Select Page

‘Colombo’ Fifty Years Later


It was an adaptation of a then-popular stage play ‘Prescription: Murder’, which introduced the world to Peter Falk and his legendary character, Columbo. In 1968 it was an inconsequential TV movie in the United States, but the story didn’t end there. ‘Columbo’ went on to become one of the most beloved crime dramas ever written. 2018 is an important year for fans of the TV series, as it marks its fiftieth anniversary. In recognition of the important milestone, this review will honour it with a brief retrospective on why it still holds up almost two decades after the final episode was broadcast.

For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Columbo’, it’s important to note that there is a great deal of genre trope breaking within its format. As opposed to the usual whodunit style of crime writing, ‘Columbo’ did the reverse; we see the killer–usually a big celebrity of the period–meticulously executing their plan for murder, while establishing what appears to be a perfect alibi. To some extent, one could see this as counterintuitive: the thrill of a crime show is normally trying to work out who the culprit is. Where is the suspense in ‘Colombo’? The beauty is in the killers. It is engrossing to watch them try to navigate around awkward questions while demonstrating their outwardly ingenious cunning. The thrill comes from wondering where they will be tripped up. Incredible guest stars, everyone from Johnny Cash to Patrick McGoohan, have played a killers, which further adds to the excitement.

The writing, directing, and cinematography, also deserve acknowledgment. Fan favourite episode ‘Murder by the Book’ was helmed by a very young Steven Spielberg, and whilst he would mature as a director, his trademark touches are noticeable throughout. The very best stories, of which there are many, are superbly written. The dialogue is intelligent, and playful, which draws the viewer into the lives of the characters. By showing us the murderer from the beginning, we get an element of seeing life on the other side, and delight in the sparring back-and-forth between the criminal and our hero. Witty one-liners, acerbic retorts, and moments of clever interplay, make for a gripping watch. The show never looks dated either; it’s so easy for a TV series to appear very old to our modern eyes, either through a sluggish pace, or a cheap production design. ‘Columbo’ avoids both. The sets beautifully decorated; it looks retro, not old-fashioned.

But for many, these elements are just extra parts that make ‘Columbo’ the great show that it is. The core of the show, the thing that keeps it as one of the greatest programmes ever made, is Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo himself. Falk’s charm, his incredible acting and his dedication to his character mean that we watch as he evolves from a gruff young detective in the first episode, to warming into a brilliant, unassuming sleuth throughout the rest of the show’s run. Although the writing and directing certainly enhanced his performance, there is no denying that the love and fondness that so many feel for Columbo comes from Falk as the central character. Without a shadow of a doubt, Columbo is one of the greatest TV dramas ever written and it deserves a very happy fiftieth birthday.

About The Author

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Tweets

  • Today is ! Head down to see some great student bands!
  • Update for those graduating: Additional graduation tickets will be available for purchase from 10am on Wednesday 1st June
  • ENTERTAINMENT | Jack Hsuan reviews PC game !…
  • Lecturer strikes start today. Read why here…
  • Update: Exams which are set to take place at the same time as the lecturer strikes will go ahead as normal.…


Latest Issue

Latest Issue

Recent Posts