Without a doubt, the most super-bad TV sleuth of the 70's. With a rumpled raincoat, a squinty gaze (due to Peter Falk's loss of an eye as a young child) and a rambling speech pattern, Columbo could catch Russian spies, murdering leisure suit-wearing film directors, rampaging Mensa killers and anyone else who dared to transgress on his shag-carpeted beat. First aired in 1971, the same year as yours truly, it ran for God knows how many years before being immortalized in endless A&E syndication, a fate I myself aspire to. Makes Jim Rockford look like a nancy boy.

A little known fact is that the Columbo character was actually based on the Inspector from Crime and Punishment. It true, the rumpled appearance, the veil of confusion, the seemingly careless yet poignant questions, its all there.

It seems that the_demiurge has already noted this in his/her writeup of Crime and Punishment, so apparently its a wider know fact than I had originally thought.

"Well, I hate to bother you with this...."

While it is never revealed on the show, Lieutenant Columbo's first name is apparently Philip, according to various websites, trivia books, and a Trivial Pursuit card. It is possible that the name Philip was never originally the good Lieutenant's name, but was actually a deliberate error in a trivia book that was planted there to trap plagiarists. Whatever its origin, it seems to have stuck. I haven't yet decided whether I think the name fits or not.

Mrs. Columbo also has a first name, which I don't believe was ever mentioned in the Columbo movies, but was certainly used in the series that was based on her character, and was also used in the numerous names the series adopted before being cancelled. Mrs. Columbo's first name is Kate. Or was, since the character was killed in "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo" in 1990. Kate Mulgrew played Mrs. Columbo, and debate between theologians and philosophers has raged for centuries over whether or not there is a relationship between the actress' name and the character's.

Here are a few more facts about Columbo, a couple of which have been shamelessly stolen from Nostaliga Central (http://www.nostalgiacentral.com/tv/columbo.htm), which mentions parenthetically his first name might be Frank (Gasp!). The rest of these bits of trivia I picked up from long-forgotten sources or from watching the episodes themselves.

  • He drives a sadly neglected and abused 1960 Peugeot 403
  • He has a Basset Hound named "Dog"
  • His overcoat was washed repeatedly, beaten, and doused with chemicals to get its wonderfully rumpled appearance
  • He doesn't carry a gun
  • He brilliantly annoys confessions out of the perpetrators
  • He can cook a mean omelet
  • He only took the top down on his convertible once, to prove a point while annoying a confession out of a perp
  • Television execs questioned the wisdom of showing the murderer and his methods at the very beginning of a detective show
  • The only time you see him out of his coat he's wearing a tux (Update: You can also see him dressed in a circus ringmaster's costume for a split second at the end of "Murder, Smoke & Shadows")
  • He has no cigar clipper, opting instead to bite the ends off

"Oh, and one more thing," you can frequently catch him on the A&E channel, which is a fairly wonderful television channel, if slightly less so after the introduction of The View.... At any rate, if you're lucky, you can see Columbo take down William Shatner (and his laughable mustache) while almost getting blasted with a shotgun in the process.

Co*lum"bo (?), n. Med.

See Calumba.


© Webster 1913.

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