To the fans of the 70s run of "Columbo": ever noticed a deep change as of Season 6?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by ParloFax, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Might as well come clean: I am a Columbo purist! ...And so is my wife! No matter how much we tried enjoying the post-Season 5 episodes, they never work for us! Yet I don't know what exactly caused that radical change in style (of writing? directing?...), and I would love to.

    I have heard that right then, Peter Falk's marriage was falling apart. But there must be something else that would explain how the show changed so much. I might have read also that Falk started to have more control himself over the direction of the show. How true was that? (Have not read his bio, only Wikipedia...)

    "Last Salute to the Commodore" was the final episode of Season 5 (NOT a good episode in my book, BTW!). Falk looks in it like he is suffering from a hangover! In the final shot, he embarks into a rowboat and slowly rows away in the distance, whistling his little tune ("This Old Man"). This looked like a farewell, like the end of the show...

    When the show resumed the year after that, was it under some new conditions?

    Falk started acting more over the top and often loudly, where he used to be restrained and soft spoken - in line with his character, or at least with what we liked so much about him; his car became ridiculously beat up, where it used to be modest but kind of went low-profile (he spoke even half-proudly of its French origin in one episode); the murderers slowly became more ordinary and bland types, whereas often they would show class and manners in the past; they could be aesthetes who lamented (or were obsessed by) some changes happening in their world...
  2. Commander Lucius Emery

    Commander Lucius Emery Forum Resident

    There is an article on the Kate Mulgrew website from 1979 that deals mainly with the disastrous "Mrs Columbo" series. It says the reasons aren't clear why "Columbo" was cancelled. Falk said he liked the role, he just didn't it to interfere with his movie career. Others said he caused delays in filming it and got a high salary. Getting high quality scripts was a problem too. NBC didn't want one or two "Columbos" a year.
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  3. Deesky

    Deesky Forum Resident

    For me Columbo started to go down hill when the series was picked up again by ABC after a 10 year break from the original and now classic run. There were still some good episodes, but the trajectory was downward IMO. I think it was definitely a combination of poorer scripts and more grandstanding but also Falk had aged significantly, which affected his delivery and tone. In some episodes, he seemed almost confused (and not because the script demanded it!). His performances were quite patchy in the second run.

    Here is some interesting background info:

    HOW WE CREATED COLUMBO – AND HOW HE NEARLY KILLED US by Richard Levinson and William Link
  4. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    I've been around long enough to be embarrassed to admit that I worked on all the Mrs. Columbo shows for Universal. I was kinda of aghast that they never had Peter Falk appear in any episode, and I think he kind of pretended the other show just didn't exist. I got the impression he went to war against the producers for a certain period of time, but because everybody was making a lot of money, he still came into work every day.

    I thought this was revealing on Wikipedia:

    There were also notable discrepancies between the two shows. Most visibly, Kate Mulgrew was much younger than was plausible for the role of Columbo's wife; only 24 when the Mrs. Columbo series aired, Mulgrew would have been 12 when we first saw Columbo talking about his wife in 1967's Prescription: Murder. Other discrepancies involved Mrs. Columbo having different interests and hobbies than had been previously described by the lieutenant.
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  5. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    There is also the problem of "the kids" they were purportered to have, early on in the first seasons of "Columbo". Alluded to, for example, in "Any Old Port in the Storm", starring Donald Pleasance. I have never watched Mrs. Columbo myself. In fact I don't think I have ever even seen it scheduled here... Is it possible that Columbo would have divorced his previous wife in the meantime? (Just like Peter Falk did in real life.)

    Honestly though, I have learned to not put too much credit in the "alluded continuity" even within the Columbo series itself. The kind of films he and his wife liked (Bette Davis... Western... Gangster...), their hobbies (bowling, etc.), the music she was crazy about and he wasn't into too much (C&W), the music he was fond of (classical)... The number of children they had, did he drink or not, or what his bosses really thought of him... I think it was part of Columbo's game to cloud things up in the eyes of his suspects and give (false) clues. And also perhaps this is precisely a part of what strenghtens the mythical dimension of the character. I think this has also been lost by and by as of Season 6 onwards...
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  6. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Highly interesting read, thank you!
  7. albert_m

    albert_m Well-Known Member

    Atl., Ga, USA
    I'm late to the show. I started watching a few years ago on Prime (they had the first season in HD no less) and loved it. About 2 years ago I got the entire DVD set for a really great price and really enjoyed the first seasons. I'm still chipping away at it. I just finished the later 70s seasons and thinking that it wasn't quite as good as the earlier ones. It has to be challenging to stay engaged and get scripts all of those years. Also often in shows, characters can fall into a trap of being caricatures of themselves. I'm not saying that it happened, but I find the show had a fine line of sorts... it had a formula of its own. Once in a while, they would break from it, but I don't remember it really working, yet the same formula over time can be tedious.

