Columbo: Murder by the Book Reviews
Columbo, and so much credit must go to Peter Falk here, is the most loveable detective ever put on-screen; yet why is that? He's not your typical American hero; he isn't 'tough', doesn't intimidate people, he's dishevelled, disorganised, loves his wife and his dog and, most surprisingly of all, he is HUMBLE. He isn't concerned, like Poirot and co., with taking the stage and becoming the centre of attention as he magnificently draws back the curtain and says "Aha! It was YOU!" No, he quietely gets on with it, and indeed a lot of the satisfaction in Columbo arises from the disparity between what the murderer thinks of the lieutenant (that he's stupid), and what we know - that he's intelligent, tenacious, incredibly perceptive, and WILL catch you if you did it. It's a subversive characterisation through its apparent unheroicness.
The other pretty revolutionary thing about Columbo: it starts with the murder, sure, but it's not cloaked in shadows, a gloved hand firing a gun as the victim's shocked face begs us to ask "WHO THE-?" for the next hour. No - we know who did it. We see them kill. We watch as they prepare, as they do the deed, and as they cover it up. So there is no mystery. This is very brave for television. It relies solely on the appeal of the - primarily linguistic - game between cop and killer, in which the murderer makes a move, the lieutenant makes his and so on, and all is inferred, all is undertones for most of the screentime. Each is pretending: the guilty is innocent; the cop is only following up with "just one more thing". We watch eagerly to see how Columbo will deliver checkmate.