I have been meaning to blog about this for ages but just to let all Columbo fans know that the fabulous Columbophile is doing this mega-countdown RIGHT NOW and I heartily recommend you check it out. If you are quick, you’ll catch the last two posts where he’ll be counting down from 20 to 1. Here’s the link to the most recent post in the series, from which I’m sure you’ll be able to find the others. What will be the BEST EVER 1970s Columbo moment? I just cannot wait to find out.
I was so thrilled to be invited to be on the expert panel and it was such fun putting together my top 10. As many readers will know, Columbophile wrote the foreword to my Cooking With Columbo book and did a brilliant job.
He really is the absolute expert and if you’ve never spent any time on the Columbophile website, go there immediately, it’s brilliant. I was in the company of some very esteemed folk and I haven’t had a chance yet to see if any of my choices made it into the top 100 but just in case you are interested, here are my nominations. The other knowledgeable people who contributed to this mammoth poll were Steven Moffat, Mark Dawidziak, Aurora Bugallo, Alex Deane, Paul Hughes, Dean Matthews, Theo Solorio, David van den Bosch, Rich Weill and Jenn Zuko. Read more about ’em all here.
Here’s my two pennyworth. My favourite fashion, food and funny bits.
1 – Lady in Waiting – 1971
Have you ever worn a huge pink broad brimmed baker boy hat and a floral suit with massive lapels to a board meeting? Beth Chadwick does and I love her for it. The moment she starts bossing all the blokes around after she has staged a corporate coup thrills me every time I see it. Girl power, early 70s style.
2 – Etude in Black – 1972
John Cassavetes demonstrates some method acting extraordinaire, as he waits for a car mechanic’s hydraulic lift to lower his hidden-away E-type Jag to the ground, so he can get away with murder. You can almost feel his hands getting clammy and the sweat pouring off his brow. Every second of this slow-moving process feels like hours because of John’s superb acting skills. Columbo’s most convincing villain in my book.
3 – Dagger of the Mind – 1972
The Lieutenant is thrilled at the luncheon spread on offer at a gentleman’s club in London. Lots of cold meats, cheese, chops and a massive trolley laden down with cakes and other goodies. Unfortunately, a pathologist arrives and puts Columbo right off his grub, describing a murder victim’s injuries and flashing gory photos of them around. I have never seen him look so crestfallen about missing out on a feed.
4 – Double Shock – 1973
Columbo infuriates fastidious housekeeper Mrs Peck by dropping cigar ash all over the place until eventually, she flies off the handle. Later she makes a peace offering which the Lieutenant graciously accepts with a gentle, “Thank you, I’m extremely fond of Health Cookies.” This exchange just melts my heart.
5 – Any Old Port in a Storm – 1973
One of my favourite lines in the whole beautiful series occurs in this, my all-time favourite episode. I laugh like a drain whenever I think of wine snob Adrian Carsini blowing a gasket over a sub-standard bottle of Ferrier Port at a fancy restaurant. I too am waiting for the right opportunity to yell at a waiter, “An exciting meal has been ruined by the presence of this liquid filth!”
6 – Playback – 1975
As a Brit, I love it when characters with very clipped English accents appear on Columbo. I almost chose Ray Milland for his delivery of the line, “Why do you insist upon being in love with a wife who spends all your cash on some skiing instructor?” in The Greenhouse Jungle. Instead, I picked the very sexy and very flirty character Marcy Hubbard, who reacts to evil Harold Van Wick’s stylish high tech digital watch by purring in a pristine cut-glass English accent, “Oh, that’s super!”
7 – A Case of Immunity – 1975
It’s a sound effect in this episode that gets my vote. Our villain Hassan wears long flowing robes and Columbo accidentally stands on the hem of his garment, not once, but twice, accompanied by a terrifically loud and resounding ripping noise. Priceless.
8 – Identity Crisis – 1975
Patrick McGoohan is superbly haughty as Nelson Brenner in this episode. When he asks Columbo what kind of wine he would like, the Lieutenant’s response is simply “red.” Brenner gives direction to his manservant in some incomprehensible language along these lines, “Aobolwlgongallla balla balla Beaujolais, Columbo…” Columbophile tells me that Patrick McGoohan made this up on the spot! What a genius!
9 – Try and Catch Me – 1977
If I ever went to a Columbo-themed party and was asked to act out a favourite scene from the series, I would probably dress up as Abigail Mitchell and dramatically snatch up a set of incriminating keys from a sideboard. I love it when she slams the door of her walk-in safe, trapping her niece’s husband inside too. She’s my favourite female villain with her sharply tailored suits, scarlet lips and perfectly coiffured bun. I want to look like this when I am a little old lady.
10 – Murder Under Glass
This is the foodies’ favourite episode and there are so many great moments to choose from. Bon Snax! Margaux! Columbo cooking in a chef’s hat!
However, I’m plumping for the Lieutenant’s alarmed reaction to the news that, the fugu sashimi he has just sampled can kill a man if not prepared correctly. “Holy mackerel!” he exclaims.
Haha. I love that man so much. This was such a hoot to work on. Thanks so much Columbophile for inviting me to participate and for all you do to celebrate the wonderful world of Columbo over at your super-addictive and heart-warming site.