    I haven't watched the DVDs of the post 70s stuff yet.
  8. swandown

    swandown Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Also the fact that a 24-year old woman had a 10-year-old child. :eek:
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  9. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    PLEASE do wait until the 70s show/formula really sinks in before getting there! :O)

    The article above in post #3 made me realize how important were the actual producers, whom had that vision, fought for it and and stuck to it.

    In hindsight, it also seems to me now that they might have ran short at some point of charismatic superstars to play the murderer. Or perhaps they decided to not invest there as much as they used to.
  10. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    In all fairness, wasn't the character of Mrs. Columbo in that series actually older than the actress?
  11. Vidiot

    Vidiot Now in 4K HDR!

    Hollywood, USA
    Yikes! I'd forgotten about that. I would assume that by 1980, Peter Falk was basically "playing" 40, and Kate Mulgrew was "playing" in her early 30s, which is not impossible. Note there are precedents for this; Dick Van Dyke was 11 years older than Mary Tyler Moore, but I think everybody pretty much bought them as being about 30-something -- she was actually much younger than she appeared, and Dick was a little older.
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  12. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    yea, great article, thanks
  13. Juggsnelson

    Juggsnelson Forum Resident

    Long Island
    Definitely a different feel after the later the show goes on. Columbo the character becomes a little more childish and his behaviour unusually odd at times. My wife and I are currenly watching the late 80's episodes......watching the episode about the sex therapist played by the great Lindsey Crouse we were both struck by an odd scene where he plays the tuba to scenes of water fountains for about a minute! We both looked at each other like "Huh?". And the episode from that season where Columbo lays under the guillotine, risking his life based on a hunch seemed a bit ridiculous. That being said, Falk is still worth watching and while the episodes aren't as great as the older ones they are still worth watching.
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  14. Deesky

    Deesky Forum Resident

    Oh yeah, I remember that one. I remember it because it was so embarrassingly bad and poorly acted by Falk that I don't think I made it to the end. That was one of those episodes where Falk looked to be all at sea and in a kind of a daze most of the time as I alluded to before.
    ParloFax likes this.
  15. thestereofan

    thestereofan Forum Resident

    San Jose
    Love this show. Some bad, most great. Fun TV.
  16. eddiel

    eddiel Forum Resident

    Toronto, Canada
    I love this show. A while back I bought all the seasons on DVD and watched one episode every Sunday afternoon until I went through all the episodes.

    I preferred the earlier eps. Better stories and better guest starts. Some of my favourites. I suck with names so can't list them all. I think like many series the stories can lose a little quality with story lines. Overall, still one of my favourite shows. I wish they'd release the Blu-Ray's here. So far I've only seen them in Japan on Amazon. I don't buy many shows on DVD/BR these days but I'd get this one.

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  17. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I watched "Swan Song", starring Johnny Cash, recently. A terrific episode! Watch the scene where the inspector from the flight safety department, inspector Pangborn, all elegant, composed and dapper, gives his comments about the plane accident to the news crew, on the site of the crash, while Columbo quietly fumbles and looks through the scrap remains, in the back, finding "loose ends" and stuff... There are two narratives going on simultaneously (both on- and off-screen), and it's hilarious! Pangborn keeps interrupting himself and the crew's filming to go in the back and probe Columbo about what the devil he is up to...

    I think it's my favorite scene of the entire series!
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  18. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    What was the one where he carried around in his pocket and kept pulling it out? I remember thinking at the time how weird that was.
  19. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Forum Resident

    Early on it was an amusing novelty and characterization, later becoming cliched.
  20. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    What is it that he carried around?...
  21. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    Sorry, it was a woman's high heel shoe.
  22. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I don't recall that one, sorry!
  23. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    It had a good plot--she was hypnotized by an evil hypnotist who put her under and made her believe the swimming pool 10 stories down was a cool blue lake,. So she strips and goes splat.
    He carried the shoe around cause she put her watch in the shoe before she jumps and he can't get past that.
  24. ParloFax

    ParloFax Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Oh yeah, now I get it, it's "A Deadly State of Mind" (1975), starring George Hamilton. Columbo carried indeed the victim's shoe around in some rumpled paper bag. Hamilton was restrained (yet animated enough when the action or tension called for it), suave and excellent. It was a good episode. Psycho-analysis was still so hot a topic then...
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  25. DesertChaos

    DesertChaos Forum Resident

    I just watched that episode last week. I like that one. I think that while the series had a few clunkers over it's run they were few and far between, one of the benefits of only doing limited run seasons instead of the full 20-25 episodes that many shows had to do.
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