So what is Columbo?
Well it's a TV show. It's an American detective drama. And it started in the 1968.
Doesn't sound very interesting and original. After all there have been lots of American detective dramas. Some made in the 1960s. What makes Columbo so noteworthy? What makes it have the honour of a whole episode guide? I mean, it's hardly The Wire is it?
Ah, but Columbo is different. Columbo is a drama that takes a look at the cop show convention and just throws them away.
How? Well the episode always starts with the murder - you the viewer see them do it.
What? I hear you cry! But that is madness! It's a folly!
Ah but that's where the fun is. The joy is how the detective actually catches the murderer. It's the battle of wits - it's trying to guess how Columbo's going to get the murderer.
Then there's the regular themes that run through the show. There's the lead detective who could best be described (and usually is) as dishevelled. He bumbles along with his clapped out car and raincoat that looks like its been eaten and expelled by a lama, and everyone thinks he's incompetant and disorganised. But they're up against the mind of one of the finest detectives in LA.
And he's such a lovely bloke. He loves his wife, and seems to take every opportunity he can to mention her. There's the fact he finishes questioning the murderer in their home or office, then is half way out the door before just saying "Oh, just one more thing " as if he'd forgotten something, before asking a question that stands an excellent chance of tripping the murderer up. He always eats chilli, has a dog that barely moves and whistles "This old man came rolling home".
Oh and it's an American cop show where the main detective seems to abhor violence and certainly hates handling guns - he goes out of his way to avoid the old shooter. In many ways it feels very British.
Everything about Columbo just seemed to work - there are a frankly high number of excellent storylines in there, helped by the fact that the show was never milked to death. In its initial seven year run there were just 43 episodes, with the show initially appearing once a month. When it returned in the 1980s (having been dropped by NBC and picked up by ABC), a mere 26 episodes were made between 1989 and 2003.
The show had its fair share of high profile guest stars - many appearing several times. Patrick McGoohan appeared four times; William Shatner and Leslie Nielsen amongst those who appeared twice. Behind the scenes, directors like Jonathan Demme and Steven Spielberg cut their teeth on the show early in their career, whilst Patrick McGoohan also directed five episodes.
Columbo is, and always will be, a delight to watch. There's no doubt about that. But before we go, we really should recommend avoiding playing the Columbo Drinking Game. In most episodes you'll be comatose before the episode has finished...