Peter Falk Richard Kiley Colombo 1974.JPG
Peter Falk (right) as Lt. Columbo, 1974.
Format Television film
Police procedural
Created by Richard Levinson
William Link
Starring Peter Falk
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of episodes 69 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Philip Saltzman[1]
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 30 x 73 minutes
39 x 98 minutes
Original channel NBC
Picture format Film
Audio format Monaural
Stereophonic sound
Original run February 20, 1968 – January 30, 2003

Columbo is an American crime fiction television film series, which starred Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.[2][3] It was created by William Link and Richard Levinson. The show popularized the inverted detective story format. With the exception of a couple of special episodes with added twists, almost every episode began by showing the commission of the crime and its perpetrator. Therefore, there is no "whodunit" element. The plot mainly revolves around how the perpetrator, whose identity is known, would finally be exposed and arrested. The show's creator once referred to it as a "howdhecatchem".

The character first appeared in a 1960 episode of the television-anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was itself partly derived from a short story by Levinson and Link published in an issue of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine as 'Dear Corpus Delicti'. Levinson and Link adapted the TV drama into the stage play Prescription: Murder, and a TV-movie based on the play was broadcast in 1968. The series began on a Wednesday presentation of the "NBC Mystery Movie" rotation: McCloud, McMillan & Wife, and other whodunits. After one season, the series moved as a group to Sundays and were replaced on Wednesdays by a series with a similar format with fare such as The Snoop Sisters, Cool Million, and Banacek. Columbo aired regularly from 1971 to 1978 on NBC, and then less frequently on ABC beginning in 1989. The final episode was broadcast in 2003.[4]

Lt. Columbo is a shambling, disheveled-looking, seemingly naive Italian American police detective who is consistently underestimated by his fellow officers and by the murderer du jour. The subjects of his investigations are initially both reassured and distracted by his circumstantial speech and increasingly irritating asides. Despite his unprepossessing appearance and apparent absentmindedness, he shrewdly solves all of his cases and secures all evidence needed for indictment. His formidable eye for detail and meticulous and dedicated approach become apparent only late in the storyline.

The episodes are all movie-length, between 70 and 100 minutes long, excluding commercials. On October 2, 2011, reruns of Columbo began airing Sunday evenings on the classic television network Me-TV.[5]

In 1997, "Murder by the Book" was ranked #16 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.[6] and in 1999, the magazine ranked Lt. Columbo #7 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list.[7]


Series format

The series is noted by TV critics and historians for the way it reversed the cliché of the standard whodunit mystery. TV Guide referred to the basic plot structure as a "howcatchem", although it is more properly known as an inverted detective story. In a typical murder mystery, the identity of the murderer is not revealed until the climax of the story, and the hero uncovers clues pointing to the killer. In almost all the episodes of Columbo, by contrast, the audience sees the crime unfold at the beginning and knows exactly who did it and how it was done; the "mystery", from the audience's perspective, is spotting the clues that will lead Columbo to discover the killer and the tricks used to obtain a confession in the absence of other non-circumstantial proof. This allows the story to unfold simultaneously from the point of view of Columbo and the murderer, as they play cat and mouse, rather than solely from that of the detective.

In some episodes, such as the first pilot, "Prescription: Murder", Columbo does not appear until as late as 30 minutes into the story, the preceding time being taken up depicting the complex nature of the crime, including the history of the killer-victim relationship and the effort by the killer to conceal his guilt. A Columbo mystery therefore tends to be driven by the characters and by the gathering of subtly damning proof in the field – rather than by forensic science labs, whose personnel are largely unseen and their findings merely announced in passing; or by general canvasses or rigorous squad-room interviews, as portrayed in programs like Homicide: Life on the Street or NYPD Blue.

The audience observes the criminal's reaction to the ongoing investigation, and to the increasingly intrusive presence of Columbo, whose personality and manners are initially disarming and non-intimidating. Columbo is unfailingly polite to a suspect as an investigation proceeds. Class tension is often apparent between Columbo – with his working class origins – and the killer – who is usually affluent, well-positioned or naturally condescending. The killer often "helps" Columbo with his investigation, with his/her level of irritation, arrogance or panic escalating as the noose tightens and Columbo gets closer to exposing the killer, discovering too late that the Lieutenant is not nearly as simple-minded as he appears. When the final arrest comes, the killer always goes quietly after revealing both his/her guilt and his/her motives. Columbo often manipulates the killer(s) into self-incrimination. This predictability and the quirky mannerisms of Columbo – partly his natural personality, partly an affectation to give him an edge in his investigations – are part of the attraction of the series. In some instances (such as Ruth Gordon's avenging mystery writer in "Try and Catch Me", Janet Leigh's terminally ill diva in "Forgotten Lady", Donald Pleasence's vintner in "Any Old Port in a Storm", or even Vera Miles' besieged industrialist in "Lovely But Lethal"), the killer is more sympathetic than the victim or victims.[8]

Columbo rarely displays anger toward the (usually well-to-do) suspects, though he sometimes does at non-suspect witnesses,[9] and in an impromptu speech to a ladies' club meeting hosted by Ruth Gordon's character, at which he shows up uninvited, he admits that over the course of many of his investigations he grew to like and respect the suspect. Among the few instances of his expressions of genuine anger with a suspect were in the episodes, "An Exercise in Fatality" and "A Stitch in Crime". In the latter, when Columbo's investigative techniques initially appear to prove futile against a heart surgeon (Leonard Nimoy) he thinks is a murderer, Columbo drops the facade, reveals his cards, and angrily promises that if the patient dies, the body would be autopsied to collect the evidence required to put the doctor in jail.

Columbo also rarely seems to carry a gun, and is never required to exercise physical force, although in the episodes "How to Dial a Murder", "R.I.P. Mrs. Columbo", "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine" and "Murder Under Glass" he allows himself, as part of the solution, to be placed in a predicament in which the killer thought he or she would be able to kill him and escape. In the 1975 episode "Forgotten Lady" it is revealed that he doesn't carry his gun – he says that he keeps it "down town" and has failed to attend his semi-annual pistol practice at the department's firing range for the past ten years. When Internal Affairs threaten to pull his badge for the lapse, he persuades a colleague to take the test for him, admitting that he "can't hit the target". He does, however, carry a gun for his work in 1992's "No Time to Die"[10] and 1994's "Undercover"[11] (even threatening someone with it in the latter), both of which are based on Ed McBain novels.[10]

Creating the character

The character of Columbo was created by William Link, who claimed that Columbo was partially inspired by Crime and Punishment character Porfiry Petrovich as well as G. K. Chesterton's humble clerical detective Father Brown. Other sources claim Columbo's character is also influenced by Inspector Fichet from the 1955 French suspense-thriller Les Diaboliques.[12]

The Columbo character first appeared, portrayed by Bert Freed, in a 1960 episode of the television anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was entitled "Enough Rope". This episode was adapted into a 1962 stage play called "Prescription: Murder" with Thomas Mitchell in the role of Columbo. "Prescription: Murder" then became a made-for-TV movie in 1968, with Peter Falk as Columbo. Falk continued in the role when the TV series began in 1971, and played the role until 2003.

First Generation

Bert Freed was a stocky character actor with a thatchy grey mane of hair. His episode, "Enough Rope", was adapted by Levinson and Link from their short story "May I Come In" (originally entitled "Dear Corpus Delicti"), in which the character of Columbo did not appear. Link's name was listed first in the billing for the writers at the beginning of the show.

