Saturday, June 25, 2011

Goodbye Columbo

A sad day in the mystery community, with news acclaimed actor Peter Falk, most famous for playing the lead role as dishevelled detective Columbo in the classic television series, has passed away. Falk first played Columbo in a made-for-TV movie, Prescription: Murder, back in 1968, and continued playing the much-smarter-than-he-appears cop until 2003 (the series originally ran from 1971 to 1978 on NBC, but then the character was revived in a series of sporadic TV movies between 1989 and 2003), winning several awards, including four Emmys.

As the news of Falk's death broke overnight (NZT), and because the series' heydey was before my television-viewing time, rather than me writing a eulogy-style post here about Falk (who I do remember watching in movies such as The Princess Bride - Falk played the grandfather reading the story), I thought I would simply link here to a variety of posts and articles about the actor's passing, from people far more versed in Columbo-lore than me. I will just say that from all I have read and heard about the classic cop show, I really appreciate its significance on the TV landscape, and can see that many modern detective shows I enjoy were influenced by some of the things Columbo and Falk brought to the small screen - for example, the 'whydunnit' or 'howdunnit' focus rather than 'whodunnit' - where the audience knows the killer early on, rather than finding out at the end (ala Law & Order: Criminal Intent).

Here are some articles and blog posts to browse:
  • Entertainment Weekly: "One of the most accomplished television, movie, and stage actors to ever create a pop-culture icon, Peter Falk was Columbo, and he was also a helluva a lot more than that, too..."
  • Wall Street Journal Blog: "we watched… no, we adored… Peter Falk’s Columbo because he was us: an everyman, working class, messy, and imperfect, dealing with the physical and domestic woes we know so well, and constantly underestimated by wealthier, better-educated people as a result."
  • Los Angeles Times:  Television historian Tim Brooks called Falk "one of the most iconic characters on television. He created the kind of person that was unique to TV, a very relatable person that viewers could feel close to. He was shambling and seemingly absent-minded, but not really. He wasn't just a character but someone you could really like."
Later today, keep an eye out on the The Rap Sheet blog, which does a terrific job covering crime fiction both in books, but also TV crime. Editor Jeff Pierce has promised to share his thoughts on Falk later today, and judging by how well The Rap Sheet usually addresses and analyses TV cop shows, Pierce's post should be well worth a read.

3pm Edit: Jeff Pierce has now uploaded his blog post about Columbo, and as expected, it's a cracker. Read it here.

Were you a fan of Columbo? Feel free to share your thoughts about the passing of a classic TV detective.

1 comment:

  1. Craig - Thanks for this retrospective. I've mentioned Falk's passing on my own blog, too, and I have to say, his death has really saddened me. Columbo was an iconic character and yes, I watched the original show and the later made-for-television-movies. Falk will be missed...