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.