Freed wore a rumpled suit and smoked a cigar to play Columbo, but played the part somewhat straighter than either of his two successors in the role, with few of the familiar Columbo mannerisms. However, the character is still recognizably Columbo and uses some of the same methods of misdirection on his prey. During the course of the show, the increasingly frightened murderer brings pressure from the district attorney's office to have Columbo taken off the case, but the detective fights back with his own contacts. There is one particularly visible mistake in the live telecast (aside from the usual constant boom microphone shadows), with a momentarily flustered Columbo introducing himself to a receptionist as "Dr. Columbo", but she magically deduces that he's actually "Lt. Columbo" when she notifies her supervisor.[citation needed]

Although Bert Freed received third billing, he wound up with almost as much screen time as the killer, once he appeared immediately after the first commercial, several minutes into the show. Unlike many live television shows, this one continues to exist and is available for viewing in the archives of the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles.

Second Generation

The "Enough Rope" teleplay in turn was adapted into a stage play called Prescription: Murder, with revered character actor Thomas Mitchell in the role; the 70-year-old Mitchell had previously played the drunken Doc in John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), for which he won an Academy Award, as well as Scarlett O'Hara's father in Gone with the Wind that same year, and also portrayed the absent-minded Uncle Billy in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life (1946). The stage production starred two veterans of Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre and Citizen Kane: Joseph Cotten as the murderer and Agnes Moorehead as the victim. Mitchell died of cancer while the play was touring in out-of-town tryouts; Columbo was his last role.

Third Generation

In 1968, the play was made into a two-hour television movie that aired on NBC. The writers suggested Lee J. Cobb and Bing Crosby for the role of Columbo, but Cobb was unavailable and Crosby turned it down. Director Richard Irving convinced Dick Levinson and Bill Link that Falk, who wanted the role, could pull it off even though he was much younger than the writers had in mind.[13]

Originally a one-off TV-Movie-of-the-Week, 1968's "Prescription: Murder" has Falk's Columbo pitted against a psychiatrist (Gene Barry) whose alibi Columbo breaks. Barry essentially played the same role that Joseph Cotten had played onstage in the play of the same name. Due to the success of the first film, NBC requested that a pilot for a potential series be made to see if the character could be sustained on a regular basis, leading to the 1971 hour and a half film, Ransom For a Dead Man, with Lee Grant playing the killer.

The popularity of the second film prompted the creation of a regular series on NBC that premiered in the fall of 1971 as part of the wheel series NBC Mystery Movie. The network hedged its bets by arranging for the Columbo segments to air once a month on Wednesday nights. Columbo was an immediate hit in the Nielsen ratings and Falk won an Emmy Award for his role in the show's first year, with the character quickly becoming an icon on American television. In its second year the Mystery Movie series was moved to Sunday nights, where it then remained, running in all for seven seasons. The show became the anchor of NBC's Sunday night line up; and a fixture of the Network's programming scheme of the period to (in the days before hundreds of cable channel choices) hold viewers in a fixed time slot each week even though their favored show did not air weekly. After its cancellation by NBC in 1978 Columbo was revived on ABC between 1989 and 2003 in occasional made-for-TV movies.

Columbo's wardrobe was provided by Peter Falk himself; they were his own clothes, including the trenchcoat which made its first appearance in "Prescription: Murder". Falk would often ad lib "Columbo-isms" (fumbling through his pockets for a piece of evidence and discovering a grocery list, asking to borrow a pencil, becoming distracted by something irrelevant in the room at a dramatic point in a conversation with a suspect, etc.), inserting these into his performance as a way to keep his fellow actors off-balance. He felt it helped to make their confused and impatient reactions to Columbo's antics more genuine.[14]


After Peter Falk's success in portraying the part of Columbo, this remarkable portrayal appears in a wide range of media, including novels, movies, TV shows, and comics. A number of stage plays of various casting directors have been performed, as well.

In 2010 the original stage play "Prescription: Murder" was revived for a tour of the United Kingdom with Dirk Benedict and later John Guerrasio as Columbo.[15]

Character profile

Style of investigation

Police Lieutenant Columbo is a disheveled, shabbily dressed, seemingly slow-witted police detective whose fumbling, overly polite manner makes him an unlikely choice to solve any crime, let alone a complex murder. However, despite his demeanor, Columbo is actually a brilliant detective with an eye for minute details and the ability to piece together seemingly unrelated incidents and information to solve crimes. Several of the killers have expressed their opinion on this apparent dichotomy to Columbo, including Dr. Ray Flemming ("Prescription: Murder"), Leslie Williams ("Ransom for a Dead Man") and Emmett Clayton ("The Most Dangerous Match").

Columbo usually zeros in quickly on a prime suspect, often lulling that person into a false sense of security by conveying the impression that he does not suspect him or her, or actually suspects someone else. Columbo sets up circumstances which encourage them, in their newfound hubris, to incriminate themselves. Columbo's signature interrogation technique is to conduct a friendly and seemingly innocuous interview, politely conclude it and exit the scene, only to stop in the doorway or return moments later and ask, "Just one more thing..." (also called the false exit), which is always a jarring question regarding an inconsistency in either the crime scene or the suspect's alibi. The banality of the interview, combined with Columbo's ostensible absentmindedness and seeming incompetence, encourage the suspect to feel he or she is safe. Columbo's "one more thing" is the first clue that this is not the case. Columbo may pretend to "befriend" a suspect, making them believe that he is investigating another individual and enlisting the suspect's "aid" in gathering information. Thus, suspects inevitably let down their guard because they are "working with" Columbo. In the end, most of the killers are stunned or chagrined. Others are worn out and almost relieved when the charade is finally over as in "Any Old Port in a Storm".

"Death Lends a Hand" first established that Columbo does not carry a gun. He has such low confidence in his ability to pass a routine departmental marksmanship test that in the episode "Forgotten Lady", he convinces a fellow officer to take the test for him, saying he himself could never hit the target. He rarely visits the Police Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles, and in fact some members of the department have never seen him there, a criticism to which he responds in the episode "Forgotten Lady" by commenting, "That's rarely where the murders take place!"

Columbo's aim when conducting his investigations and building his case seems not to be to prove to a jury that the suspect is guilty, but rather to prove to the suspect he knows exactly what they did and to elicit a confession. To that end in many episodes Columbo has falsified a piece of evidence for the suspect's benefit that will not play any part in the trial, such as in "Death Lends A Hand" where he plants a contact lens in the trunk of the suspect's car, purportedly from the victim, just to observe the suspect's actions upon its discovery. He also shows little regard for the bureaucracy of police work, often conducting searches without a warrant, simply stating he could if the suspect forced the issue. In the "Bye-bye Sky High IQ" case, Columbo goes so far as to turn up at the suspect's house without his raincoat and "accidentally" take the wrong umbrella. He explains to the suspect that while he had it he had it examined by forensics and though inadmissible in court, he has proof-positive that the suspect is guilty, and in the episode "Any Old Port In A Storm" he goes so far as to steal a $1,000 bottle of Port wine when left alone in the suspect's home.

Character biography

(The following details of Columbo's life have been gleaned from statements the character made himself on the show, although in numerous cases it was apparently to establish a rapport with someone of interest, or occasionally speaking to someone unrelated to the investigation, as when he mentioned his mother-in-law to his veterinarian in "The Most Dangerous Match").

