Of all the detectives to have graced the small screen, there is one who stands head and shoulders above the rest – Lieutenant Columbo. The character, who appeared in the appropriately titled TV series, Columbo, was a master detective who never stopped until he solved a case.  

Each week on Columbo, the detective would work his way through a series of clues, and a list of suspects, to ensure justice was served. And each week, he would have audiences tuning in, in their millions, to see how he did it.

Since making its debut in 1968, Columbo has remained one of the most popular detective shows of all time. The series regularly appears on television, and continues to thrill audiences the world over.

If you’re new to Columbo, you’re interested in learning more about the television show, or you want to reconnect with a classic, this post is for you. Below you will find various questions and answers about the long-running series, to provide you with an insight into this well-loved show.  

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Who created Columbo?

Image: ©NBC Universal

Columbo was created by Richard Levinson and William Link.

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Who played the lead role in Columbo?

Image: ©NBC Universal

For the entire run of the series, Peter Falk played the role of Lieutenant Columbo.

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When did Columbo air?

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The initial pilot episode of Columbo, titled ‘Prescription: Murder’, aired on February 20th 1968. The final instalment of Columbo, titled ‘Columbo Likes the Nightlife’ aired January 30th 2003. In total, the show spanned an impressive 34 years.

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How many seasons of Columbo were produced?

Image: ©NBC Universal

In total, ten seasons of Columbo were produced. This included two pilot episodes, plus seven seasons on NBC, followed by two regular reasons and a season of specials on ABC.

The season of specials is now commonly referred to as Season Ten. When it originally aired, Season Ten was not a traditional season of television, but rather a collection of 14 TV specials which aired sporadically between 1990 and 2003.

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How many episodes of Columbo were produced?

Image: ©NBC Universal

A total of 69 episodes of Columbo were produced, beginning with two pilot episodes which aired in 1969 and 1971.

  • Pilots – Two episodes
  • Season One – Seven episodes
  • Season Two – Eight episodes
  • Season Three – Eight episodes
  • Season Four – Six episodes
  • Season Five – Six episodes
  • Season Six – Three episodes
  • Season Seven – Five episodes
  • Season Eight – Four episodes
  • Season Nine – Six episodes
  • Season Ten – Fourteen episodes
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Is it true that the character of Lieutenant Columbo, originated in another television series?

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While Peter Falk played the role of Lieutenant Columbo across all ten seasons of Columbo, he wasn’t the first actor to play the character. Lieutenant Columbo initially appeared in an episode of the anthology series, The Chevy Mystery Show, which aired in 1960. The episode was called ‘Enough Rope’, with actor Bert Freed playing Columbo.

Two years after it aired, ‘Enough Rope’ was adapted into a stage play called Prescription: Murder. This in turn was adapted into the first pilot for the Columbo series, with Peter Falk taking on the lead role.

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Who famously guest starred on Columbo?

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Over the course of its 34-year run, Columbo welcomed a huge number of guest stars. These famous faces played a mix of murderers and victims on the show.

Notable actors included William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Johnny Cash, Jackie Cooper, Dean Stockwell, Robert Culp, Faye Dunaway, Jack Cassidy, Ruth Gordon, John Cassavetes, Walter Koenig, George Hamilton, Rip Torn, Martin Landau, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, Julie Newmar, Leslie Nielsen, Honor Blackman, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Vaughn, and Donald Pleasance, amongst many, many others.

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Did any of the famous guest stars appear in more than one episode of Columbo?

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Of all the famous actors to guest star on Columbo, five popped up on more than one occasion to play different characters. The actors included:

  • William Shatner – Two episodes: ‘Fade in to Murder’ and ‘Butterfly in Shades of Grey’
  • George Hamilton – Two episodes: ‘A Deadly State of Mind’ and ‘Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health’
  • Robert Culp – Three episodes: ‘Death Lends a Hand’, ‘The Most Crucial Game’, and ‘Double Exposure’
  • Jack Cassidy – Three episodes: ‘Murder by the Book’, ‘Publish or Perish’, and ‘Now You See Him’
  • Patrick McGoohan – Four episodes: ‘By Dawn’s Early Light’, ‘Identity Crisis’, ‘Agenda for Murder’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’

In addition to guest-starring in four episodes, Patrick McGoohan directed five episodes of the show, including ‘Identity Crisis’, ‘Last Salute to the Commodore’, ‘Agenda for Murder’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, and ‘Murder with too Many Notes’.

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Did Steven Spielberg direct an episode of Columbo?

