David, thanks for the interesting points for discussion. Here are my reactions to each:
1) "In "Try and Catch Me,' Columbo responds to Abigail Mitchell by saying 'Don't count on that' after she gives him the compliment that he is nice."
In this episode, Columbo takes the opportunity, at the ladies' luncheon speech, to explicitly say something we have always seen: that sometimes Columbo really, personally likes the murderer -- but, he still hates the crime they have committed. This speech was a great piece of writing, that lets Columbo make an entertaining speech while, on another level, he is telling Abbie, "I know you are a sweet old lady, and I love ya -- but it's still my job to solve the murder, and I will."
The conversation you mention -- I forget whether it comes before, or after the luncheon -- is more great writing, enhanced by great acting. In just a few spoken words, Columbo and Abbie are having a much more detailed conversation: Abbie is saying "I know you like me, and you know I'm basically a sweet old broad who had a really good reason to kill this creep, so what's the harm if you just let me slide?". And Columbo in effect replies, citing the time-honored cop's creed, "It's true that I like you, and I know you're not a bad person, but my job as a cop is just to solve the crime -- it's somebody else's job to judge the punishment."
I think that Falk's delivery prevents me from hearing that line as arrogant -- he's gently reminding her that he has a job to do, at the same time admitting that he does like her.
This is all great "Columbo" stuff, and I appreciate the chance to examine it, but I don't see it as arrogance.
2) "In the final scene of 'Murder Under Glass'...he tells Paul Gerard 'I respect your talent. I don't like anything else about you.'"
I agree that this is jarring, and seems out of character -- I think Columbo also says, "Funny how we agree about so many things, considering we don't like each other very much."
Which is an unusually blunt thing for Columbo to say, no doubt. But it's just the other side of the coin from Abigail Mitchell -- here, Columbo is dealing with a guy that he really dislikes, on a personal level. And the writer generously reveals this rare look at Columbo's negative emotions on the job.
This raises an interesting side-issue -- the fact that, in my opinion, Columbo really wants and expects to be liked, and has a bad reaction when somebody doesn't react according to his expectation. Columbo really, privately is a nice man, but I believe that Columbo, as a cop, makes use of this quality in a rather cynical way -- he is determined to make his niceness a strength in dealing with murderers, instead of a weakness. And it burns him when people are too nasty (or too smart!) to react, as he expects, to his niceness.
In this case, of course, Columbo is extremely justified, considering that Gerard is trying to MURDER him !!!
So I agree that it's a disturbingly blunt thing for Columbo to say, but I wouldn't call it arrogant under the circumstances. It's just a great denouement to the "cat and mouse" game, where everybody knows the game is over and they lay it all out.
3) "...at the end of 'Make Me a Perfect Murder. After Kay Freestone claims that she understands upon Columbo having solved the crime, he responds by saying, 'I'm sure you do, ma'am.'"
Another sophisticated post-"cat and mouse game" conversation. He's giving her credit for knowing the game is over, which I would not call arrogant. At least he calls her "Ma'am," eh?
Columbo was calm at the entrapment of Vivian Dimitri despite trying to murder Mrs. Columbo and Columbo himself.
Compared to the hounding of Miss Hudson in Prescription Murder and the judgemental speech in Ranson for a Dead Man, the arrogance and hardness of Columbo seems more geared to the killers' reactions in later episodes than to a simple evolutionary explanation.
I have characterized him in the past as changing from "humble and mildly eccentric" to "arrogant and goofy". When he yells at people like Joan Hudson and Dr Barry Mayfield, I don't view that as "arrogance", I would rather characterize it as anger or frustration. When I say he became arrogant later on, I am referring to this extremely patronizing tone he develops, and which he has almost throughout the entire program such as "Make Me a Perfect Murder". It is like he is saying "I am the great Lt Columbo and I am going to cut you to pieces". In earlier ones, he seems less sure of himself and he shows greater "respect" (as it were) for his opponent. It is that persona that I like the most. I also like it on the rare occasions he gets angry because it makes him more human.
In addition, making Columbo a gourmet in "Murder Under Glass" is TOTALLY out of character with the chili and hot-dog loving Lieutenant we grew to love in the earlier programs.
I do not reject, however, all the episodes from Seasons 6 and 7...."Fade Into Murder" and "The Conspirators" are quite good and Columbo reverts to being humble in them.
You beat me to it YM. I too, don't see Columbo's hounding of what's-her-name in "Prescription Murder" as arrogance. She was suspected of murder. Guess it depends on your definnition of arrogance. I don't see his outbursts in "Stich of Crime" or "Exercise in Fatality" as arrogant either.
I liked his "don't count on it ma'am" line in "Try and Catch Me". I saw it as a kind of gentle warning, even an apology that he had to do his job.
I was interested to hear how he stopped referring to his wife and started caling her Mrs Columbo. That is a subtle change and reminded me how much better it was when he did call her his wife.
Did Columbo get more arrogant as the series progressed? It's a good question. Perhaps, in accentuating the kooky side to his nature, in being a slightly more lighthearted (even at times whimsical)Columbo, he doesn't seem as earnest, as genuine, and appears slightly more arrogant, more self assured.
He bungs it on with his forgetfulness and whole schtick but now it seems even more contrived.
I guess he seemed to be more making fun of his suspects in the newer eps, patronising them more often with a wry smile and a wink to the audience that to me suggested a more arrogant Columbo.
I have no idea what Chief Clifford is referring to. I don't see arrogance to anywhere near the degree he described at all.
I actually like the scene with Kate Hudson in Prescription Murder. Miss Hudson is young, naive, and is being used by Dr. Fleming, but she also participated in a murder, and is covering for it. I think Columbo's outburst is justified and is an attempt to break the spell Dr. Fleming has over her; an attempt to appeal to her conscience, and the line "that woman would be alive if it weren't for you" is true, so I would say it's very justified. It's also a piece of superb acting which is enjoyable to watch!