TV Series# 1: Columbo – Oh, just one more thing…

With so much going on all over the world and people experiencing physical, mental, emotional, psychological and financial stress/pain thought it might be a good time to write about something light. As part of that starting a series on TV series. Based on how much interest it garners will write about other TV series I have watched that have lingered in memory. The first in this series is Columbo!

People of a certain vintage may have seen episodes of the series when they originally aired. It had a fairly long and successful run, starting in the 1970s with final season in early 2000s. For those who haven’t watched or heard about the TV series Columbo, the main character is a homicide detective/investigator who works for the LAPD and Columbo is his name. Like all famous people he goes by a single name 🙂 Unlike many other murder mysteries which tend to be whodunits, with the act being shown and the perpetrator’s face hidden/masked, in this series the viewer is witness to the act being committed by the murderer with the face clearly visible, typically at the start of the episode. The rest of the episode revolves around Columbo investigating and pinning down the killer and proving the case. In that sense it’s a “howdunit” type of murder mystery. The perpetrators generally are people who are accomplished in some field who plan their murders. On the other hand Columbo comes across as a detective who lacks a physically imposing presence and generally appears lost, absentmindedly asking questions, and always fidgeting for piece of paper or pen/pencil or some sundry objects in the numerous pockets in his coat. That coat is a piece of work: always rumpled that needed to be replaced long ago. His car is also a thing of beauty: an old car of French make with the look of something that’s been driven straight out of a junkyard 😃 All to show he is a lowly paid cop working for LAPD. Make no mistake though. What our man lacks in terms of intimidation he more than makes up with his persistence, logic, smarts and ability to lull suspects into thinking they are dealing with a dimwit who doesn’t have a clue what he is doing. Hubris leads them to let their guard down with a few overconfident types dropping breadcrumbs along the way to “assist” the clueless cop. Columbo is a man of razor sharp intellect and dogged in his pursuit of justice even if he is unfailingly polite all the time. One common tactic used by Columbo when he leaves the murderer after interview is suddenly turning around near the door and uttering the words “Oh, just one more thing…” in an absentminded way before asking a very pertinent question that shakes up the unsuspecting suspect. As the murderers sense the noose tightening around their neck with Columbo piecing together evidence and confronting them with contradictions in their recollection many do what is their wont: complain to Columbo’s superior/s to pull him off the case. In the end let’s just say Columbo doesn’t let their machinations succeed and brings them to justice. Woo hoo!
Some of the murderers even grudgingly admit when they are arrested they underestimated his brilliance and acknowledge he is very good at his job. It’s fun to watch a seemingly innocuous little guy kick much bigger ass in the end. Feels like watching an underdog triumph against all odds. I try to catch reruns of the series when I can. Watching the little guy bring justice is like seeing good triumph over evil. Seeing the familiar face is like having comfort food leaving one with the feeling all will be good at the end. Interestingly Columbo mentions his wife a lot in almost all episodes but his wife is never actually shown. Among the things I heard about and learned watching the series couple that come to mind are “dissolving sutures” – used by surgeons for stitching up after surgery, “subliminal cuts” – technique employed by makers of commercials by splicing a film in between a continuous film to subliminally influence people do what they want them to do. Could be a film showing fries or soda fleetingly which the eyes can barely see but the mind registers making a person feel like eating fries, drink soda etc. The series grows on you. My wife initially couldn’t stand the sight of a shabby looking detective who appeared lost. Over time she has gotten to like the series very much and on Sunday evenings when the rerun is on one of the TV channels she might even remind me and we watch the episode doing other work. Unlike me she even remembers memorable dialogues in most episodes and will say it correctly when the episode starts. In the rare instance she doesn’t remember the episode I pull her leg saying she is slipping and becoming like me 😃 The methods used and evidence produced by Columbo most likely will not work in the real world but who cares? For the 2 hours the viewer can watch with the confidence justice will finally be served by the little guy who will go wherever the quest for the truth leads him. In the final analysis that’s all that matters 🙂

Author: Rajaram 'Raj' Gopalan

Hi All, Welcome to my home in cyberspace! You can call me Raj. Feel free to explore, discuss, comment and most importantly have a good time!

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