The recent post about the “newer” Columbo episodes made me think about whether it would have been for the best if Falk et al had just quit after their legendary 70’s run. I for one am very glad for the newer episodes. The great majority of them stayed true to the Columbo formula and character and, if you are able to ignore a few clunker episodes and the occasional cringe moments, they are well worth watching overall.
A good illustration of the best and worst of the newer episodes is Sex and the Married Detective. This episode has some of the silliest scenes in Columbo history. There’s the dreaded tuba scene, a scene where green vested/bow-tied bartenders practice shaking ice, and several scenes where sex therapists marvel at Columbo’s intentionally vague advice on romance. Ugh!
Despite these setbacks, Falk and Krause build and hold the tension. The episode is well-paced with a great trail of clues that Columbo follows to the satisfying climax (in the Sex Room nonetheless!). It’s classic Columbo, as long as the aforementioned shortcomings are ignored.
We were blessed to have a show as great as Columbo. Shows with such high artistic integrity come along perhaps once in a generation, which is why we still love and watch them decades later. And while the newer episodes may not match the original run, I’m glad they were made.
Excluding “No Time To Die” of course.
"Excluding “No Time To Die” of course."
Haha well said!
I agree about the newer episodes - I'm glad we got so many new shows, and some that can go toe-to-toe with the best of the 70s episodes. And as someone who grew up in the 80s/90s and actually got into "Columbo" via the revival shows, I doubt that the show would garner as much attention today without them.
I was the one that put the post up a few weeks back about the newer episodes. I'd like the way in here on this post as well.
I am glad that a lot of fans hold the new episodes as entertaining. My girlfriend actually likes the new episodes a lot as well as me. As you mentioned in your post there were a few Clunkers. Of course no time to die has to be the worst. Undercover really didn't get it done for me either. There is some question whether or not Shera D. was overused but she sure seemed to pop up a lot in the later episodes.
One of the newer episodes was murder with too many notes. I didn't care much for that one either. Although Billy Connolly was a fantastic actor. There was a lot of loopholes that I didn't understand in that whole episode.
I was thinking about No Time To Die, and Undercover and why they are so reviled. As stand-alone tv episodes with another detective, they may have been entertaining. But as Columbo episodes, they change the Lieutenant’s character. Seeing him like that lessens my enjoyment of the other episodes.
When writing for an established character, they should respect the rules of that character’s story universe. Batman shouldn’t suddenly be able to fly for example. Undercover changes Columbo into a streetwise tough guy, but No Time To Die does something much worse: They show us Lt. Columbo’s family!
One of the quirkiest things about Columbo is how big his extended family is (or is it?). For 60 plus episodes he has been telling people about his cousins, aunts, nephews, brothers-in-law, etc. all with various interests: needlepoint, chess, filmmaking, Tommy Brown music, etc. Are any of these people real or is he just baiting the suspects? Despite the small hint at the end of Dead Weight, Levinson and Link have always kept Columbo’s personal life, much like his first name, a mystery and that is an enduring part of the show’s charm.
Showing the family is a bad idea, but perhaps they could have had fun with it. Is the weightlifting-needle pointer the same nephew that has a Hungarian wife? Did the real estate mogul who sends out embossed Christmas cards act snobby to the cousin that owns an auto shop in the Valley? There could have been endless inside jokes playing with this formula, but instead we get some young Hollywood cop types straight from central casting. I’m surprised the producers of the episode didn’t reveal the Lieutenant’s first name, show us his wife and give him a snazzy new sports car. Maybe they could pair him up with Scrappy Doo? Ugh! I hate this episode so much that it’s making me ramble.
There are some classics that must be respected. You don’t unmask the Lone Ranger, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape and, unless you’re prepared for what’s under there, you definitely don’t pull the raincoat off of Lieutenant Columbo
Good reply, Pete! I concur with the later episodes not being on par, overall, with the original shows, but they do have a few good moments. I've reconsidered the critique I posted in the earlier thread, concerning the music, which I'd like to qualify. I think when Patrick Williams scored the final quartet of Columbo episodes - "Try and Catch Me", "Make Me a Perfect Murder", "How to Dial a Murder" and "The Conspirators" - he set a standard for TV movies which most feature films cannot surpass. He and John Cacavas kept it up in Season 8. Humorous, spirited, original, moody and spot on - their scores for those episodes are among the best in the series. I found the latter episodes of the later years to be disappointing in the music department, quite possibly due to Williams not doing anything after the abysmal "No Time to Die". I suppose I should watch that disaster again just to see if, at least, the score was passable. Such was the case with "Grand Deceptions". The movie was mediocre at best, but the score was terrific.