His boyhood hero was Joe DiMaggio, and he also liked gangster pictures. Hardly a model child, Columbo broke street lamps, played pinball and ran with a crowd of boys that enjoyed a good prank. The trick of putting a potato in a car exhaust – which purportedly prevents the car from starting without causing permanent damage – served well on one of his cases. He jokes that he became a cop in part to make up for these juvenile pranks.

In "The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case," a murder suspect who possessed a genius-level intellect believed that Columbo's intellect was on a par with his own. During a conversation with the suspect, Columbo revealed, "All my life I kept running into smart people. I don't just mean smart like you and the people in this house. You know what I mean," implying that he frequently had to compete against people who were either better-looking, more physically fit, from better socio-economic backgrounds, or more politically savvy. He added, "I could tell right away that it wasn't gonna be easy making detective as long as they were around," but determined that he could even the odds by working harder than any of them, reading all of the required books and paying attention to every detail.

His trademark costume (rumpled beige raincoat over a two-piece suit, with a bone-colored shirt and a rayon tie) never varies from case to case or year to year — with one exception: when he gets a new one as a birthday gift from his wife in the episode "Now You See Him". Recurring character, Sgt Wilson, complements Columbo saying the coat fits beautifully and that it's a fine looking raincoat. But Columbo is not so sure. Columbo remarks that "it seems a little stiff" to him and he takes it off early in the episode remarking that he "can't think in this coat". Throughout the episode Columbo tries to find an innocent way to rid himself of the coat, presumably as to not offend his wife. He leaves the coat behind in several places including at the scene of the crime. At one point he leaves the coat in his unlocked car with the windows down instructing his dog "Dog" who is in the car that if somebody tries to steal the raincoat the dog should "look the other way". Before the end of the episode Columbo returns to the original raincoat. When on duty, he is never seen without it, except in rare cases when circumstances (such as a formal event) require alternate attire. He sometimes even wears his trademark costume while on vacation. In the episode "Troubled Waters", Columbo takes a Mexican cruise with his wife. He boards the cruise ship in his usual atire. Upon meeting Columbo dressed in the raincoat, the Captain of the ship quips "Oh, tell me Lieutenant, do you expect inclement weather in the Mexican waters?". In this episode Columbo does relax his dress by wearing his shirt with top buttons unbuttoned, no tie and his raincoat carried in his hands. Uncharacteristically, Columbo changes into his cruisewear at the end of the episode. He reveals the evidence and confronts the murderer while wearing a brown cruise shirt.

Columbo, although a policeman, does not carry a gun, but keeps it at LAPD Police Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles, although in several episodes ("Murder under Glass", "How to Dial a Murder", and "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo") the killer attempted to kill Columbo. He doesn't carry a firearm because he claims he hates guns and is a horrible shot, e.g. if he fired a gun off the end of a dock, he couldn't hit the water. He carries a gun only in "No Time To Die" and "Undercover".

His favorite food is chili with crackers, which he eats at a greasy spoon[16] named Barney's Beanery, though in later episodes he is found eating chili at various different places, each one at which he is indicated to be a "regular". "Murder Under Glass" reveals Columbo to be an accomplished home cook as well, having learned a recipe for veal scaloppine from his native Italian father. He drinks black coffee and has been known to have the occasional beer, or a glass of wine or spirits (e.g. he drinks bourbon with Dr. Ray Flemming in "Prescription: Murder", Irish Whiskey with Joe Devlin in "The Conspirators" and champagne in several episodes). In particular, Columbo is happy to share one last drink with someone he is about to put away (e.g. "Requiem for a Falling Star", "Any Old Port in a Storm"). In fact, as Columbo almost always investigates murders amongst the rich and famous of Los Angeles rather than gangland shootings, mafia killings or psychopaths, he regularly finds time during the investigation to take advantage of the suspect's social circle (e.g. the cuisine on tap in "Murder Under Glass"). He regularly asks to get behind the wheel of a suspect's luxury car, and has asked suspects who are authors to sign copies of all their books and actors to give him free tickets to their next performance.

Though Columbo certainly does enjoy the brushes with luxury that these cases afford him, he expresses on numerous occasions that he would not want a life of such extravagance for himself. In numerous episodes he is in awe of the suspects' lifestyles cost. For example, in "Any Old Port In A Storm", Columbo finds it incredible that the suspect purchased a bottle of wine at for $5,000; more than Columbo's father ever earned in a year. And in "Etude in Black", Columbo calculates that on a LAPD Lieutenant's salary of $11,000 he would need to work for 90 years to afford the home and furniture of the suspect.

When called to a case in the early hours, he brings a hard-boiled egg to serve as his breakfast. He loves cigars (usually of the stubby, very smelly, "Toscano" variety), which he smokes regularly (although more than once he gives up smoking during the series, only to restart in the next episode). His shoe size is referred to as "10 1/2 or 11" in "By Dawn's Early Light".

Columbo is prone to airsickness[17] and seasickness,[18] and he cannot swim, though he has been known to row a boat[19]. In "Dead Weight", when General Hollister (Eddie Albert) comments on Columbo's seasickness by asking why someone with the name "Columbo" would not be at home on a boat, the detective responds, "It must have been another branch of the family." He is squeamish, and does not like hospitals or autopsies, or even looking at graphic photographs of murders ("Dagger of the Mind"). His squeamishness at hospitals, which includes an aversion to viewing surgical procedures or even watching someone given a needle, was displayed in "A Stitch in Crime". He claims to be afraid of heights, once remarking to an FAA investigator who offered him a job, "I don't even like being this tall" ("Swan Song", 1974).

Columbo's unsettling cross-eyed stare was due to Falk having a glass eye. It remained a mystery for 25 years whether the character had one as well, until 1997's "Columbo: A Trace of Murder", whereupon asking another character to revisit the crime scene with him he jokes: “You know, three eyes are better than one.”

In almost every episode of the ABC revival he is heard whistling the children's song "This Old Man". If he does not whistle it, it appears somewhere else, such as in the underscore. Its significance comes from the line "knick knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone" in the lyrics, since Columbo's standard tactic is to gnaw at a case like a dog would to a bone. In "How to Dial a Murder" he says that he loves billiards, and is seen playing pool in "Ransom for a Dead Man" and "The Greenhouse Jungle". He considers the comedian W. C. Fields a genius, and Citizen Kane a terrific movie (in "How to Dial a Murder").

First name

When Columbo is explicitly asked if he has a first name in season 4 episode By Dawn's Early Light, he just dispassionately answers back that he does, but the only person who uses it is his wife. In the season 12 episode Undercover, Columbo is asked once again what his first name is, to which he emphatically answers, "Lieutenant," a sentiment echoed by actor Peter Falk and creators Richard Levinson and William Link.

Columbo's warrant card and badge with the name Frank Columbo in the episode "Dead Weight". The website of the LAPD has a description of the LAPD badge.

However, in the 1971 episode "Dead Weight", when Columbo introduces himself to General Hollister the audience is shown a brief close-up of Columbo's badge and warrant card, complete with signature, which appears to read "Frank Columbo". The same ID badge and warrant card is seen in numerous other episodes, and the signature "Frank Columbo" is clearly visible in the season 5 episode "A Matter of Honor".

Universal Studios, in the box set of seasons 1–4 under their Playback label, included a picture of Columbo's police badge on the back of the box, with signature "Frank Columbo" and the name "Lt Frank Columbo" in type. This appears to be a different badge from the one seen in "Dead Weight", with a different signature.

