I know there was a thread about "Victims Who Had It Coming" fairly recently, but I don't know how recently the opposite thing has had a thread.
I know one of the all-time favorite ones here is Tomlin Dudek.
And probably another is Gene Stafford.
Two of mine have always been Eric Wagner (in spite of how briefly you see him) and Tony Goodland.
It seems like the moment a story (or characters in it) starts calling a character "weak," I start to like them. And of course Eric is the "half-baked would-be swinger type" (even though it's said with sympathy by Rizzo). And between Jarvis just plain picking on him for it and Gloria sounding sympathetic about it, you really get to hear about how "weak" Tony is.
I liked Freddy Brower from Jackpot. Broke and rich at the same time but never gets to enjoy it due to a money hungry uncle.
I also enjoyed Deschler from Negative Reaction. I really felt bad for Deschler. First of all the guy just gets out of prison; trying to start his life over and next thing you know he's getting shot. Totally innocent victim. P. Galesko was a real creep.
For me, it has to be Tomlin Dudek. He seemed so decent, down to earth and fun. I love the fact he goes out just to have a decent meal and the way he says "some tobacco"
What makes it even worse is that he survived the initial attempt on his life and before Columbo gets himself together Clayton is able to get a second chance.
Agree Tomlin Dudek is the sweetest and kindest of them all! Jim Ferris seemed like an all around good guy also.
Like a lot of people here, without hating it, I've always had trouble getting into the later COLUMBO. But I do like "Jackpot," so Freddy Brower is about the first victim in the later series I think of. Gary Kroeger is a very underrated actor as far as I know.
As I've said before, no one could play a "hard luck" character better than Don Gordon, so I've always liked Alvin Deschler too (I just left him out accidentally). And for an ex-convict, that gratitude of his makes him so naive when it comes to Galesko (just as Steve says), so that's another way he's likable.
Funny thing about Alvin though is that despite being grateful, he was still trying to scam a little extra money by way of the camera receipt.
True, Alvin was scamming Paul a little. And there usually is a high rate of ex-convicts returning to prison. Alvin probably wasn’t truly reformed if he was involved in a scam so soon after his release. And that he was a convict in the first place doesn’t make him totally innocent.
What about Paul Williams (Ransom for a Dead Man) as a likable victim? He isn’t on-screen long, but the way other characters describe him, he sounds like a nice, decent guy.
I know what you mean about Alvin, but Don Gordon always makes me like him. And again, even if he is scamming Paul Galesko a little himself, he's such a "babe in the woods" when it comes to Paul that you feel bad for him for that reason.
Sometimes I wonder if that detail about Alvin scamming Galesko was put in to be a clue to Columbo that Galesko just picked an easy sap for his own purposes instead of somebody who was truly reformed/reformable...along the lines of Dale Kingston in “Suitable for Framing” attending and reviewing the art show featuring Sam Franklin’s inferior work. That provided Dale an alibi, but under normal circumstances, Dale never would have wasted his time there. Maybe it’s similar with Galesko? If Galesko were sincerely interested in helping a convict turn his life around, he never would have picked Alvin?
Raymond from "Forgotten Lady", he was sensitive and kind as he knew Grace was slowly dying.