Monday, 19 October 2015

TV Series Review: Columbo

Several months ago Mr Click suggested that we start watching Columbo. We were on a bit of a detective jag having recently watched BBC's Sherlock and the American series Elementary so Columbo seemed like a sensible series to follow them up with. Plus it seemed long enough to take us through to the start of our Christmas viewing.

I know that I saw this every time I watch a programme that my husband has chosen, but I wasn't really all that keen to start with Columbo. I'd seen odd bits of odd episodes on TV in the past and I didn't think it was going to be that good.

As usual, I proved myself wrong and I did end up quite enjoying the series.

If you've never seen an episode of Columbo, it's slightly different to the usual format for a police procedural. Instead of a crime being discovered, reported and solved; the episode begins with the person who is committing the crime so we see how it's done and watch them try to cover their tracks. Then Columbo comes in and solves it all, proving it wasn't as perfect a crime as the bad guys thought it was.

I'll admit, I'm used to the common police procedural format, so this structure took a little getting used to. There are some episodes where Columbo doesn't show up for half and hour or more (most episodes run somewhere in the region of 90 minutes) which surprised me. After all, for a series called Columbo, you'd expect the title character to have the majority of the screen time, and that wasn't always the case.

The series spans thirty-five years from Columbo's first appearance to his last. Considering the longevity of the series, it's almost surprising that Peter Falk continued to play the character throughout the series (sadly the same cannot be said for the dog who was often seen as Columbo's companion).

What with it running for such a long time, it's really strange to see how Columbo goes from being so young in the early episodes, to so old in the later ones. It's especially strange when you consider that he continues wearing the same outfit for the duration.

Before we watched this, I had this idea in my mind of Columbo being this bumbling daft detective who kind of solves crimes by just kind of accidentally stumbling onto the solution. Obviously I was wrong.

Something you realise as you watch it, is that Columbo is pretty much playing an act the whole time he's investigating a case. He is a bit of a bumbling detective, but it's a show that enables him to get the suspects to lower their guard around him, so they give themselves away and allow him to expose them as the murder.

He picks up on teeny tiny clues that other people overlook and then keeps on pushing the person he suspects. Usually this leads to the suspect telling Columbo what they think happened, which means Columbo can tell they know more about the crime than they should. If you're a suspect in a crime and Columbo starts asking you how you think it was done, tell him you haven't got a clue and that's his job because seriously, if you talk, you'll just give yourself away.

Another easy way to figure out if someone's a murderer in an episode of Columbo is to check if they've been in it before. There are a few people who seem to crop up every five or six episodes and they're usually the ones who did it.

Ditto if you're a big name. William Shatner was in it twice and, most surprisingly to me so was Billy Connolly!

It was such a bizarre combo that I think it was easily my favourite episode. Billy Connolly always sounds like a favourite uncle to my ear, so having him be in an episode of Columbo and being not such a nice guy was a tough one for me to get my head around. It was such a strange mix for me, I couldn't help but like it.

The box set we have also includes a couple of episodes of the ill-fated Mrs Columbo. A series that ran for less than twenty episodes and went through about three different titles in that time. We watched the first one (thankfully only 45 minutes long) and then decided we couldn't put ourselves through that again and didn't bother with the second 'Mrs Columbo Bonus Episode'.

On the whole I did really enjoy this series, and I'm going to miss watching it in the coming weeks. We managed to time it pretty well because we knew we needed to finish the series by the beginning of November (when we start watching our Not-Quite Christmas films), so we've got a couple of weeks to get through. I think we were considering watching the first series of Outnumbered which is quite the change from Columbo.

And I think I've learnt my lesson now. When Mr Click suggests we watch a programme, I'm going to hold my tongue. Generally he's right and programmes aren't as bad as I think they are. Except Thriller, you were definitely wrong about that one, my dear husband!


  1. I've watched a handful of these over the years. It's one of my mom's favorite series so an episode here or there has snuck in. lol Glad to hear you had fun with it :D

    1. Lots of people seem to have fond memories of Columbo. I'm glad that I gave him a go.


Let me know what you think. :-)