The "Philip Columbo" myth

Several sources cite the lieutenant's name as "Philip Columbo", variously claiming that the name was either in the original script for Prescription: Murder, or that it was visible on his police badge. For instance: a rumor that Columbo's first name is actually "Peter" has been denied by the star: "if he has a name at all," says Falk, "it is 'Philip,' which was the name used in the original story, Prescription: Murder."[20] Peugeot ran an advertising campaign that mentioned "Lt Philip Columbo" as the most famous driver of the Peugeot 403 convertible.

The name "Philip Columbo," was, in fact, invented by Fred L. Worth, in whose book, The Trivia Encyclopedia, the fictitious entry about Columbo's first name was actually a "copyright trap" – a deliberately false statement intended to reveal subsequent copyright infringement.[21] Ultimately, however, Worth's ploy was not successful. In 1984, he filed a $300 million lawsuit against the distributors of the board game, Trivial Pursuit, claiming that they had sourced their questions from his book, even to the point of reproducing typographical errors contained in the book. Worth's suit revolved around the use of the name, "Philip Columbo", included in a game-question about Lt Columbo. The makers of Trivial Pursuit did not deny that they sourced material from Worth's book, but argued there was nothing improper about using the book, as one of a number of other references, in the process of building game-questions. The judge agreed, ruling in favor of Trivial Pursuit, and the case was dismissed.[21] Worth appealed, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed.[22] Worth asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case, but it declined.[23]


In high school, he dropped chemistry and took wood shop.[24] After serving in the army during the Korean War, Columbo joined the New York City Police Department and was assigned to the 12th precinct. He trained under Sergeant Gilhooley, a genial Irishman who tried to teach him the game of darts. He moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

In Peter Falk's first appearance as Columbo in the 1968 TV-movie, Prescription: Murder, the character had the rank of police lieutenant, and despite solving numerous murders over the next few decades, in Falk's last appearance as Columbo in the 2003 cable-TV movie Columbo: Columbo Likes the Nightlife, the detective is still only a lieutenant. So either the character did not receive any further promotions or he may have only gone from Lieutenant I to Lieutenant II over the show's 35 year run.


Birth family

Columbo was born and raised in New York City in a neighborhood near Chinatown. In the episode "Murder Under Glass", he reveals that he ate more egg rolls than cannelloni in his childhood. He is Italian on both sides. The Columbo household included the future police officer's grandfather, parents, five brothers (one named George), and a sister. His father wore glasses and did the cooking when his mother was in the hospital having another baby. His grandfather "was a tailgunner on a beer truck during Prohibition" and let him stomp the grapes when they made wine in the cellar. His father, who never earned more than $5,000 a year and bought only one new car in his life, taught him how to play pool, an obsession that stuck with the future detective.

Mrs. Columbo

He frequently mentions his wife, whom he met while dating a girl named Theresa in high school, and once stated he employs her opinion on his ideas.[citation needed]

During the first incarnation of the series, between 1971 and 1978, it was widely believed in Hollywood that Columbo's "wife" was a fictional ploy used only for conversation with his prey, and that the character actually lived alone in a furnished room. Falk is reported in magazine profiles to have strongly believed this.[citation needed]

In the episode "Troubled Waters" other characters describe meeting and speaking to Mrs. Columbo, although she never appears on screen. In three other episodes ("An Exercise in Fatality", "Any Old Port in a Storm" and "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo"), Columbo is seen talking on the telephone with her. In "Identity Crisis", murderer Nelson Brenner (Patrick McGoohan) bugs Columbo's home and learns her favorite piece of music.

In the episode "Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo", Columbo's unseen wife is herself targeted by a killer (Helen Shaver). During the investigation Columbo states that his wife loves Chopin, and describes her as being busy with church, volunteering at the hospital, watching her sister's children, and walking the dog five times a day. He mentions that she has a sister named Ruth, and later while talking with his wife on the phone he refers also to her having another sister, Rita. This episode teases the audience as to whether or not Mrs. Columbo has actually been murdered, and by featuring prominently displayed photographs of Mrs. Columbo, apparently finally disclosing her appearance to viewers. However, the photos are revealed not to be those of Columbo's wife, after all, nor is the house even his, as he informs the killer at the end of the episode.

Mrs. Columbo's first name was once indicated by Falk to be Rose, in a sketch in which he performed in-character in a 1978 episode of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, in which Frank Sinatra was the guest of honor.[25]

They may or may not have children; in two scenes in "Any Old Port in a Storm", he refers to the difficulty of getting a babysitter. He also mentions in that episode taking his wife and child on a picnic, and alludes to his child in "The Most Crucial Game". In "Mind over Mayhem" he mentions that his "wife and kids" are in Fresno visiting his mother-in-law. In "Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo" he claimed he and his wife didn't have any children, although in the Mrs. Columbo series (spinoff) there is a daughter, Jenny.

Other relatives

Falk once stated during an interview on Inside the Actors Studio that he was not truly sure how many relatives Columbo had aside from his wife.[citation needed]

In "No Time to Die", he attends the wedding of his nephew, who is also a police officer. In "Short Fuse", he states that his wife's younger brother is a photography buff, and in "Blueprint for Murder", he says he has a brother-in-law who is an attorney. At the end of "Dead Weight", he states that he has a niece named Cynthia, who is the daughter of his wife's sister. In "Requiem for a Falling Star", he tells the murderer, a famous actress named Nora Chandler, that he has a brother-in-law named George, and has her speak to him over the phone, although whom she is really speaking to is unascertainable.

Columbo's car

Peugeot 403 Cabriolet

Columbo prefers to drive a dirty 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible (which is equipped with a police radio), rather than an official LAPD car while on duty. Peter Falk selected the car personally, after seeing it in a parking lot at Universal Studios.[26] In the show, Columbo boasts that the car is a rare automobile, as it really was: from June 1956 to July 1961 only 2,050 were produced,[27] and only 504 were produced for model year 1959.[28] In the episode "Identity Crisis", Columbo tells the murderer that his is one of only three in the country.

Columbo damages the car at least four times: in "Make Me a Perfect Murder" when he t-bones one police car and is hit from behind by another while trying to repair his rear view mirror; in "A Matter of Honor" when he rear-ends another car; in "Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health" when it takes him three tries to crash into the killer's car; and in "Old Fashioned Murder" when he crashes into the back of a police car as he arrives at the murder scene. He also has many other problems with the car.[29]

During the show's initial run on NBC, the license number was 044-APD. The car was sold after cancellation of the series, and when the show resurfaced on ABC in 1989 a similar car was found in Ohio,[30] and received a new license plate number, 448-DBZ.

Columbo's Dog

A Basset

"Étude In Black" (1972) marked the first appearance of the lieutenant's Basset Hound. He was adopted from the pound and taken to the vet, where Columbo tried to think of a name for him, but to no avail. During the episode he considered names like Fido, Munch and Beethoven, finally settling that there could be no name for him, just "Dog".[31] Although he only appeared in approximately ten episodes, "Dog" became a part of Columbo's persona as much as the cigar, the coat, and the car, and was the subject of the detective's many amusing narrations.

The idea of bringing in a dog for Columbo came from the studio's demands for a new recurring character. The creators decided that it might as well be a pet and Steven Bochco was first to write it in the show.

The original basset hound used in the series was owned by Ray Berwick and called Henry.[32] After his death he was replaced by another, much younger dog, but the change seemingly went unnoticed.

