How many of you have watched the "Columbo" series, starring Peter Falk? It initially aired in the 70s and the original run came to a conclusion right about the time I was born, so I don't expect that most of you would have watched it back in the day. Since then it has been on television periodically, though, and there were several revivals that resulted in a string of new releases up until 2003, a few years before Peter Falk passed away not terribly long ago.
"Columbo" initially began as part of a run of mystery movies, from what I can tell. There were several detectives, so the weeks would alternate and sometimes you would watch "Columbo." Sometimes you would wind up watching something else. At least, that's how I think it went. "Columbo" seems by far to have been the most popular.
Lately, I've been watching "Columbo." Amazon had the complete series available on DVD, and before that I had enjoyed the odd assortment of episodes--not so much as a single complete season--that were available on Netflix. The complete set was a terrific bargain at the time, available for under $60, so I totally jumped on that and now I've finished filling in the episodes Netflix forced me to miss. I've moved on from there, as well, and now I'm almost done with the original seasons. From there, I'll be progressing to the newer stuff that actually did air during my lifetime, when I was old enough to watch it. I will likely review some of those episodes here.
So anyway, each "Columbo" is movie-length, because of the format in which it originally aired. What you're seeing is roughly the same as a 90-minute movie now, and there are guest stars (some big names like William Shattner and Leonard Nimoy and Leslie Nielsen, among others). Each new episode tells a self-contained murder mystery, beginning with the murder. A lot of my favorite mystery movies leave the identity of the murderer a mystery, and part of the fun as you watch comes from determining who the killer is before the sleuth can do so.
"Columbo" is a different sort of mystery--not entirely unique--that finds you blessed with information about the crime. The big question now is how Lieutenant Columbo will interpret the clues and how he will solve the crime. Mostly, he will trick the culprit into giving too much away. A murderer might be about to get away with a near-perfect crime, but Columbo will spot something small in the case that bothers him. He'll latch onto the killer, and he'll find a way to make that person build a case against himself (or herself, as the case may be).
In general, I'll admit, the writing in "Columbo" is slow-paced. It's a show for people who like smarts and interesting characters more than they like explosions and in-your-face tension, but that works for me. I've found myself enjoying the mystery genre more and more as I get older and the constant diet of fantasy and science fiction loses some of its allure.
If you also like mystery shows, I hope that you'll explore "Columbus" with me in the coming weeks, and that we can maybe discuss some of the episodes if I post impressions here and something triggers your memory. I do hope, at the very least, that I'm not the only person here who loves the sight of a police officer in a rumpled overcoat...
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Kyle MacGregor Burleson 1