How The Episode Guide Works

The first section gives you the title of the episode, its date of original transmission, and a one-line synopsis of the episode, just to jog your memory. Next we’ll give you some of the key personnel, like the writer, main cast and director.

We break the story into three sections. The first is the crime. We tell you who the murderer is, who their victim was and what was the murderer’s plan. The series is sometimes criticised on the basis that Columbo does very little actual detective work, but simply approaches the most famous guest actor he can find and annoys them until they confess. This is very unfair, since the cleverness of the initial crime and the tiny cracks which open up in the murderer’s apparently perfect alibi are among the chief pleasures of the episodes. So, we’ll point out the most significant clues and also let you know if anything was overlooked. We’re looking for three things – the murderer’s error, that first little slip-up which tells Columbo which way to look, or which causes him to first suspect that things are not as they seem. Out of the sometimes dozens of little inconsistencies which follow, one will generally be the one which the murderer cannot explain away and which definitively establishes this as a killing rather than an accident, or which puts the real murderer squarely in the frame. This is what we call the key clue. But usually, the final scene contains one extra helping of Columbo cleverness – either a final devastating piece of evidence, or – more usually – a devious trap laid by the crumpled lieutenant. This we detail under Howcatchem.

In the next section, we look at the Columbo formula. Each episode of Columbo has its own unique environment and often features a piece of new technology, sometimes central to the plot, sometimes just as an added detail. Over 69 episodes, the established formula was sometimes pushed and pulled, tested and stretched – sometimes with excellent results, sometimes with mixed results and sometimes with horrendous results. We compare the episode in question to the Platonic Columbo ideal under formula intact?

But the real reason to watch an episode of Columbo is to see the man himself go through his paces. We detail anything we learn about him that doesn’t fit into any standard category and then go through some familiar patterns. We let you know if Columbo is shown star-struck and if so by whom. If he has an obsession of the week, you’ll find that here. If he’s given a sidekick of the week, we’ll tell you about that person, and if Mrs Columbo is mentioned, or we find out anything new about her, we’ll provide those details.

Part of the appeal of the character is showing him as a Fish Out of Water and if this occurs we’ll provide the details. We’ll tell you about each Cigar he is seen smoking, and when he uses the Just one more thing ploy. And lastly, if This Old Man is heard at any point, you’ll know about it. The dog and the car we’ll leave under Columbo himself as the car is too rarely anything other than a prop and the dog appears in fewer episodes than you might remember.

We round out each episode with some choice quotes, some bits of behind-the-scenes trivia, and then an assessment of each episode’s strengths and weaknesses. We love Columbo, but that doesn’t mean we love all the episodes equally and are blind to their faults. The best are superb, but the worst are pretty dreadful. We’ll tell you which is which and where the makers went right or wrong.

27 Responses to “How The Episode Guide Works”

  1. michaelsysley Says:

    in columbo the murder of a rock star there is a big error!!! why the secretary put a mask when clayton the lawyerman give her his mercedes its wrong because she didnt know anything about the murder before columbo arrive, i think the that the producer was a little bit drunk!!!

    • Mr Morris Says:

      I just watched the episode. My best thought is that the lawyerman had already planned the murder and the best aliby is to get his secretary to get the speeding ticket using the paper mask. She did coment earlier in the episode, saying now she realises why he got her to do the stunt. Then she said they will have to get married, cause a wife cant go in court and be questioned about her husband.

    • Eddie Cusack Says:

      Most of The shows are written with the muderer giving him/her more that one alibi. In this case the Lawyer tries to make it look like the boyfriend did it, but just in case that fails sets up the speeding ticket scam with his sec driving. She would have been told to do the stunt for some other reason, the writer hinting that she figured he was going to use it as an alibi for something serious.

  2. Mr Morris Says:

    To everyone who has always wanted to find out leutenant columbo first name. I have just heard him say it in a episode first aired in 1978. Murder under glass is the episode. The name is Tananday Columbo. He says this near the end of the episode in a resturant, talking to everyone in there. I have been a fan of Columbo for many years, and now very happy I found this out.