Guest contributions


The first season premiere "Murder by the Book" was written by Steven Bochco and directed by Steven Spielberg. Jonathan Demme directed the seventh season episode "Murder Under Glass". Jonathan Latimer was also a writer. Actor Ben Gazzara, a friend of Falk, directed the episodes "A Friend in Deed" (1974) and "Troubled Waters" (1975).

Falk himself directed the last episode of the first season, "Blueprint For Murder". Actor Nicholas Colasanto, best known for playing Coach on Cheers, directed several episodes, including "Swan Song" (in Season 3) with Johnny Cash, and "Étude in Black".

Patrick McGoohan directed five episodes (including three of the four in which he played the murderer) and wrote and produced two (including one of these). Vincent McEveety was a frequent director, and homage was paid to him by a humorous mention of a character with his surname in the episode "Undercover" (which he directed).

Guest stars

Actors and actresses appearing on Columbo as either murderer or victim include:

Murderers Anthony Andrews, Eddie Albert, Richard Basehart, Anne Baxter, Gene Barry, Patrick Bauchau, Ed Begley, Jr., Theodore Bikel, Honor Blackman, Ian Buchanan, Stephen Caffrey, Johnny Cash, John Cassavetes, Jack Cassidy, Claudia Christian, Susan Clark, Dabney Coleman, Billy Connolly, Robert Conrad, Jackie Cooper, Lindsay Crouse, Robert Culp, Tyne Daly, Faye Dunaway, Hector Elizondo, José Ferrer, Ruth Gordon, Lee Grant, George Hamilton, Laurence Harvey, Gary Hershberger, Louis Jourdan, Richard Kiley, Martin Landau (as identical twin brothers), Janet Leigh, Ross Martin, Roddy McDowall, Patrick McGoohan, Vera Miles, Ray Milland, Sal Mineo, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy, Donald Pleasence, James Read, Clive Revill, Matthew Rhys, William Shatner, Helen Shaver, Andrew Stevens, Fisher Stevens, Rip Torn, Trish Van Devere, Dick Van Dyke, Joyce Van Patten, Robert Vaughn, George Wendt, Oskar Werner, Nicol Williamson. Patrick McGoohan appeared in a record four episodes of Columbo. Robert Culp and Jack Cassidy both appeared three times as murderers. Culp appeared a fourth time as the father of a collegiate killer. Ray Milland, George Hamilton, William Shatner, Robert Vaughn, Joyce Van Patten and Ed Begley, Jr. all appeared in two episodes. Hamilton and Shatner played the killer both times. Vaughn played both a killer and a victim. Milland played both killer and the husband of a victim. Van Patten played the killer in one episode and a nun (who mistakes Columbo for a hobo while he is interviewing someone in a soup kitchen) in another episode. Begley played both an animal control officer (innocent third party) and a killer. Coleman appeared as a murderer and in an earlier episode as a cop working on a case with Columbo.
Victims Lola Albright, Sian Barbara Allen, Richard Anderson, Poupée Bocar, Sorrell Booke, Antoinette Bower, John Chandler, Barbara Colby, Anjanette Comer, Pat Crowley, John Dehner, Bradford Dillman, Stephen Elliott, Greg Evigan, Joel Fabiani, Nina Foch, Anne Francis, Charles Frank, Michael V. Gazzo, Don Gordon, James Gregory, Deidre Hall, Peter Haskell, Sam Jaffe, John Kerr, Laurence Luckinbill, Ida Lupino, Janet Margolin, Chuck McCann, Rue McClanahan, Martin Milner, Rosemary Murphy, Leslie Nielsen, Tim O'Connor, Albert Paulsen, Nehemiah Persoff, Martha Scott, Pippa Scott, Martin Sheen, Tom Simcox, Mickey Spillane, Dean Stockwell, Ken Swofford, Forrest Tucker, Bonnie Van Dyke, Robert Vaughn, Lesley Ann Warren, John Williams, Jeff Yagher, Carmine Giovinazzo. Ida Lupino appeared twice, once as victim and once as the spouse of a victim. John Dehner appeared twice, once as victim and once as a third party. Tim O'Connor appeared twice, once as a shady lawyer and once as victim. Leslie Nielsen appeared twice, once as victim and once as the boyfriend of the murderer. Dean Stockwell appeared twice, once as victim and once as a third party. Robert Vaughn appeared twice, playing a killer and a victim. John Chandler and Don Gordon played stooges who assisted the primary murderer/killer and were killed themselves afterwards. Barbara Colby, a newcomer, played a victim, albeit not the intended victim, but rather a potential blackmailer who is killed for that reason. Sian Barbara Allen, Poupée Bocar and Chuck McCann's characters were also killed (in different episodes) for attempting blackmail. Carmine Giovinazzo played the victim of the ultimate murder investigated by Columbo in the episode "Columbo Likes the Nightlife".

Barbara Colby and Sal Mineo are the two "guest murder victims" who ended up getting murdered in real life.

Miscellaneous guest stars

Actors and actresses such as Diane Baker, Priscilla Barnes, Lloyd Bochner, Kim Cattrall, Gretchen Corbett, Sondra Currie, Jamie Lee Curtis, Samantha Eggar, Blythe Danner, Fionnuala Flanagan, John Fraser, Jeff Goldblum, Molly Hagan, Valerie Harper, Mariette Hartley, Joyce Jillson, Bruno Kirby, Walter Koenig, Kenneth Mars, Donald Moffat, Pat Morita, Leslie Nielsen, Trisha Noble, Richard Pearson, Suzanne Pleshette, Barry Robins, Gena Rowlands, Katey Sagal (whose father Boris Sagal directed several episodes), Cynthia Sikes, James Sikking, Jennifer Sky, Vic Tayback, Robert Walker, Jr. and Jessica Walter, among many others, had roles of varying sizes relatively early in their careers. Falk's real-life wife, actress Shera Danese, appeared in six Columbo episodes in various roles.

More seasoned actors and actresses to appear later or very late in their careers include: Frank Aletter, Don Ameche, Aneta Corsaut, Thayer David, Maurice Evans, Mel Ferrer, Steve Forrest, Bernard Fox, Will Geer, Jane Greer, Pat Harrington, Jr., Julie Harris, Edith Head (as herself), Celeste Holm, Kim Hunter, Wilfrid Hyde-White (appeared twice), Jack Kruschen, Jessie Royce Landis, Joanne Linville, Little Richard (as himself), Robert Loggia, Myrna Loy, Patrick Macnee, Kevin McCarthy, Bill McKinney, Juliet Mills, Julie Newmar, Jeanette Nolan (appeared twice), Janis Paige, John Payne, Vincent Price, John Randolph, Kate Reid, George C. Scott, Madeleine Sherwood, Robert F. Simon, Rod Steiger, Larry Storch, Nita Talbot, David White, Collin Wilcox and William Windom (appeared twice, including the 1968 first pilot). Jorge Garcia appearred as Julius, a bouncer, in the ultimate episode.

Recurring roles

Actors Steven Gilborn (4 times) , J. P. Finnegan (6 times), Vito Scotti (6 times), Bruce Kirby (8 appearances, 4 of them as Sergeant Kramer), Bob Dishy (as Sergeant Wilson in two episodes), Dr. Benson (Columbo's dog's vet, played by Michael Fox in two episodes) and Burt (the chili dispenser at Columbo's favorite greasy spoon, played by Timothy Carey) played recurring characters.

