Some tragic news for TV fans everywhere as Peter Falk has tragically died at the age of 83.
To some movie fans, Falk will be known as the kindly Grandfather in Rob Reiner’s cult-favourite ’87 fairy tale The Princess Bride, but to the world he was – and always will be – Lieutenant Columbo. And, if you didn’t know that, well you’re definitely on the wrong site.
Nowadays, I’m not a fan of TV shows which stick to the same formula week-in, week-out, but growing up there was something spellbinding about the way Columbo played out. Virtually every episode was pretty much identical: The dishevelled-looking detective appeared at a crime scene with his cigar and trench coat (which was actually Falk’s) and seemed like an incompetent, absent-minded and too-friendly fool who was sure of the guilty person’s ‘innocence’. He then spent time befriending them (popping up at their work etc), wearing them down and then he’d be leaving (literally walking out), before pausing and unleashing the immortal “just one more thing” line which signalled the game was over. Check-mate.
Of course, the bumbling friend routine was a cunning performance designed to lull the killer (which Columbo always instantly homed in on) into a false sense of security so they’de underestimate him and unknowingly participate in a patient battle of wits. I loved the way he’d fumble through his pockets and pretend to be distracted by something irrelevant, but was actually an ultra-shrewd opponent who missed nothing and had a formidable ability to piece all the details together.
I also loved the way he rarely visited Police HQ and that many officers had never seen him. His response? “That’s rarely where the murders take place!” Outstanding.
Since we always knew who the killer was, it was more of a how-to-catch-them than a whodunit. During the 69 episodes (the first of which was directed by Steven Spielberg), Columbo out-witted the likes of William Shatner, Billy Connolly, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy, Donald Pleasence, Johnny Cash and Patrick McGoohan.
I agree with Ricky Gervais (a big fan of the show), Columbo was a genius piece of television.
Rest in peace Peter.