Created on December 14th, 2006

The Columbo Television Series originated as a Broadway play as Prescription: Murder. On February 20th 1968, the made for Television film of that play, Prescription: Murder first aired and included Peter Falk in his first role as Lieutenant Columbo. Falk endured in retaining the role as Columbo for the entire 69 episodes of the show, the last of which is “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” which aired on January 30th 2003. Peter Falk indicated in an interview on Larry King Live in 2006 that there might be one more episode of Columbo coming.

For the most part, the Columbo shows begin with the audience knowing the motive and who committed the murder. The laid back and intuitive Inspector Columbo spots some small item as being out of place and then almost immediately determines who did it. Then Columbo continues to press the suspect until at some point he asks them the famous line “Oh, just one more thing …”, and then the killer knows they are in trouble. There are only a couple exceptions to this steady formula for success in the stories plot, both of which occurred in Columbo Season 5. In Episode 32, Forgotten Lady, Lieutenant Columbo lets the murderer, Janet Leigh as Grace Wheeler Willis, get away with the murder. Columbo Episode 37, Last Salute To the Commodore (1976) is the only show that the murderer of two victims and motive are not known until the final scene of the episode.

In many of the episodes of Columbo, the Lieutenant Columbo finds that the killer used what was then state of the art technology to create an alibi. Some of these devices are used several times, including telephone answering machines which have the victims voice recorded on them1, or the playback of video recordings2.

Columbo’s mild manner, and polite nature leads the murders into thinking he is inept and into a false sense of security. Soon thereafter, they know he’s onto them and are caught. This is probably the major reason for the long success of the show, and Peter Falk did a magnificent job in this role.

Two props that are always part of the show are his French car, which is beat up and his crumpled rain coat. The rain coat is an interesting evolution in the show. In the first episode of Columbo, Prescription: Murder (1968), Falk is dressed dapper, with a clean hair cut and a nice suit. In a few scenes of Prescription: Murder, Columbo is scene holding the rain coat over his arm, and in a few scenes, Falk is actually wearing the the rain coat. But all in all, it’s still a nice rain coat and isn’t wrinkled. As the show progresses through the years, Columbo’s dapperness disintegrates, his hair is less kept and his rain coat becomes a trumpled mess. In Columbo: Now You See Him (1976), the writers have some fun giving him a new rain coat, which Columbo tries to loose, but this partner keeps returning to him.

1Ransom For A Dead Man (1971) and An Exercise In Fatality (1974).
2Etude In Black (1972) and Playback (1975)

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