Awards and nominations

Columbo has received multiple awards and nominations from 1971 to 2005. Among them: thirteen Emmys, two Golden Globes, an Edgar Award and a TV Land Award nomination in 2005 for Peter Falk.[33]

Primetime Emmy Awards
Year Category Nominee Result
1971 Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Lee Grant
for "Ransom for a Dead Man"
1972 Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama Jackson Gillis
for "Suitable for Framing"
Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama Steven Bochco
for "Murder by the Book"
Outstanding Series - Drama Richard Levinson, William Link,
Everett Chambers
Outstanding New Series Richard Levinson, William Link,
Everett Chambers
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama -
A Single Program of a Series with Continuing Characters and/or Theme
Edward M. Abroms
for "Short Fuse"
Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition -
For a Series or a Single Program of a Series
Billy Goldenberg
for "Lady in Waiting"
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Dramatic Series Peter Falk Won
Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama Richard Levinson, William Link
for "Death Lends a Hand"
Outstanding Achievement in Film Editing for Entertainment Programming -
For a Series or a Single Program of a Series
Edward M. Abroms
for "Death Lends a Hand"
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Entertainment Programming -
For a Series or a Single Program of a Series
Lloyd Ahern
for "Blueprint for Murder"
1973 Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama Steven Bochco
for "Étude in Black"
Outstanding Drama Series Dean Hargrove Nominated
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama -
A Single Program of a Series with Continuing Characters and/or Theme
Edward M. Abroms
for "The Most Dangerous Match"
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Peter Falk Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design Grady Hunt
for "Dagger of the Mind"
1974 Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series Peter Falk Nominated
Outstanding Limited Series Dean Hargrove, Roland Kibbee, Douglas Benton,
Robert F. O'Neill, Edward K. Dodds
Best Cinematography for Entertainment Programming -
For a Series or a Single Program of a Series
Harry L. Wolf
for "Any Old Port in a Storm"
1975 Outstanding Limited Series Dean Hargrove, Roland Kibbee, Douglas Benton,
Everett Chambers, Edward K. Dodds
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Art Direction or Scenic Design -
For a Single Episode of a Comedy, Drama or Limited Series
Michael Baugh, Jerry Adams
for "Playback"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series Peter Falk Won
Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series Patrick McGoohan
for "By Dawn's Early Light"
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Entertainment Programming for a Series Richard C. Glouner
for "Playback"
1976 Outstanding Drama Series Everett Chambers Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Won
1977 Outstanding Drama Series Everett Chambers Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Nominated
1978 Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series Patrick Williams
for "Try and Catch Me"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Nominated
Outstanding Drama Series Richard Alan Simmons Nominated
Outstanding Film Editing in a Drama Series Robert Watts
for "How to Dial a Murder"
1989 Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series Patrick Williams
for "Murder, Smoke and Shadows"
1990 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Patrick McGoohan
for "Agenda for Murder"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Won
1991 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Dabney Coleman
for "Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Nominated
1994 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Faye Dunaway
for "It's All in the Game"
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Peter Falk Nominated
Edgar Allan Poe Awards
Year Category Nominee Result
1972 Best Television Episode Steven Bochco
for "Murder by the Book"
1974 Best Television Episode Jackson Gillis
for "Requiem for a Falling Star"
1979 Best Television Episode Robert Van Scoyk
for "Murder Under Glass"
Golden Globe Awards
Year Category Nominee Result
1972 Actor In A Leading Role - Drama Series Or Television Movie Peter Falk Nominated
1973 Best Television Series - Drama Won
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Peter Falk Won
1974 Best Television Series - Drama Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Peter Falk Nominated
1975 Best Television Series - Drama Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Peter Falk Nominated
1976 Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Peter Falk Nominated
1978 Best Television Series - Drama Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Drama Peter Falk Nominated
1991 Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Drama Peter Falk Nominated
1992 Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Peter Falk Nominated
1994 Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV "It's All in the Game" Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Peter Falk
for "It's All in the Game"
Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Faye Dunaway
for "It's All in the Game"

Mrs. Columbo spin-off

A spinoff featuring Mrs. Columbo was opposed by series creators Levinson and Link, as well as by Peter Falk. In an interview with Columbo Phile author Mark Dawidziak, published –prior to the 1989 Columbo revival, Richard Levinson joked, "If there was ever another Columbo we were going to have him say, 'There's a woman running around pretending to be my wife. She's changing things. She's a young girl. I wish my wife was like that. She's an impostor.'"[citation needed] Nonetheless, a spin-off TV series, Mrs. Columbo starring Kate Mulgrew, was aired in 1979, but it received a dismal reception[citation needed] and was eventually canceled.

Columbo himself was never seen on Mrs. Columbo. However, certain obvious connections were made to the original Columbo series, notably the presence of Columbo's beat-up car and pet dog in the show's opening sequence. References were also made to Kate's husband being a police lieutenant. However, there were also notable discrepancies between the two shows. Kate's physical appearance did not match with certain descriptions Lt. Columbo had provided of his wife in various Columbo episodes over the years – the actress playing "Mrs. Columbo" was too young (Mulgrew was 24 at the time) and too thin to be the wife described in the Columbo episodes.[34] In the series Kate had a daughter – in fact, Columbo, in two scenes of his episode "Any Old Port in a Storm", refers to the difficulty of getting a babysitter[35] – yet Lt. Columbo, in the Columbo episode "Rest In Peace, Mrs Columbo", stated that he and his wife had never had children.[36] Furthermore, in the episode "Double Exposure", Lt. Columbo declared that his wife "had no head for crime" and that she "always picked the wrong guy as the murderer" whenever they watched a mystery movie.

Due to the negative critical and public reaction to the show, the producers fairly quickly started making changes. The spin-off was renamed Kate Columbo, followed by Kate the Detective, and finally Kate Loves a Mystery. The main character was likewise renamed "Kate Callahan", and all references to and ties with the original Columbo show were dropped – the character was no longer supposed to be Mrs. Columbo or to have any connection with him at all. The series lasted only thirteen episodes. An episode of Mrs. Columbo was included as a bonus feature on the Region 1 and 2 DVD releases of the third, fourth and fifth seasons.

Efforts to produce subsequent Columbo episodes

A few years prior to his death, Peter Falk had expressed interest in returning to the role, announcing in 2007 that he had chosen a script for one last Columbo episode, Columbo: Hear No Evil. The script was renamed Columbo's Last Case. ABC, the network that aired the more recent Columbo series (beginning in 1989), declined the project. In response, producers for the series announced that they were attempting to shop the project to foreign production companies.[37][38] However, Falk's involvement in the project was put into doubt after he was diagnosed with dementia in late 2007, following a dental procedure.[39] During a 2009 court trial over Falk's care, Dr Stephen Read stated that the actor's condition had deteriorated to the point where he could no longer remember the character of Columbo.[39]

Peter Falk died on June 23, 2011. He was 83 years old.

List of episodes

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment is continually releasing new episodes of Columbo on DVD.[40] The episodes are released in the same chronological order as they were originally broadcast. In the UK, (Region 2) all episodes have now been released as ten seasons, the tenth season covering all the shows from "Columbo Goes to College" (1990) to the finale "Columbo Likes the Nightlife" (2003). However in France, and The Netherlands (also Region 2) the DVDs were released as twelve seasons.

On January 10, 2012, Universal will release Columbo- Mystery Movie Collection 1994-2003 on DVD in Region 1.[41] This 3-disc set features the final 7 tele-films of the series.

