April 21st, 2020

Alastair Attentive

A Rumpled Coat and a Keen Nose

I'm five episodes in on the first season of Columbo and already the great detective's methods are getting to seem more uncanny than anything. I just finished "Lady in Waiting" last night, from December, 1971, written by Steven Bochco. Bochco at least goes to the trouble of making the villain played by Susan Clark rather sloppy.

I love how we get footage of how she imagines the crime will go--her victim, her brother, coming up to their mansion, finding his key is missing, and then coming in through her glass door so she can "accidentally" shoot him under the pretence of thinking he's a burglar. It all goes wrong when it turns out he has a spare key hidden in the floor pot. Even so, Columbo (Peter Falk) solves the crime with pretty tremendous inferences about grass stains on shoes and a late edition of the newspaper sitting on the table by the door.

It's no wonder he turns out to be an angel in Wings of Desire. I mean, it's fortunate Peter Falk's weird charm makes Steven Bochco's writing seem magical instead of corny. Never underestimate a man with a dead eye. Peter Falk sure would've been a great Odin.

Some of it's carefully contrived, of course. I'm on the fence over whether I like how he buttons only the bottom button of his suit jacket. On a three button jacket like that you're supposed to only button the middle one. Wearing it like this once or twice makes him seem like he dressed in a rush or in distraction but every episode is a bit much. I love the earth tones and the green tie, though, and it's great how his dusty old brown car perfectly goes with his ensemble.

Every episode seems to have a special guest star, the best so far being Ray Milland in "Death Lends a Hand" and Suzanne Pleshette in "Dead Weight", the former giving the silly story an improbable sense of gravity and the latter just as delightfully doing the opposite alongside a murderer played by Eddie Albert.

Columbo is available on Amazon Prime via imdbTV, free with commercials.