The Timeless Charm Behind 1970s Detective Show ‘Columbo’

Oct 12, 2021 by apost team

The entertainment industry is filled with thousands of television shows today thanks to online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu, but many decades ago, the choices were limited to what television channels offer. For some audiences, it was the golden age in television with new and creative shows that would hook the attention of everyone who was watching. One such show was "Columbo," which had audiences around the world and continues to be popular even today. 

Peter Falk was best known for playing the titular role of Lieutenant Columbo on the series “Columbo” from 1968 to 2003, for which he won four Primetime Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe for his performance throughout the long-running show. 

Born in the Bronx and raised in Ossining, New York, Falk had his right eye removed due to retinoblastoma when he was 3-years-old. He wore an artificial eye for the majority of his life but this never slowed him down. Falk still participated in sports as a boy, and when he grew up and became an actor he was known for his signature squint — something that "Columbo" would be known for when it aired. 

Many people continue to believe that "Columbo" revolutionized the cop show, and turned it into the genre it is today. 

Falk, who was synonymous with the show, said he enjoyed his time as the titular Detective Columbo said in 1986, “You ask what do you miss about ‘Columbo.’ What you got a kick out of? It’s great to be on the cover of Time magazine. But what you get a kick out of was when you looked at the dailies and saw that character do something that tickled you, and you enjoyed it so." 

Peter Falk (1987), (Pool DUCLOS/PELLETIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)

"Columbo" aired on television from 1971 to 1978 as one of the rotating programs of The NBC Mystery Movie. "There was nobody or nothing like Columbo at all before him,"  David Koenig, author of "Shooting Columbo: The Lives and Deaths of TV's Rumpled Detective," said according to BBC. "All the detectives were these hardboiled, emotionless, tough guys. And he was the opposite of that in every way. He hated guns and violence."

Koenig also added that the show has "stood the test of time for 50-plus years now. That character is still vibrant and alive, appealing to people. People love that central character, that basic format, that fact that it's not political, it's not violent, it's not all the things television shows are today, it’s something different. And that's its charm. That's what people love about it." This is what made the show special in a lot of ways, and why it continues to gain new fans even today. 

According to the website Columbophile, "Columbo pioneered the inverted mystery technique, by showing the crime first, and then having Columbo solve it. Instead of a ‘who dunnit’, Columbo is said to be a ‘how’s he gonna catch ’em’."

The website also shed light on a lot of interesting facts about the show, one of which was that Steven Spielberg directed the show's first episode from the first season, which was titled Murder by the Book and aired in 1971. This was four years before he became a household name with the iconic film "Jaws." There are many other stars that appeared on the show during its time on-air as villains, such as Johnny Cash, Leonard Nimoy, Billy Connolly, Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes, Jackie Cooper, Dick Van Dyke and Faye Dunaway. That is certainly a decorated list of actors!

Peter Falk (2002), (KMazur/WireImage/Getty Images)

Were you a fan of Falk? Did you watch "Columbo" when it aired and do you continue to watch it even today? Tell us about it, and be sure to pass this onto fans of "Columbo" in your life. 

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