DVD name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 9 September 7, 2004 September 13, 2004 December 3, 2004
The Complete Second Season 8 March 8, 2005 July 18, 2005 July 13, 2005
The Complete Third Season 8 August 9, 2005 November 14, 2005 July 20, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season 6 March 14, 2006 September 18, 2006 September 19, 2006
The Complete Fifth Season 6 June 27, 2006 February 12, 2007 Unknown 2007
The Complete Sixth & Seventh Seasons 8 November 21, 2006 April 30, 2007 May 2, 2007
The Mystery Movie Collection 1989 (R1/R4)
The Complete Eighth Season (R2)
April 24, 2007 March 31, 2008 June 4, 2008
The Mystery Movie Collection 1990 (R1)
The Complete Ninth Season (R2/R4)
6 February 3, 2009 March 30, 2009 May 6, 2009
The Tenth Season – Volume 1 (R2)
The Tenth Season – Volume 2 (R2)
N/A June 15, 2009
July 27, 2009
July 28, 2009
November 10, 2009
The Mystery Movie Collection 1991–1993 (R1) 6 February 8, 2011[42] N/A N/A
The Mystery Movie Collection 1994–2003 (R1) 7 January 10, 2012 N/A N/A
Columbo: The Complete Series 69 N/A October 19, 2009 N/A

Other appearances

Columbo, as he appeared in volume 7 of Case Closed
  • Falk appeared as Columbo in a faux episode of Alias produced for a 2003 TV special celebrating the 50th anniversary of ABC. Featuring most of the regular cast of the spy series, the skit began with Jack Bristow preparing agents Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn for a mission, and informing them that they will have a new partner – Detective Columbo. Columbo proceeds to wreak havoc at CIA headquarters, accidentally shooting Vaughn with an anesthetic dart and volunteering to wear a skimpy bikini intended for Sydney during the mission. Columbo reveals that his mission is not to aid the CIA but rather to help Walt Disney Company/ABC head Michael Eisner better understand the show. His work completed, Columbo departs, leaving Jack Bristow to utter a confused, "Dear God, that was strange."
  • Falk also appeared as Columbo in the 1977 episode of The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Frank Sinatra.
  • Falk appears as himself (but dressed as Columbo) in the Wim Wenders films Wings of Desire and Faraway, So Close! In the first he appears as an actor in a film about Berlin's Nazi past, and in the second he pretends to be scouting locations for a movie in order to distract some security guards.
  • Columbo is highlighted in volume 7 of the Case Closed manga edition of Gosho Aoyoma's Mystery Library, a section of the graphic novels (usually the last page) where the author introduces a different detective (or occasionally, a villain) from mystery literature, television, or other media.
  • A fictional child detective son of Columbo ("Corumbo") appears in an episode of the red jacket series of Lupin III.

Music score

Columbo episodes contain a variety of music that contributes to the uniqueness of each of them. Score is of particular importance during the turning points of the plot, such as, when the crime is being prepared and committed. The Mystery Movie Theme by Henry Mancini written for the NBC Mystery Movie was used extensively in the whole of 38 episodes, from 1971 to 1977. Unlike other programs in the NBC Mystery Movie series,Columbo did not have actual theme music of its own. Several composers created original music for the series, that was often used along with The Mystery Movie Theme:

  • Jonathan Tunick (1 episode, 1978)
  • John Cacavas (3 episodes, 1989–1991)
  • James Di Pasquale (2 episodes, 1990)
  • Steve Dorff (2 episodes, 1991)
  • Dennis Dreith (1 episode, 1990)
  • Richard Markowitz (1 episode, 1990)
  • David Michael Frank (1 episode, 1990)
  • Ken Jordan (1 episode, 2003)
  • Jim Latham (1 episode, 2003)

Series Music department included:

  • Henry Mancini — composer: "Mystery Movie" theme / "Sunday Mystery Movie" theme (38 episodes, 1971–1977)
  • Hal Mooney — music supervisor (27 episodes, 1972–1976)
  • Mike Post — composer: "Mystery Movie" theme (9 episodes, 1989–1990)

Patrick Williams received two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series in 1978 (for "Try and Catch Me") and 1989 (for "Murder, Smoke and Shadows"). Billy Goldenberg was nominated in the same category in 1972 for "Lady in Waiting".

Apart from that, Columbo had an unofficial "signature" tune – the children's song "This Old Man". It was introduced in the episode "Any Old Port In a Storm" in 1973 and the detective can be heard humming or whistling it many times from then on. Peter Falk admitted that it was a melody he personally enjoyed and one day it became a part of his character.[43] Song's arrangements were used throughout the three decades of the series, including opening and closing credits. A version of it, called simply "Columbo", was created by one of the show's composers, Patrick Williams.[44]

Also, "Columbo Theme Signature" was written by Dick DeBenedictis, to be used during opening sequence and closing credits.


A Columbo series of books was published by MCA Publishing in 1972 by authors Alfred Lawrence, Henry Clement and Lee Hays, mostly adapted from the TV series.[45]

Columbo was also used as the protagonist for a series of novels published between 1994 and 1999 by Forge Books, an imprint of Tor Books. All of these books were written by William Harrington.

William Link, the co-creator of the series, has written a collection of Columbo short stories, entitled The Columbo Collection, which was published in May 2010 by Crippen & Landru, the specialty mystery publisher.[46]


Country Foreign Title Translation Network(s) Notes
Arab World (Middle East and North Africa) Columbo
Subtitled MBC 2 Not currently airing[47]
 Argentina Columbo
Dubbed Retro
 Australia Columbo
None TV1
 Austria Columbo
Dubbed ORF1
 Flemish Region
Subtitled vtm, VijfTV
Wallonia French Community
Dubbed RTBF, RTL-TVi, AB4
 Bulgaria Коломбо (Columbo)
Subtitled/Dubbed Fox Crime
AXN Crime
Dubbed in Bulgarian on Fox Crime and Diema, Subtitled on AXN Crime
 Canada Columbo
None Sun TV (Canada) Shown in rotation with the other "NBC Mystery Movies"
 Canada Columbo
Dubbed Prise 2 Dubbed in French
 Catalonia (Spain) Colombo
Dubbed TVC and 8tv (currently)
 Croatia Columbo
Subtitled HRT, RTL Televizija
 Czech Republic Columbo
Dubbed TV Nova
TV Prima
 Denmark Columbo
Subtitled DR2
 Finland Columbo
Subtitled MTV
 France Columbo
Dubbed TF1
TV Breizh
 Galicia (Spain) Colombo
Dubbed TVG
 Germany Columbo
Dubbed Super RTL the show was originally broadcast on Das Erste (access prime time), later on RTL (prime time)
Hong KongHong Kong 哥伦布督察
Dubbed RTV originally shown in rotation with the other "NBC Mystery Movies" and later being played as a stand-alone program.
 Hungary Columbo
Dubbed Magyar Televízió
 Iceland Columbo
Subtitled RÚV
 Iran ستوان کلمبو
(Lieutenant Columbo)
Dubbed Channel 1 شبكه’ يك The 1971–1978 series was broadcast by Channel 1
 Ireland Columbo
 Israel קולומבו
Subtitled Channel 1
Israel 10
 Italy Colombo
Dubbed Rai Due
Rete 4
Fox Crime
Fox Retro
Rai Due (first TV: 1968 film TV and 1971–1978 series; except pilot and the episodes 2.1, 2.4, 3.8 transmitted in first TV in the 1987 from Rete 4), Rete 4 (first TV: 1989–2003 series, now replicate all the episodes of both series), Fox Crime (pay TV, replicate all the episodes)
 Japan 刑事コロンボ
(Detective Columbo)
Subtitled/Dubbed NHK
Super Channel
The Mystery Channel
It was renamed to 新刑事コロンボ(New Detective Columbo) starting the 8th season.
 South Korea 형사 콜롬보
(Detective Columbo)
Subtitled/Dubbed KBS
 Netherlands Columbo
Subtitled RTL 4
 Norway Columbo
Subtitled NRK1
 Pakistan Columbo
None Shalimar Television Network
 Poland Columbo
Voice-over translation TVP
 Portugal Columbo
Subtitled RTP1
 Romania Columbo
Subtitled/Dubbed TVR1 Pro TV
 Russia Коломбо (Columbo)
Dubbed Channel One Currently airing in Domashniy
 Slovakia Columbo
Dubbed TV Markíza
Czech-dubbed version used as there is no Slovak dubbing
 Slovenia Columbo
Subtitled Kanal A, POP TV
 Spain Colombo
Dubbed TVE
Currently airing in Nitro
 Sweden Columbo
Subtitled SVT, TV3, TV4 Guld
 Switzerland Columbo
Dubbed Télévision Suisse Romande the show is still shown on Télévision Suisse Romande, a French language Swiss TV channel in Zweikanalton (French/English)
 Switzerland Colombo
Dubbed Radiotelevisione svizzera di lingua italiana the show is still shown on RSI, an Italian language Swiss TV channel in Zweikanalton (Italian/English)
 Republic of China 神探可倫坡
(Detective Columbo)
 Turkey Komiser Kolombo
(Lieutenant Columbo)
Dubbed TRT 1
 Ukraine Коломбо
Dubbed Inter, STB, Ukraina
 United Kingdom Columbo
Channel 5
Universal Channel
Movies 24
Sky Movies
The show was originally broadcast on ITV. Nowadays the main series is shown on ITV3, BBC Two, Channel 5, and Universal Channel while the TV movies are shown on ITV, Movies 24 and Sky Movies.
 Venezuela Columbo
Dubbed Venevisión
 Yugoslavia (former) Inspektor Kolombo
Subtitled RTV Beograd Sunday evening 20:00, top time

