This is the detective series that inspired them all. Legendary actor Peter Falk is back in his 4-time Emmy® Award winning role, as the ruffled, cigar-chomping, trenchcoat-wearing police lieutenant who is asking all the right questions.

Columbo - Netflix

Type: Scripted

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 120 minutes

Premier: 1968-02-20

Columbo - Columbo (character) - Netflix

Columbo or Lieutenant Columbo is the eponymous main character in the successful detective crime drama series Columbo. The character is a shrewd but inelegant blue-collar homicide detective whose trademarks include his shambling manner, rumpled beige raincoat and off-putting, relentless investigative approach. Columbo is portrayed primarily by Peter Falk, who appeared in the role from 1968 through 2003. Columbo's first name has never officially been identified, although the name “Frank Columbo” has been visible on pieces of identification throughout the show's history. The character of Columbo was created by William Link, who said that Columbo was partially inspired by the Crime and Punishment character Porfiry Petrovich as well as G. K. Chesterton's humble cleric-detective Father Brown. Other sources claim Columbo's character is also influenced by Inspector Fichet from the French suspense-thriller film Les Diaboliques (1955).

Columbo - Biography - Netflix

Over the years, the chatty Columbo would let slip many details about his personal life in conversations with suspects. However, in the episode “Dead Weight”, Columbo more-or-less admits that he will sometimes make up certain details about his life, even fabricating fictional relatives, in order to establish a better rapport with a suspect. As a result, some of the following biographical details may be exaggerated or otherwise inaccurate, particularly those concerning his family life. Columbo's boyhood hero was Joe DiMaggio, and he liked gangster pictures. Columbo broke street lamps and played too much pinball (he expressed a wish to have a pinball machine at home). The trick of putting a potato in a car exhaust—which purportedly prevents the car from starting without causing permanent damage—served well on one of his cases. He jokes that he became a cop in part to make up for these juvenile pranks. In “The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case”, in a conversation with the suspect, Columbo revealed: “All my life I kept running into smart people. I don't just mean smart like you and the people in this house. You know what I mean ...” He added, “I could tell right away that it wasn't gonna be easy making detective as long as they were around”, but he determined that he could even the odds “by working harder than any of them, reading all of the required books and paying attention to every detail.” His trademark outfit of a rumpled raincoat over a suit-and-tie never varies from case to case or year to year—with one exception; when he gets a new raincoat as a birthday gift from his wife in the episode “Now You See Him”. Columbo says that he “can't think” in this coat, and desperately tries to lose it. Finally he is able to retrieve his beloved original raincoat. He sometimes wears his trademark outfit while on vacation. In the episode “Troubled Waters”, Columbo takes a Mexican cruise with his wife, and boards the cruise ship in his usual attire. Upon meeting Columbo dressed in the raincoat, the Captain of the ship quips “Oh, tell me Lieutenant, do you expect inclement weather in the Mexican waters?” Later in the film he wears a Hawaiian shirt, during a party. Although not socially polished, Columbo is polite, addressing everyone to do with the case as “sir”, “ma'am” or “miss”. He rarely displays anger toward his prime suspect, though he sometimes becomes frustrated with other characters. In an impromptu speech to a ladies' club meeting hosted by Ruth Gordon's character, at which he shows up uninvited, he admits that over the course of many of his investigations he grew to like and respect the suspects. Columbo rarely carries a gun, and is never shown to exercise much physical force; in some episodes he allows himself to be placed in a predicament in which the killer believes he or she will be able to kill Columbo and escape. In the 1971 episode “Death Lends a Hand,” it is revealed that he does not carry a gun when he walks through a metal detector and doesn't set it off. In the 1975 episode “Forgotten Lady” he explains that he keeps it “downtown”, and in other episodes he expresses a strong dislike of guns and their use, as well as an intolerance to the noise produced when firing them. Additionally, in “Troubled Waters”, Columbo claims to be “a bad shot”. Columbo has failed to attend his required semi-annual evaluation at the department's firing range. When an Internal Affairs sergeant threatens to ask for his badge because of this, Columbo pays a colleague to take the test for him. He does carry a gun for his work in 1992's “No Time to Die” and 1994's “Undercover” (even threatening someone with it in the latter), both of which are based on Ed McBain novels. “Murder Under Glass” reveals Columbo to be an accomplished cook, having learned a recipe for veal scaloppine from his Italian father, which he makes for the killer, a famed food critic, who seems impressed by it. However, in “Murder by the Book” he claims he can cook only a certain type of omelette, which he cooks for the victim's wife. In early episodes he appears to be particularly fond of eating chili con carne. In “Identity Crisis”, Columbo clearly speaks fluent Italian, which he demonstrates again later on in “Murder Under Glass”. When inspecting a chemical formula in “Lovely but Lethal”, he claims not to have recognized the writing as Latin, stating that he had “only taken Spanish”, some of which he speaks in “A Matter of Honor”. Columbo is a simple man, mainly because of hard work and not necessarily by choice. As his homicide