts, and some of the best deduction this side of Sherlock Holmes. I’ll get the ball rolling (home); feel free to add categories, memorable dialog, characters, etc.Best Villains: [ul]
[li]George Hamilton as “Wade Anders”, the host of the crime show[/li][li]William Shatner as the acerbic radio show host[/li][li]Patrick Mcgoohan in anything–my fave is tha headmaster of the military school[/li][li]Richard Kiley as the deputy police commissioner who has his wife murdered[/li][li]Jack Cassidy as the ex-Nazi magician[/li][/ul] Best “Gotcha!”: [ul]
[li]The Richard Kiley episode–the famous “Hey, I don’t even live here!”[/li][/ul] Best “Twist” ending: [ul]
[li]Janet Leigh (the ex-movie star who murdered her physician husband) and her brain aneurysm.[/li][/ul] And, IMHO, the best exchange of dialog: From the one with Johnny Cash as the Gospel singer who crashes the plane: [ul]
[li]COLUMBO: So, you all have to fly, right?[/li][li]NTSB INSPECTOR: Of course, we’re all pilots.[/li][li]C: Well, you see, I wouldn’t qualify.[/li][li]NTSB: Nonsense, we’ll teach you![/li][li]C: No, you don’t understand. I get nosebleeds on an escalator! I don’t even like being this tall![/li][/ul] Go for it!

I liked the show at first, but quickly tired of the formula. The worst part was that Columbo never had any real reason to even begin to suspect the murderer. This was why the murder was shown first; otherwise, the audience would wonder, “Why the hell is he harassing that guy?”

I always chalked that up to Columbo’s intuition and his ability to read people. He could tell they were acting suspicious or hiding something, so he kept pressing on for their eventual slip up.

Also, often there’s a scenario that Columbo’s supposed to buy, but doesn’t (because of flaws), and that naturally inclines him to suspect the first person on the scene, or the one with the most motive.

But sometimes his reasons are made clear: for example, in one episode, he realizes because of some matches in an ashtray that the last person to see the victim alive, most likely the killer, is a cigar smoker. So he waits to meet one who was close to the victim, and lo and behold, there he is.

Lou: “On Columbo they show you the murderer first.”
Chief Wiggum: “Yeah, but you have to remember him.”

I used to watch Columbo all the time with my grandma. I think I liked it but I remember the mysteries being really easy to solve, even for a seven year old. I read a lot of mysteries when I was a kid, though, so maybe that helped.

My Ma watches them. They’re fun enough. All the old 70’s actors. But everytime I see one now, I think: Man, there’s no way he’d get that conviction past today’s defense attorneys. :dubious:

The point of the show wasn’t to solve the mystery – that’s why they always showed the murder. The point was to watch Columbo solve the mystery. The twitches, off-the-wall questions, the satisfaction of “oh, one other thing” It was a character study, like Monk.

Yeah, but I don’t think I could appreciate the nuances of a character study when I was seven. An hourlong show (actually, some of the eps were even longer, like movies) could rarely keep my interest; this one did because of the puzzles. I wonder if I would like it if I watched it now… is Columbo out on DVD?

Yes. There are already two boxsets out on dvd.

I loved this show! Yes, it wasn’t that complicated, but sometimes you like simple. And I don’t normally like mystery, so when I do watch it, I like it simple.

Besides, Peter Falk was perfect.

As the kids on the internet say, Columbo is the rockers! (sorry)


Jack Cassidy, mmmm, yes. Who wouldn’t want to see this character go to the gas chamber, even it was for jaywalking? Of course he always played the same oily character, none more oily than Riley Greenleaf in Columbo: Publish or Perish. He murders 2 people in that one.

Robert Culp in Columbo: Double Exposure, especially the scene where Columbo screws up his golf game.