See also


  1. ^ "Philip Saltzman, Producer of 'Barnaby Jones'". Los Angeles Times. August 21, 2009.,0,3124034.story. Retrieved August 23, 2009. 
  2. ^ "New York Times". The New York Times. November 28, 1990. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  3. ^ "New York Times". The New York Times. December 15, 1991. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Peter Falk". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 31, 2009. 
  5. ^ Me-TV: Columbo
  6. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997. 
  7. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. pp. 651. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 
  8. ^ "DVD Talk". DVD Talk. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  9. ^ In "R.I.P Mrs. Columbo", the Lieutenant threatens the suspect's psychiatrist, reluctant to give answers, with arrest for questioning while at a fancy restaurant.
  10. ^ a b "Ed McBain's Columbo". 
  11. ^ "The Columblog". 
  12. ^ "''Sun Times'' reviews". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  13. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (1989). The Columbo Phile: A Casebook. New York: Mysterious Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-89296-376-X. 
  14. ^ Falk, Peter. Just One More Thing, 2006; Da Capo Press
  15. ^ stage play Prescription Murder
  16. ^ He remarks, "It's the crackers that make the dish", in "Ransom for a Dead Man". He also eats chili with crackers in "Dead Weight", and is also seen eating chili in "The Greenhouse Jungle", and "The Most Crucial Game".
  17. ^ Columbo; "Ransom for a Dead Man"; 1971
  18. ^ Columbo; "Dead Weight"; 1971
  19. ^ Columbo; "Last Salute to the Commodore"; 1976
  20. ^ Haining, Peter, ed. The Television Crimebusters Omnibus. London: Orion, 1994, p. 372. ISBN 1-85797-736-X. This volume of short stories contains a number of factual errors in its introductions – for instance, it cites Edna May Oliver as having played Hildegarde Withers in six films (p. 406)
  21. ^ a b "Columbo fansite". October 23, 1984. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  22. ^ Worth v. Selchow & Righter Company, 827 F.2d 596 (9th Cir. 1987).
  23. ^ Worth v. Selchow & Righter Co., 485 U.S. 977 (1988). (cert. denied.)
  24. ^ Columbo; "Short Fuse"; 1971
  25. ^ "Peter Falk - The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Frank Sinatra (1977) - Peter Roasts Frank". Retrieved June 28, 2011. 
  26. ^ "Peugeot official history". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Peugeot 403 page". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Classic Cars: Peugeot 403". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Complete history of Columbo's car-related problems". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Columbo fansite". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Columbo's Dog". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Dogs > Breeds> Basset Hounds > Dog the dog (Columbo)". Tv Acres. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Columbo, season 4, episode 1 – An Exercise in Fatality
  35. ^ "Columbo", season 3, episode 2 – "Any Old Port in a Storm"
  36. ^ "Columbo", season 9, episode 4 – "Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo"
  37. ^ "With aging Falk, 'Columbo' looks like a closed case". Daily News. New York. March 27, 2007. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  38. ^ "A mystery Columbo can't seem to crack". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  39. ^ a b Gardner, David (June 2, 2009). "'Peter Falk's dementia means he no longer remembers Columbo,' admits actor's doctor in court hearing over his care". Daily Mail, UK. Retrieved January 2, 2011. 
  40. ^ "News for Columbo". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ "". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Columbo". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  45. ^ "Columbo books". August 8, 1976. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  46. ^ Harrington, William. "''The Columbo Collection'' at". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  47. ^ "Mbc 2 Schedule from 26 till 4 June". Retrieved June 27, 2011. 

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  • Columbo — Co*lum bo, n. (Med.) See {Calumba}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Columbo — Columbo, Stadt, so v. w. Colombo …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Columbo — ist eine in der Medicin hauptsächlich gegen die Ruhr, ruhrartige Diarrhöen, Atonie des Darmkanals angewendete Wurzel von der Größe unserer Zaunrübe. Dieselbe kommt in der Form von etwa fingerdicken und 11/2 bis 2 Zoll im Durchmesser haltenden… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • columbo — elem. columbi . Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • Columbo — Cet article possède un paronyme, voir : Colombo (homonymie). Columbo …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Columbo — Seriendaten Deutscher Titel Columbo Produktionsland Vereinigte Staaten …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Columbo — Para otros usos de este término, véase Colombo (desambiguación). Columbo Peter Falk (derecha) como teniente Colombo (1974). Título Columbo (Latinoamérica) Colombo …   Wikipedia Español

  • Columbo — a US television series (1971–93) in which the main character is Lieutenant Columbo (whose first name was never revealed), played by Peter Falk. Columbo is a Los Angeles police detective who wears an untidy old coat and drives an old car. His… …   Universalium

  • columbo — Calumba Ca*lum ba, n. [from kalumb, its native name in Mozambique.] (Med.) The root of a plant ({Jateorrhiza Calumba}, and probably {Cocculus palmatus}), indigenous in Mozambique. It has an unpleasantly bitter taste, and is used as a tonic and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • columbo — colombo ou columbo (ko lon bo) s. m. Terme de pharmacie. Racine d une plante sarmenteuse (menispermum palmatum, L.), qui est amère et astringente. ÉTYMOLOGIE    Colombo, ville de l île de Ceylan, d où cette racine est apportée …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré