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The top ten episodes of the crime series Columbo

Ten favorite episodes of the cult and legendary crime series "Columbo"

"Columbo" was one of my favorite crime series even in my early television years. After a few repetitions on various programs, the legendary series about the inspector Columbo embodied by Peter Falk (actually Lieutenant, but soon made inspector in the German dubbing) has established itself as my absolute favorite crime series. At some point all ten seasons appeared on DVD and last year I felt the urge to watch all 69 episodes again in chronological order.

Boredom never came up, and of course there are many more favorite episodes than the ones I have selected. Nine of the ten top ten episodes come from the first seven seasons, which were created between 1968 and 1978, the height of the Columbo boom in the USA. 1989 celebrated the always slightly absent-minded, wearing a beige coat, driving an old Peugeot 405 convertible and sometimes accompanied by a bored Bassett who goes by the name "dog" (or not), Columbo, whose first name is not revealed Wife and some relatives are always mentioned, but never appear, a comeback with numerous good results.

Just think of “The Dead in the Electric Blanket”, this delightful long-term flirtation between Columbo and the murderer played by Faye Dunaway. But also "The Forgotten Dead" or "Deadly Jackpot" are among my favorites. And so, as with almost all top ten lists, it was again a blow and jump for the best placements, some beloved early episodes such as "Age does not protect against murders" (great Ruth Gordon, known from "Haraold & Maude" as a murderous successful crime writer) , "Playback", Die for mich "or" Meine Tote - Deine Tote "(as well as a few others) unfortunately did not make it into my top ten selection.

If you want to know more about Peter Falk and the Columbo figure, I recommend the book “Peter Falk or The Art of Being Columbo” by Uwe Killing, published by Osburg Verlag. And if you don't want to get all the seasons on DVD, ZDF Neo will run various episodes in the late afternoon from Monday to Friday, albeit not in the exact order. But enough of the forewords, here are my ten Columbo-Favorite episodes:

1. When appearances are deceptive

The actor Jack Cassidy was one of Columbo's great opponents and appeared in three episodes. In the 1976 episode "Wenn der Schein trügen" (If appearances are deceptive), Cassidy, who died only six months later in an apartment fire, plays the magician "The Great Santini", who is blackmailed by his organizer because of his Nazi past and shoots him. His “waterproof” alibi is actually unbeatable, but just a trick. Columbo cannot be fooled by a magician either and in the 36th part of the series has to struggle with a fake coat and the dumb and naive Sergeant Wilson.

2. Murder by phone

The penultimate episode from the 1970s has it all. The psychologist Dr. Mason trains his otherwise peaceful Dobermans Laurel & Hardy to become fighting dogs to use as a deadly weapon against his friend and assistant (and former rival of his late wife). A perfidious plan, but Columbo convicts the suspect with his own weapons.

3. Deadly separation

Columbo's “Deadly Separation” went into series in the fall of 1971 (“Murder by Prescription” and “Ransom for a Dead” were the so-called pilot films). When the creative head of the crime duo Franklin & Ferris wants to part with his partner in order to start writing noble literature, his partner (played by Jack Cassidy) kills him and creates a seemingly perfect alibi. The episode staged by future star director Steven Spielberg is one of the highlights of the series.

4. Snapshot for eternity

The same applies to “snapshots for eternity”. In the 1974 part, photographer Paul Galesko (Dick van Dyke) decides to kill his domineering and nagging wife and make it look like a fatal kidnapping. During his investigation, Columbo is even labeled homeless by a nun because of his rotting outfit. A cult following of this cult series.

5. Wine is thicker than blood

For the winemaker Adrian Carsini (Donald Pleasance), the quality of his wines is more important than the great Reibach. His half-brother sees it differently and is promptly killed by Adrian, who disguises the act as a boat accident. And Columbo becomes a wine connoisseur. There are plenty of personable criminals on the show, Adrian Carsini is one of them. From the third season, first broadcast: October 1973.

6. Swan song

Country star Tomy Brown (played by the great country star Johnny Cash, of course) no longer likes to sing for God and morals, but instead enjoys the sweet life again. And since his wife has him in hand because of an affair with a minor, he stages a plane crash. “A man who can sing like you can't be bad,” says Columbo at the end, and he is quite right. Episode 24 from March 1974.

7. Etude in black

Star conductor (John Cassavates) has to kill his lover, who wants to be more than just that, and make it look like suicide in order not to endanger the marriage and the mother-in-law's money. And once again, tiny little things make the difference when solving a case. Episode 10 from September 1972.

8. Death on the beach

Patrck MacGoohan has directed and / or played the second leading role in some episodes, and both in "Death on the Beach" (November 1975). He plays the secret agent Nelson Brenner, who kills his ex-partner and Columbo falls into the crosshairs of the CIA.

9. Murder à la carte

If a murderer is already called Paul Gerard, the episode has to appear in these top ten. The famous gourmet critic, played by Louis Jourdan, has his recommendations rewarded with bribes he demands from the restaurant owners. Vittorio Rossi wants to free himself from these constraints and is poisoned by Gerard. But all the master chefs in Los Angeles are at Columbo's side and treat him to lots of delicacies. A delicious 42nd episode, which was first seen in the USA in January 1978.

10. Lucifer's disciple

My favorite episode from the comeback time (last season, episode 56, December 1990), which excellently shows how seriously the perpetrators always underestimate Columbo. The two students Justin Rowe and Cooper Redman cleverly kill their professor after he caught them with an exam fraud and tries to fail them. They even make fun of Columbo, who is getting on in years, think he is idiot, do not count on his still alert mind and that takes revenge.

And now watch all episodes again. Okay, maybe next year again ...

(Post picture: Private, by Gérard Otremba)

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by Gérard Otremba

Born in 1969. Freelance journalist and editor-in-chief responsible for the content of Sounds & Books. Started his journalistic career in the 90s for the Frankfurt music magazine Kick’n’Roll before working as a freelancer for the Frankfurter Rundschau for several years. Online publications since 2010. Reviewer for Rolling Stone magazine. Author of the books "The Bookseller's Secret Notes" and "Another Day in the Bookseller's Life". Great admirer of the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Wilco, Nick Cave and Element Of Crime. FC St. Pauli sympathizer, marathon runner. Motto in life: "Rock’n’Roll Can Never Die".

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