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Steven Spielberg directed the first episode of Season One, ‘Murder by the Book’, which originally aired on September 15th 1971. Although ‘Murder by the Book’ was the first episode of the season, in terms of the chronology of the show it was the third episode overall, following the two pilot episodes.

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What other famous directors directed episodes of Columbo?

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During the course of its run, Columbo had a rotation of directors from the world of film and television. Some of these directors included Jeannot Szwarc, Robert Butler, Ted Post, Vincent McEveety, Sam Wanamaker, Jonathan Demme, Leo Penn, and the aforementioned Steven Spielberg and Patrick McGoohan, amongst others.

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Did Columbo’s lead actor, Peter Falk ever direct an episode of the show?

Image: ©NBC Universal

Peter Falk directed one episode – the Season One story, ‘Blueprint for Murder’.

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What was the average running time of an episode of Columbo?

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Episodes of Columbo varied in length, ranging from 70 minutes to 100 mins. The shortest episodes were ‘Double Exposure’ (Season Three), ‘A Case of Immunity’, ‘A Matter of Honor’ (Season Five), ‘The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case’ (Season Six), and ‘Try and Catch Me’ (Season Seven), while the longest episode was ‘Forgotten Lady’ (Season Five).

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What are all of the episodes of Columbo?

Image: ©NBC Universal

Pilots

  • Prescription: Murder
  • Ransom for a Dead Man

Season One

  • Murder by the Book
  • Death Lends a Hand
  • Dead Weight
  • Suitable for Framing
  • Lady in Waiting
  • Short Fuse
  • Blueprint for Murder

Season Two

  • Étude in Black
  • The Greenhouse Jungle
  • The Most Crucial Game
  • Dagger of the Mind
  • Requiem for a Falling Star
  • A Stitch in Crime
  • The Most Dangerous Match
  • Double Shock

Season Three

  • Lovely But Lethal
  • Any Old Port in a Storm
  • Candidate for Crime
  • Double Exposure
  • Publish or Perish
  • Mind over Mayhem
  • Swan Song
  • A Friend in Deed

Season Four

  • An Exercise in Fatality
  • Negative Reaction
  • By Dawn’s Early Light
  • Troubled Waters
  • Playback
  • A Deadly State of Mind

Season Five

  • Forgotten Lady
  • A Case of Immunity
  • Identity Crisis
  • A Matter of Honor
  • Now You See Him…
  • Last Salute to the Commodore

Season Six

  • Fade in to Murder
  • Old Fashioned Murder
  • The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case

Season Seven

  • Try and Catch Me
  • Murder Under Glass
  • Make Me a Perfect Murder
  • How to Dial a Murder
  • The Conspirators

Season Eight

  • Columbo Goes to the Guillotine
  • Murder, Smoke and Shadows
  • Sex and the Married Detective
  • Grand Deceptions

Season Nine

  • Murder: A Self Portrait
  • Columbo Cries Wolf
  • Agenda for Murder
  • Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo
  • Uneasy Lies the Crown
  • Murder in Malibu

Season Ten

  • Columbo Goes to College
  • Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
  • Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star
  • Death Hits the Jackpot
  • No Time to Die
  • A Bird in the Hand…
  • It’s All in the Game
  • Butterfly in Shades of Grey
  • Undercover
  • Strange Bedfellows
  • A Trace of Murder
  • Ashes to Ashes
  • Murder with Too Many Notes
  • Columbo Likes the Nightlife
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What was the name of the Columbo spin-off series?

Image: ©NBC Universal

In 1979, NBC aired a Columbo spin-off series called Mrs. Columbo – a mystery drama series supposedly about Columbo’s wife, Kate. Kate Mulgrew played the title role across two seasons – 13 episodes in total.  

The first season aired in 1979 and comprised five episodes, while the second season aired between 1979 and 1980 and comprised eight episodes. Peter Falk did not appear in the series, but the show did share some of the same directors who worked on Columbo (Leo Penn, Sam Wanamaker etc).

Despite the popularity of Columbo, Mrs. Columbo was not a hit with fans and the show was cancelled. It was later retroactively removed from the official Columbo canon, to make it clear this was not a show about Columbo’s wife.

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And just one more thing… what was Lieutenant Columbo’s famous catchphrase in Columbo?

Image: ©NBC Universal

Columbo’s famous catchphrase, which he uttered throughout the series was “Just one more thing.”

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Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Columbo – I hope it has provided you with a great deal of information about the popular television series. For more mystery-based content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.

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