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Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Hello everyone,

Though I haven't visited the forum for ages, I've carried on having my dose of Columbo regularly. And now I find I'd like to ask your help, to see whether we can attract some neophytes.

I'm an English teacher and, for the first time, some of my students have shown interest in the guy that is shown in my computer desktop wallpaper. So we've agreed that in a couple of weeks, after the first term exams are over, we'll watch a Columbo episode.

These are 13-year-old kids who aren't generally interested in anything older than themselves (in fact, today we were discussing a 2014 film which they derisively described as "prehistoric"). I have warned them that the Columbo episode we'll watch may or may not have been filmed before I was born, and though I've seem some of them wince, they still say they want to watch it. I've reminded them that last year we watched a Charlie Chaplin film ("City Lights"), and in spite of their moans on learning it was in black and white and silent, they ended up enjoying it a lot, so this cannot be worse. I think they're willing to trust my word, and I wouldn't like to disappoint them.

Although I've been working with students between the ages of 12 and 17 for years now, I cannot say I know their tastes well yet. So I'd like to ask you which episode(s) you would recommend. Maybe some of you have or have had children of this age and know what they may like.

All I know is I'd like it to be an NBC episode; if they are only going to watch one in all their lives, I think it should be as quintessential as possible, and, at least for me, Columbo's typical image is that of the (early) seventies. Having Dog and the Peugeot in it would be a bonus, though not completely necessary. The story must be attractive enough for guys who have no idea what a rotary dial telephone is, and if there's something that makes you laugh, it wouldn't be a bad idea at all.

My personal favourites (at least at the moment) are "Etude in Black", "The Greenhouse Jungle", "A Stitch in Crime", "Double Shock", "Any Old Port in a Storm" or "Negative Reaction". Which one do you think would be best? Of course, any other suggestion will be welcome. I'm going to like it even if it's not in this list!

(I'm even considering the possibility of using "Swan Song" with another group of 15-year-olds, as we listened to a Johnny Cash song in class and, unexpectedly, they liked it a lot.)

Thank you very much in advance!

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

How about showing Prescription Murder, then Columbo Likes The Nightlife, the first and last of the Peter Falk ones?

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Cool! I taught 7th and 8th grade English and Science for close to 25 years (special education) and liked to incorporate appropriate Twilight Zone episodes into lessons. Sometimes, we'd even watch things just because. Amazingly, despite being a Columbo fan since I was 7 or 8 years old (that's a lonnnnng time ago), I never thought of showing a Columbo episode. Shame on me.

All that being said, I tried to think of which episode would appeal to this age group. One came to mind: How to Dial A Murder. The music and mood of this episode is dark and brooding, adding a certain extra element of style not normally seen. Nicol Williamson and Peter Falk are top-notch and the kids may even know Kim Cattrall! The running time is only 73 minutes (it seems shorter than that due to the tightness of James Frawley's directing) AND in addition to the large role of two Dobermans in the plot, it also includes a great "Dog" scene at the park ("with a little training he could be a lethal weapon":smile: )

Any Jack Cassidy episode would also be a great choice. To me, "Now You See Him" and "Murder By the Book" are two of the best Columbo episodes of all-time. While "Murder By the Book" comes BD (Before Dog), it WAS directed by Steven Spielberg, which should ring a bell with your students. It set the standard for the rest of the series. "Now You See Him" comes with the lovable Sgt. Wilson (whose name has changed since his previous appearance) and a Dog scene, too.

This is a wonderful idea, please keep us posted on how it works out.

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Nice idea!

Don't know if you're in the US or not, but some school districts might have an issue with overt violence. I think Swan Song would be great, since no one is visibly shot, strangled, drowned, injected with drugs, mauled by a dog, bludgeoned to death or electrocuted. Does kind of limit the genre though.:smile:

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Thanks a lot for your help, everybody!

Now my list has grown longer. And I like all your suggestions! I had never thought that seeing Steven Spielberg's name on the screen may change the students' perception of the series and make them a bit more likely to be well predisposed in its favour. So "Murder by the Book" could be a very good candidate.

As to overte violence... Oops, I hadn't thought of that. I'll have to check what the DVDs say about the age limits. I'm in Spain, so things may be different, but it's funny to think how the murders in Columbo can be seen as too violent, considering what kids see nowadays in almost any film or TV series. Though it's true that that's their parents' responsibility, not mine, what we see at school is my responsibility, so if I find the series is not suitable for this age, we'll watch "Swan Song", which I also love.

"no one is visibly shot, strangled, drowned, injected with drugs, mauled by a dog, bludgeoned to death or electrocuted"

Good Lord... What I have been watching all these years? :joy: I don't like violent films, but I didn't realise how violent this series is!

@Stephen, what do you mean by "the first and last of the Peter Falk ones"? Are there other episodes not with Peter Falk that I'm not aware of?

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Peter Falk was the third actor to play Columbo, the first was Bert Freed on tv, the episode exists in some museum but they refuse to release it for anyone to get it in the shops as a retail product, the next was Thomas Mitchell in a stage play version which toured.

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

Oh, thanks God! I knew of those, but something in the way you said it made me think they had decided to carry on filming episodes with a different actor! I thought that, not being in the USA, I might have missed that information (I wouldn't have watched them, but I would have liked to have known of their existence - Same as with the Kate Columbo series).

Thanks!

Re: Which episode would be the best for 13-year-olds who've never seen Columbo before?

“Murder By The Book” is the best way to introduce someone to the show, especially a youngster! It’s got the Spielberg connection to “wow” them. It’s got a good crime, great clues, good music, crazy and exaggerated characters, and of course Cassidy.