Columbo

Murderers often underestimated Lt. Columbo. After all, the rumpled raincoat wearing, cigar chomping, chili eating detective often put on a front as a bumbling, confused civil servant who was easily sent off on the wrong track by the overly helpful villains. Underneath that fabricated facade was a dogged and brilliant detective that would lull his suspects into a false sense of security and draw them out, usually giving them just enough rope to hang themselves.

With villains played by the likes of Jack Cassidy, Patrick McGoohan, and Robert Culp, Columbo was pitted against some formidable opponents. The lieutenant always prevailed in the end, sending overconfident killers to jail, usually in a state of shock that he’d found them out.

Peter Falk played the lovable Lt. Columbo for 35 years, 68 episodes, and 1 movie of the week. Falk garnered 4 Emmy Awards, 1 Golden Globe Award, and numerous other awards as Columbo and it was clear he relished the role for which he will always be remembered.

Lt. Columbo is well remembered today, with fans holding monthly livetweets on Twitter at hashtag #ColumboTV. If you’d like to join in, check the latest schedule and Columbo 101 for tips.

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Join other fans discussing Columbo in our forums.

Broadcast History

Network: NBC
Broadcast: 1968-2003

We don’t have a broadcast history for this show yet.

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Cast

ActorCharacter(s)Notes
Peter Falk...Lt. Columbo

Regulars & Guest Stars

There were some actors and actresses that were seen frequently on the show. Some starred as the murderer or murder victim, but quite often they played secondary characters. Here are some of the guest stars who made more than one appearance on the show.

ActorCharacter(s)Notes
Bruce Kirby...Lab Attendant / Sgt. George Kramer / TV Repairman / Sgt. Phil BrindleBruce Kirby appeared in a total of 9 episodes, playing Sgt. George Kramer for 6 of those appearances ("By Dawn's Early Light", "A Deadly State of Mind", "Identity Crisis", "Last Salute to the Commodore", "Columbo Cries Wolf", "Agenda for Murder"), another sergeant for 1 episode ("Strange Bedfellows"), a lab attendant in another ("Lovely But Lethal"), and a tv repairman ("Make Me a Perfect Murder").
William Shatner...Fielding Chase / Detective Lucerne / Ward Fowler
Shera Danese...Cathleen Calvert / Geraldine Ferguson / Trish Fairbanks / Vanessa Barsini / Eve Plummer / MollyMarried Peter Falk on December 7, 1977.
Vito Scotti...Vito / Salvatore De Fonte / Thomas Dolan / Mr. Grindell / Chadwick / Maitre d'
Arlene Martel...Salesgirl / Tanya Baker / Gloria West
Timothy Carey...Bert / Tony
George Hamilton...Wade Anders / Dr. Mark Collier
Ray Milland...Jarvis Goodland / Arthur Kennicutt
Robert Vaughn...Charles 'Charlie' Clay / Hayden Danziger
Anne Francis...Nurse Sharon Martin / Valerie Bishop
Ida Lupino...Edna Basket Brown / Doris Buckner
Sorrell Booke...Bertie Hastings / J.J. Stringer

The Murderers

First, we must start off with the most notable trio: Jack Cassidy, Robert Culp, and Patrick McGoohan. All played Columbo murderers at least three times.

Patrick McGoohan claimed the highest body count at 4 murders.

“By Dawn’s Early Light” – Col. Lyle C. Rumford

“Identity Crisis” – Nelson Brenner

“Agenda For Murder” – Oscar Finch

“Ashes to Ashes” – Eric Prince

Robert Culp was also in a total of 4 episodes, but he was not the murderer in “Columbo Goes to College”.

“Death Lends a Hand” – Investigator Brimmer

“The Most Crucial Game” – Paul Hanlon

“Double Exposure” – Dr. Bart Keppel

“Columbo Goes to College” – Jordan Rowe

Jack Cassidy did the dirty deed in 3 episodes. Fans often cite his performances as their favorite and the most memorable of the series.

“Murder By the Book” – Ken Franklin

“Publish or Perish” – Riley Greenleaf

“Now You See Him” – The Great Santini

Dog

Dog appeared in 8 episodes, the first of which was “Étude in Black”. Two basset hounds portrayed Dog, with a second younger one taking over after the first one died. The younger one had to have makeup applied to make it appear older.

Theme Song / Opening Credits

Episodes

There were 13 seasons and 68 episodes of Columbo. Check out the Columbo Episode Guide.

Trivia

The character of Lt. Columbo was first played on TV by actor Bert Freed in an episode of The Chevy Mystery Show titled “Enough Rope”.


The Lieutenant was born and raised in New York City, near Chinatown.


He once remarked that as a child he ate more egg rolls than cannelloni (“Murder Under Glass”).


Columbo’s first name is never mentioned on the show, but in closeups of his badge (“Dead Weight”, “Death Hits the Jackpot”) show his name to be Frank.


The rumor that his name was Philip was started by Fred Worth in a book titled The Trivia Encyclopedia, but has no basis in fact.


Columbo often joked that his first name was “Lieutenant”.


Mrs. Columbo’s first name is never revealed and neither i