    • thecolumblog Says:

      As that isn’t a name and no-one else has ever commented on this, I submit that it’s more likely you mis-heard him say something else. If you know when in the episode this happened, I can check my copy if you like.

    • thecolumblog Says:

      I’ve just checked this episode. He actually says “I’m Tenente Columbo”. And ‘Tenente’ is the Italian word for… Lieutenant. Sorry, Mr Morris…

      • Mr Morris Says:

        Thanks for correcting me. I didnt think about talking in Italian. So it seems he only told every one his first name is Leutenant. Not too sure if the other reply saying his name is Frank is correct. But I will keep watching and see if he tells anyone. I have been watching re runs from channel 5 and ITV 1 at the weekends. Great to see them, just anoying there not in the right order of release. How many members are on this site, and is it for the whole world to use or just the UK. Rob

  3. zmart4ever Says:

    Columbo’s first name is Frank

    • thecolumblog Says:

      Is it though? There’s one episode in which a very blurry badge can briefly be seen with what looks like “Frank” as a firstname, so maybe a prop-maker thought that would be good. But it was the clear intention of the creative team to keep his first name a mystery, so I’m not inclined to find this fuzzy scrawl definitive.

    • Eddie Cusack Says:

      Or Phillip

  4. D L Says:

    In ‘Murder of a Rockstar’, she says that the guy borrowed her car, not that he made her do some ‘stunt’. It’s a very serious plot mistake, saying that she drove the car and got the ticket.

    Also, I saw myself the ‘Frank’ as his first name on his badge. Can’t remember which episode though.

  5. Richard Ahrens Says:

    In Death Lends a Hand wasn’t it not a murder but an accident. With the victim breaking in and enter. Wouldn’t the most the killer would get is manslaughter. An accidental death.

    • Eddie Cusack Says:

      The whole point is the killer thinks he/her can get away with it. Columbo does say that he thinks the murderer probably didn’t mean to kill the lady.

  6. Richard Ahrens Says:

    Why do the killers always do the crime at a place they can be associated with?

  7. Richard Ahrens Says:

    How can a lot of Columbo’s cases stick when he tends to plant evidence or sucker them under false premises

  8. Richard Ahrens Says:

    Is Columbo for real the way he dresses and acts or is it an act?”

    • Eddie Cusack Says:

      It is both. One point is that Columbo is not impressed by wealth, or how important the muderer is.
      He exagerates his traits for his own advantage, like bumbling about, losing his pen, seemingly forgetting something or losing his train of thought, all to put the suspect of guard.
      He also mentions numerous relatives that are the suspects biggest fan, or have some other connection. This is mentioned in Dead Weight when a lady asks him if he really has nephews.
      The whole point is the suspect under estimates Columbo, as William Shatner says in one episode, “Columbo, I may have miss read you.”.

  9. Richard Ahrens Says:

    Are we to assume every killer would get off without Columbo?

  10. Says:

    Just one more thing…..why does an Italian detective always order chili?

  11. james oboyle Says:

    Murder of a rock star….plot goof. She confronts Chriton at the start saying “you killed her didnt you,I wondered why you sent me away
    to do some research”etc.Strange she forgot that she had wore a mask with Chriton face on it and sped through a camera to give him an alibi for not being at the murder scene.She must have the worst memory on the planet not to remember being involved in the murder plot.

    • Deana Says:

      EXACTLY… that was one of the biggest plot mistakes that I’ve ever heard of!

    • Eddie Cusack Says:

      I would imagine he told her the research was in to speed camera evidence and wether it could be faked in some way.

      • Susan Says:

        The goof I found was when he was giving his reasons why the boyfriend was not the murdered, he said the finger prints on HIS neck were to large instead of HER neck, he says it twice while at the jail with the lawyer and his associate.

  12. michael barry Says:

    No, his real first name is “Lieutenant”. It’s just a coincidence that he has that rank as a police officer.

  13. Albert Schmidt Says:

    “Death Hits the Jackpot” has a major flaw. A neighbor calls the police at 8:30 the night of the murder. When Columbo shows up the apartment is crawling with cops and he gets phone records he asked for. Then he drives to a Halloween party and meets the murder at 9:00 the same night? 30 minutes is not enough time for all that to happen!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s