For the unflinching take on the show’s successes AND shortcomings, I’d say it’s a must-read for any fan. Probably a more unbiased look than the beloved ColumboPhile.
The most surprising part for me was that a lot of the unfunny comedy “padding” in longer episodes (the “waiting for the computer” scene in Exercise in Fatality, for example) was mostly put in at Falk’s insistence. His exaggerated comedy tastes were tempered in the earlier seasons - but as he got more power, nobody dared tell him “no.”
I think the book is definitely a must-own for serious Columbo fans. Knowing the details warts and all I think is helpful, and it's important all of that is documented in a way that we can access with ease. I was fascinated by stories of the actors who were considered or who backed out of appearing (or in some instances refused because of Falk's quirks. This was why Dick Van **** turned down the John Payne role in "Forgotten Lady" because of his previous experience on the show).
Falk I think over time came to see Columbo more in comedic terms than as a fascinating enigma and that didn't help the quality of the stories over the long haul IMO. Even so, flawed Columbo was often a lot better than anything else on TV in that era.
According to the author of the book , he put that idiotic tuba scene in also.
The emphasis on comedy is probably the single element that most harmed the revival.
UGH! Tell me no more, Bruce Marshall. This is so disappointing to hear. I mean, it's only a TV show, but it's still a shame we could have better quality latter episodes were it not for (apparently) Falk's ego.
Yes, I saw "Murder Under Glass" was on TV the other night. It was unbearable. There were at least six commercials before the dining room scene with the Geishas at Paul Gerard's house. Then came another set of commercials and I turned on my DVD. It's why the Complete Set is such a good move.
The biggest horror story involving a 70s episode involves "Old Fashioned Murder." That always came off as unsatisfying and now we know the reason why. Falk allowed a crony, Elaine May, to basically take over the whole production of that episode and there was endless tinkering, rewriting, etc. that made production stretch out forever. The "Lawrence Vail" writing credit was really Peter Fischer taking his name off the original script that he felt had been ruined completely.
I always felt that Old Fashioned Murder was one of the most boring shows in the series. The characters were dull and uncharismatic,
The plot is very similar to Playback, but not nearly as good.
The book is definitely worthwhile reading. It certainly casts a different light on Peter Falk. A lot of what prevented more episodes from being made was his own doing. He allowed the show to go way over budget by disregarding shooting schedules, spending multiple extra days reshooting and “perfecting” scenes. He hired his friends without permission and allowed them to interfere with scripts. And he was responsible for much of the excessive humor. I agree with what has been stated that the lesser Columbos are still decent, but it is a shame that certain things could have been so much better.