Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In Honor of Columbo

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made." ~ M. Acklam

"Oh, just one last question." ~ Peter Falk as Columbo

Some of you old-timers might remember the 1971 TV show Columbo starring Peter Falk. Actually,  the TV movie starring Falk first aired in 1968. There were other "Columbos" before him but Falk was the best, at least in my opinion.

Ah, those were the good old days. We only had a few channels to choose from.  TV Guide was king. We had no VCR because we could not afford $700. That saved us some headaches (meaning we didn't have to learn how to use it) and made for quality family time. If everyone was not in their seats when shows started, that was tough luck.  If you missed an episode of your favorite show you had to wait until summer to see the reruns.

In 1971, in Atlanta where we lived, Ted Turner was still getting  his cable company off the ground. It was channel 17, and it gave us shows like Hazel, Father Knows Best, Lucy, and Speed Racer.  Turner went  national in 1981.

Technology has made our TV viewing  more enjoyable but what it has given us is a lot of useless dumb-downed programing - Columbo was smart. Five-hundred-thousand channels and not a thing to watch. Ok. That was an exaggerated number. But sometimes it does seems like we have a zillion channels and nothing to watch but reality shows and mis-informational programming.

My time is valuable but when I am too tired to read or blog I turn to my Tivo. It knows what I like. Though I am a fan of some of the series on HBO and Showtime, I find myself looking for old black and white movies, sitcoms, and programs like Columbo.

I used to love watching Columbo figure out who-done-it. Well we knew he knew who done it and he knew we knew he knew, but what fun it was to watch him make those poor people sweat it out. Thanks to Tivo, I can still enjoy Columbo reruns when they make their rounds.

Now for the photo. This is one of our neighbors walking their dog, who I call Columbo. Columbo called his dog Dog. For the life of me I can't remember the name of the neighbor's dog, though I am sure it is not Dog.


Everytime I see this cute little guy I run to my Tivo, hoping it has sniffed out a old rerun.

For you Columbo fans, here is a little trivia (from Wikipedia):

The following details of Lt Columbo's life have been gleaned from statements the character has made or observations of the character's behavior in the show. He may have been lying about any or all of these to establish a rapport with the person he was speaking to, though some facts, like his marriage, have enough other support to establish them as definitely consistent in the fictional universe.

Columbo was born and raised in New York City in a neighborhood near Chinatown. In the episode Murder Under Glass, he revealed that he ate more egg rolls than cannelloni in his childhood. The Columbo household included the future police officer's grandfather, parents, five brothers, one named George, and a sister. His brother-in-law is a lawyer. His father wore glasses and did the cooking when his mother was in the hospital having another baby. His grandfather "was a tailgunner on a beer truck during Prohibition" and let him stomp the grapes when they made wine in the cellar. He is Italian on both sides, though he professes to be "the only Italian who can't sing". Falk has stated during an interview on Inside the Actor's Studio that he wasn't truly sure how many relatives Columbo had aside from his wife.

Columbo's father, who never earned more than $5,000 a year and bought only one new car in his life, taught him how to play pool, an obsession that stuck with the future detective. His boyhood hero was Joe DiMaggio, and he also liked gangster pictures.

Hardly a model child, Columbo broke street lamps, played pinball and ran with a crowd of boys that enjoyed a good prank. 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.

During high school, he dropped chemistry and took wood shop. While dating a girl named Theresa in high school, he met his future wife. After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Columbo joined the New York City police force and was assigned to the 12th precinct. He trained under Sergeant Gilhooley, a genial Irishman who tried to teach him the game of darts. He moved to Los Angeles in 1958. While studying to make Detective, he acknowledged that he had nowhere near the smarts of his fellow candidates. But he determined that he could even the odds by working harder than any of them... by reading all of the books and paying attention to every detail.

He is compulsive about little details. Little things keep him awake at night and he likes to bounce ideas off his wife. They may or may not have children; in "Any Old Port in a Storm" (series three), in two different scenes he refers to the difficulty of getting a babysitter, and elaborates by indicating that the Columbos have a 'usual' babysitter, but that they also use college students as baby sitters. He also says in this episode "I took my wife and my kid out on a picnic....". In what appears a later contradiction in "Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo" (series nine), he says that he and his wife have no children. However there are seventeen years between these episodes therefore it may be that their child/children had grown up and left home. Children or no children, the couple do own a Basset Hound named Dog.

