Columbo

I’ve been watching this 1970’s detective show again, and I’m trying to put a finger on what makes it so good. I don’t re-watch many shows, but I keep getting the urge to watch Columbo, even though I’ve seen them all.

I know it’s not nostalgia, because I never watched the show growing up. My first time watching was only a few years ago, after Stephen Fry said on QI that it was the best show he’s ever seen. After watching one episode, I watched another every night until I’d seen them all.

Now, lately, I’ve been re-watching them. And I’m not one to do that. When there’s something new to watch I’ll almost always pick that over revisiting something I’ve seen, but for some reason I enjoy re-watching Columbo.

I think part of it might be the way the show is framed. In most detective / mystery shows, part of the excitement is discovering who committed the crime and how. With Columbo, you know that in the first few scenes. With the mystery taken out of the mystery show, the focus rests more on the characters. And they are all good, from William Shatner to Lesley Neilson to Johnny Cash. Yet Peter Falk always manages to steal the show, and you never find yourself rooting for, or even sympathizing with the villain.

I know I’ve posted about it a few times here, but many shows have the problem of their villain having more charisma and being more likable than their protagonist. Not one episode of Columbo has that problem. Whether it’s the writing or the directing or the genius of Peter Falk’s character, I can’t decide. But it works so well. Every villain on the show falls to hubris, and you can only shake your head and watch as they spiral to their doom. You don’t despise them, you may even empathize with their motives, but all you feel is satisfaction when Columbo holds up his finger and says “Oh gee, I almost forgot, just one more thing.”

It’s not sci fi, and it may be old and outdated, but I’ve spent a lot of time watching it and have enjoyed every minute. I think everyone, even those not into mysteries, should watch at least one episode of Columbo in their life. Give it a shot, you might find a new addiction, like I did.

 

2 thoughts on “Columbo

  1. I think that was one of the best shows of that era. There were two things I loved about how Columbo always got the bad guys. First, the playing dumb so that they would underestimate him and reveal more than they should. Second, how he would go to leave, so that they would think it’s over and let their guard down, then he’d spring the “just one more thing” on them, and catch them flat-footed. It was so much fun watching how, little by little, he’d trap them and get the whole story. It was so well done. Not just the acting, but the writing behind it.

    1. Yes! I love the playing dumb in order to get all the facts (or lies) straight. “You have to forgive me, it’s not me, it’s my mind, it’s very slow, and I have to pin everything down.”

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