Say hello to The Good Columbo Guide

Published on 9 August 2010 in , , ,

In amongst all the talk of me archiving bits of Planet Bods, I completely forgot to mention the latest addition to my website family – The Good Columbo Guide – an episode guide for the mighty TV show Columbo.

If you’ve never watched Columbo, you frankly don’t know what you’re missing. But lets start from the beginning and explain.

Columbo is an American detective drama that started in 1968 and ran until the 2003.

Now that frankly doesn’t sound very interesting and original – after all there have been lots of American detective dramas over the last few decades. So what makes Columbo so noteworthy? What makes it have the honour of a whole episode guide? I mean, it’s hardly The Wire is it?

Ah, but Columbo is different. Columbo is a drama that takes a look at the cop show convention and just throws them away.

For example, every episode starts with the viewer seeing the murder, and who did it so the joy is all about how Columbo, gloriously played by Peter Falk, is going to catch them out. And it’s never straight forward.

Then there’s the regular themes that run through the show. There’s the lead detective who could best be described (and usually is) as dishevelled. He bumbles along with his clapped out car and raincoat that looks like its been eaten and expelled by a lama, and everyone thinks he’s incompetant and disorganised just because of it. But the reality is that they’re up against the mind of one of the finest detectives in LA.

And he’s such a lovely bloke. He loves his wife, and seems to take every opportunity he can to mention her. There’s the fact he finishes questioning the murderer in their home or office, then is half way out the door before just saying “Oh, just one more thing…” as if he’d forgotten something, before asking a question that stands an excellent chance of tripping the murderer up. He always eats chilli, has a dog that barely moves and whistles “This old man came rolling home”.

Oh and it’s an American cop show where the main detective seems to abhor violence and certainly hates handling guns – he goes out of his way to avoid the old shooter. In many ways it feels very British.

Everything about Columbo just seemed to work – there are a frankly high number of excellent storylines in there, helped by the fact that the show was never milked to death. In its initial seven year run there were just 43 episodes, with the show initially appearing once a month. When it returned in the 1980s (having been dropped by NBC and picked up by ABC), a mere 26 episodes were made between 1989 and 2003.

It’s a rare thing from a US – after all, just look at Murder She Wrote (which happened to be created by the people behind Columbo) which over 12 years totalled 264 episodes and 4 TV movies. Over eight series Diagnosis Murder totalled 178. Columbo – with it’s notional 11 series and pilots totalled just 69.

Each episode is 90-120 minutes long, and the small number of them spread over many years means that each storyline is generally very well thought through. Without the necessity to crank out one episode a week, the emphasis could be on quality.

It retains a loyal and large fanbase to this day and regularly appears in the UK’s TV schedules. There’s also a large, extensive Columbo fan site already, but no episode guide – no one to review the episodes, tell you which are the good, which are the bad (well okay, the “quite not up to the best standard of Columbo if you ask me”). And that’s where The Good Columbo Guide comes in.

The plan is to review all 69 episodes. There’s nine up there at the moment, another 3 to publish soon and my PVR currently has about 16 episodes lined up ready to watch and review.

So if you’re into Columbo, or have just never watched it and want to find out more, well I know a place to go. See you there then…