He hates guns and almost never carries one. He has such low confidence in his ability to pass a routine departmental marksmanship test that in the episode Forgotten Lady, he convinces a fellow officer to take the test for him, saying he himself could never hit the target.

He prefers to drive his trademark dirty 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible (which is equipped with a police radio), rather than an official LAPD car while on duty. He rarely visits the Police Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles, and in fact some members of the Department have never seen him there, a criticism to which he responds in the episode Forgotten Lady by commenting, "That's rarely where the murders take place!"

His reputation among his superiors tends to vary from person to person. Some regard him with poorly-hidden distaste, put off by his seemingly slipshod techniques. Yet he is often specifically assigned to high-profile cases that require the Department's most skilled investigator. He is uniformly respected and defended by people who have worked with him to the conclusion of a case.

His trademark costume (raincoat over a two-piece suit, with a bone-colored shirt and a rayon tie) never varies from case to case or year to year. When "on duty" he is never seen without it, except in rare cases when circumstances (such as a formal event) require alternate attire. He takes his "uniform" so seriously that when a murder was committed while he was enjoying a Mexican cruise with his wife, Columbo changed out of his cruisewear and wore his familiar suit exclusively until the case was solved.

He's prone to airsickness and seasickness, and he cannot swim — though he has been known to row a boat. He is squeamish, and does not like hospitals or autopsies, or even looking at photographs of 'messy' murders. He is also afraid of heights. "To tell you the truth," he explained to an FAA investigator who offered him a job, "I don't even like being this tall." In another episode when asked if, with his name, he would be at home on a boat, he responds, "It must have been another branch of the family."

He is not good with numbers. He likes cooking, limericks, Westerns, Italian opera, Strauss waltzes, golf (which he is very good at), classical music, bowling, and American football on television. He also plays the tuba. He is a self-proclaimed expert at tuning-in TV sets. In 1972, he earned $11,000 a year. He is extremely stingy and for his 25th wedding anniversary, rather than buying his wife silver he considered taking her camping. His parents and his grandfather are dead.

His favorite food is chili with crackers ("It's the crackers that make the dish", he comments in "Ransom for a Dead Man"), which he eats at a greasy spoon. He gets his chili at the famous – and very real – Barney's Beanery. In later episodes he is found eating chili at various different places, but he is a "regular" at each chili spot that we see him patronize, and is familiar to the staff, with whom he often chews over a case. He also eats raisins and candy, which he has been known to carry in his pocket and offer round — especially at uncomfortable moments during one of his unassuming interrogations. He eats hard boiled eggs for breakfast. He also loves coffee and drinks it black. He rarely drinks alcohol but has been known to have the occasional beer, or a glass of wine or spirits, and is not above sharing one last drink with someone he is about to put away.

When called to a case in the early hours he brings a hard-boiled egg to serve as his breakfast. He loves cigars (usually of the stubby, very smelly, "Toscano" variety), which he smokes regularly (although more than once he gives up smoking during the series, only to restart in the next episode). He speaks Italian and a little Spanish. In the episode Murder Under Glass, he spoke Italian to Mario (played by Antony Alda).

He is a whistler — in almost every episode of the ABC revival he is heard whistling the children's song "This Old Man". If he does not whistle it, it appears somewhere else, such as in the underscore. Its significance comes from the line "knick knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone" in the lyrics, since Columbo's standard tactic is to worry at a case like a dog worries at a bone. The motif also ties in with his basset hound, Dog.

In How to Dial a Murder he says that he loves billiards, but never gets the chance to play. He considers the comedian W. C. Fields a genius, and Citizen Kane a terrific movie.

4 comments:

A Scattering said...

Loved show, love bassett hounds as well. Gray says "Hey Patty!"

J9 said...

Cool Post Patty - I liked Columbo as a kid, butprefered Kolchek (sp?) The Night Stalker.

Teacher's Pet said...

What GREAT info about Columbo. Yes, I remember him well...and I remember Ted Turner's getting that "News Network" started...one that I thought would never make it off the ground. Boy, was I ever wrong about that one!
Love the photo of the dog walking the woman! :))
P.S. I kid you not...my verification word: "tales"...
Smiles from Jackie

~JarieLyn~ said...

I love Columbo too. I used to watch it all the time. I liked Barnaby Jones too, but columbo was king. :)