investigations are almost always amongst the rich and famous of Los Angeles rather than gangland shootings, mafia killings or psychopaths, he regularly finds time during cases to take advantage of the suspect's social circle (e.g. the cuisine on tap in “Murder Under Glass”). As a distraction tactic, Columbo regularly asks to sit behind the wheel of a suspect's luxury car. He asks suspects who are authors to sign copies of their books, suspects who are actors for their autograph to take home to Mrs. Columbo, his wife, and so on. He has good enough taste to fully appreciate all the fine perks he obtains from his suspects, but he often seems to be (or pretends to be) in awe of their wealthy lifestyles. He sometimes comments on the absurdity of spending thousands of dollars on a bottle of wine or a couch, when he himself lives on an income of $11,000 a year. He also possesses an encyclopedic knowledge, which he usually hides. He has explained to colleagues that his wife believes there is “something wrong” with him. His other trademark is the ever-present (but not always lit) cigar. More than once he attempts to quit smoking. Columbo has explained that he smokes cigars although his wife wishes he would smoke a pipe, which Columbo refuses to try “because there's too much stuff to carry around.” His shoe size is referred to as “10 1/2 or 11” in “By Dawn's Early Light”. Columbo appears to be prone to airsickness and seasickness, and he cannot swim, though he has been known to row a boat. In “Dead Weight”, when General Hollister (Eddie Albert) comments on Columbo's seasickness by asking why someone with the name “Columbo” would not be at home on a boat, the detective responds, “It must have been another branch of the family.” In other episodes, Columbo does claim that his family has a tradition of being descended from Columbus. He is (or pretends to be) squeamish, and does not like hospitals or autopsies. He finds it distasteful to look at photographs of autopsies while eating (“Dagger of the Mind”). He demonstrates an aversion to viewing surgical procedures and an apparent fear of needles. In “A Stitch in Crime”, Columbo says he “faints” merely by being in a hospital. He claims to be afraid of heights, once remarking to an FAA investigator who offered him a job, “I don't even like being this tall” (“Swan Song”, 1974). Columbo claims he is always nervous when he is in the passenger seat rather than driving, and in fact is extremely nervous during certain investigations. In “A Stitch in Crime”, Columbo grumbles throughout the episode about being sleep-deprived and working too hard. (Columbo suffers from severe allergies “every spring”, although when we first see him suffering symptoms in this episode, he does not know what they are. He says he will not take allergy medicine because of the side effects.) This is also the one and only time—at least in the NBC decade—Columbo challenges his suspect with physical violence (by slamming a water carafe on Dr. Mayfield's desk with great force before directly accusing Mayfield of murder and attempted murder). The killer, Dr. Mayfield had begun sarcastically (and almost uncontrollably) laughing at Columbo's vocal suspicion that Mayfield had murdered a nurse for correctly suspecting him of the attempted murder of his boss, the head of research at the hospital. In “Double Shock”, Columbo is genuinely alarmed and upset by the housekeeper's dislike of him. He confronts her to ask why she must behave in so hostile a fashion; finally he convinces her that he is simply doing his job. Columbo's unsettling, uneven-eyed stare was due to Falk's glass eye in the right eye socket. It remained a mystery for 25 years whether the character had one as well, until 1997's “Columbo: A Trace of Murder”, whereupon asking another character to revisit the crime scene with him he jokes: “You know, three eyes are better than one.” In almost every episode of the later ABC series, Columbo is heard whistling the children's song “This Old Man”. It often appears as a motif in the musical score. In the penultimate Columbo film, 2000's “Murder with Too Many Notes”, Columbo reveals to a music student (and friend of the murder victim) that his wife always hums “This Old Man” when she is cleaning their house. The movie ends with Columbo asking the student to teach him how to play the song so he can play it for her on her next birthday. In many of the first season films, Columbo is revealed to also love classical music, and has a high level of knowledge about it. Columbo frequently mentions his wife. In a number of episodes, the murderer is a celebrity or figure well-known to Columbo's wife, and in several Columbo attempts to procure a souvenir for her, or to enlist the celebrity to make a telephone call to her. However, she is never at home. Columbo also has a habit of receiving police calls on the landline of the witness or suspect's house while he is visiting them. “Étude in Black” (1972) marked the first appearance of the lieutenant's basset hound, named “Dog”. “Dog” came to be an occasional regular character in the films. Columbo considered names like “Fido”, “Munch” and “Beethoven” but ultimately settled on “Dog”. In “Sex and the Married Detective”, Columbo is put on the spot when he is asked to play the tuba. Reluctantly he agrees, only to demonstrate great proficiency. He subsequently claimed that at school, the tuba was the only instrument left. In several episodes Columbo is seen eating a breakfast of a boiled egg, usually while investigating the scene of the crime or even while interviewing a suspect. He generally produces the egg from his raincoat pocket, before seeking a hard surface upon which to break its shell; in “A Stitch in Crime” he uses a piece of evidence found at the murder scene. He prefers to eat the egg salted, stating in “Lovely but Lethal” that he usually carries a shaker of salt in his pocket.

Columbo - References - Netflix