Rolling Stone

45 Columbo

NBC 1971-78 ABC 1989-2003


Each Columbo episode follows the same structure: A rich and powerful person commits what they think is a perfect murder that can’t possibly be traced back to them. Lt. Columbo turns up, and his rumpled appearance and distracted, deferentia­l manner convinces each killer that he’s an easily manipulate­d fool. Instead, he is shockingly tenacious and clever, talking each of these wouldbe masters of the universe into incriminat­ing themselves, often for missing an incredibly minor detail, like a pair of shoelaces being tied the wrong way or a ribbon being left in a typewriter. A show this formulaic only works with a hugely likable lead, and this one fortunatel­y had the benefit of the superhuman­ly charming Peter Falk in the title role.

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