Paul Gerard in Columbo: Murder Under Glass. Snooty French food critic who gets to eat some of Columbo’s veal at the end. Great line: “I respect your talent. But I don’t like anything else about you.”
Favorite idiosyncracies:

The false exits
Columbo can’t find his pencil
Columbo puts everything in brown paper sacks, even a tape recorder in one episode
Columbo’s fear of heights
Columbo doesn’t carry a gun (he has a fellow cop take his marksmanship tests for him)
Bickering with Mrs. Columbo on the phone

Y’know, you missed a golden opportunity to say, “Pardon me, but… do you mind if I ask you a question?”

I think the ones I liked best were the ones where Columbo clearly had more sympathy for the murderer than the victims - Ruth Gordon as the mystery writer was one, and Donald Pleasance as the wine maker was another.

Favorite ‘Gotcha’ moment: When Columbo tricks Dick Van Dyke’s photographer into revealing his guilt while trying to prove his innocence.

That episode also has my favorite bit with the car - Columbo gives a lift to a driving instructor.

As for villians, I nominate Robert Conrad as the sleazy gym owner. In fact, that one might be my favorite episode - nasty villain, good humor, great clues.

The result of which has somewhat lead to an answer to “What was Lt. Columbo’s first name?” He never had a first name given in the series, and none has ever shown up in any scripts. However, in the first season, his badge is seen in a close-up in one scene [“Dead Weight,” IIRC]. His handwritten name “Frank Columbo.” Until the DVD release, that scene was basically lost for over three decades, because it was typically one of the syndication cuts. By the time VCRs were available to trap that sort of thing, the scene no longer existed, or would have been too grainy to make out.

It’s also very possible that that was just edited in, and that Falk himself never even saw that particular badge.

Oh, you’re no fun.

Of course it didn’t make any sense. But when it worked…when it was a sufficiently interesting scenerio or a sufficiently interesting villian (I can’t believe no one has mentioned Ruth Gordon!!!) it was great.

Plus the Columbo character in general: The Richard Kiley episode–the famous “Hey, I don’t even live here!” No, it wasn’t that it was his reaction…“These are my undershirts…this is my brother-in-law.” that made it clasic.
I’ve always regreted the fact the no one thought to parody this during the O.J Simpson triall. I mean…he was a member of the LAPD. And it seemed tailor made:
“Just one more thing Mr. Simpson…I don’t want to bother you…but you say those cuts on your hands were made from a different knife? An knife that was in Chicago? Ah. I see. Would you care for a boiled egg, Mr. Simpson? My wife makes them for me…wonderful woman…now about that knife…”

I always thought that the reason Columbo suspected the guilty culprit was because the guilty culprit was always a rich/powerful/dynamic superior asshole.

The ones I always enjoyed most were when you could follow when Columbo figured things out.

My favorite is the epsiode with twin Martin Landaus. As usual, we see the murder take place, with Martin Landau electrocuting his uncle in the bathtub; Columbo comes to investigate, latches on to a couple of clues, starts cheerfully making his case against the one Martin Landau who’s already on the scene. Then, just as he thinks he’s nailed it… the other Martin Landau walks in. Which one is the murderer?

Um, that would be “teh r0x0rs.”

Does anyone remember Ruth Gordon’s appearance?

She was a mystery writer whose daughter married a real bastard, who ultimately killed his bride. Gordon tried to get the man arrested, but he had covered his tracks too well. So she takes justice into her own hands and kills her erst-while son-in-law.

When Columbo has unraveled everything, she’s led away by the uniformed cops, and says sadly, “You know, if only you had been the one to investigate my daughter’s death, none of this would have happened.”

For some reason, that always stuck with me.

I love the one with the cosmetics executive (don’t know the actress’s name, Vivica Fox was the character). The way he convinces her that her super-secret miracle wrinkle-removing cream is an allergen, then once she throws the one and only bottle of the stuff over a cliff, he tells her she has poison ivy…that’s priceless.

I also like the Donald Pleasance episode for the same reason.