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.