Monday, September 17, 2012

Just One More Thing

I recently got a Netflix account and logged into that baby through my PS3. The first thing I did with it, rewatch The Twilight Zone. But then something greater occurred to me; “Why don’t I watch Columbo again?” And seeing no reasonable answer against such a decision, I started watching the good Lieutenant from the very first, to it’s very last. Not all episodes are on Netflix, so I had to acquire those through nefarious means, but man what a joy it was. I forgot just how damn good this show was.

The true genius of the show was letting Peter Falk (Columbo) just do his thing. From his raspy cigar toned voice, the signature wardrobe (with famous rain coat), Columbo distracting himself midsentence to catch the killers off guard, all the while constantly asking others for a pencil were all parts of a character that Falk came up with. Falk created such an unassuming person you can forgive the killers for underestimating him so much. The lieutenant would get under their skin without them realizing it. On the surface Columbo is an annoyingly dumb witted, little, underpaid LA cop. But in reality these small self depraving actions were all a façade to the genius detective that lay within. Columbo was a predator, and the world was his prey. We just lucked out he was only after the bad guys.
Do you have a pencil?
Columbo went on for 69 episodes over 35 years, and we surprisingly learnt very little about his personal life, but the few morsels of information we saw spoke volumes. There was the time the only witness to a murder was a homeless man, and Columbo’s first instinct was to get the man to the station to get him fed, cleaned and have a roof over his head. Sure he had some questions, but he cared about the homeless man’s well being too. Then there was the time he said that he and his wife always wanted children but were unable to have any, instead getting very close to their nieces and nephews. And any time Columbo had access to food, he would share it with his fellow officers. There was a very working class feel to Columbo. You got the feeling that his childhood, though loving, might not have been the easiest while growing up. This all helped to show that he was a deeply caring man who cared for the ones he loved.
Classic Columbo playing along 
On most shows like this, the creators or producers generally try to force a sidekick (usually a hot female) to share the spotlight. And Columbo was no different. There were two reoccurring characters throughout the series. The first and only character to be in every episode along with Columbo was his beat up 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. This hunk of junk was as run down as Columbo seemed, but it always got the job done. Sure there were times when it couldn’t go uphill forcing the lieutenant to walk, but it got him from point A to B. The second, and less featured co-star was Columbo’s laid back basset hound aptly named Dog. This animal was as opposite a policeman’s dog as you could get, but it did suit Columbo. Slow and rarely walking forcing Columbo to carry it, Dog was the embodiment of Columbo’s façade, and any killer unfortunate enough to see both man and dog together would fall for the act completely.
Stay here, look after the car. I'll be back.
Columbo was a genius; in his universe, a living legend. There no doubt  would have been countless cities vying to get him to police their streets. Hell, he was probably offered the chief of police in LA. But that would have taken him off the beat and behind a desk permanently, and that would have killed him. He’s not one to sit on the sidelines, but he didn’t crave the limelight either. He was a humble man, silent, but constantly observant. It’s what helped make him the greatest fictional detective ever written (yes, including Sherlock Holmes, the Batman, or even their bastard child). Unlike those others with their ludicrous amounts of money, Columbo felt real. You would hope this kind loving man really is walking our streets, looking out for us. Peter Falk may no longer be with us, and hopefully that rain coat of his will stay on the coat hanger forever, not dared to be touched by another, but do yourself a favor, watch an episode or two. Because if you haven’t already, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Ahh sir, just one more thing...

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