Belfast Telegraph

Just one more thing ... Falk created a TV detective legend

By Gail Walker

Who didn't pause for thought at the news that Peter Falk - TV's Columbo - had died at 83, peacefully after a battle with dementia?

The show with the dishevelled lieutenant had a unique approach: the how- and whodunit were shown at the start, before the detective unpicked each carefully planned detail already known to viewers. This turned the TV crime format on its head, giving the genre its first global superstar.

Jack Frost's unkempt demeanour? Morse's logical brain? They can be traced back to the humble LA cop. Unlike modern shows, the body count was low - you didn't need to be a serial killer to draw Columbo's attention.

In fact, the less obvious the crime, the more persistent our hero. The motives were as simple as real life (cash, passion, ego), the killers' arrogance by turns chilling and amusing, but only because viewers knew they were already doomed as soon as Falk staggered through the rosebed, apologising. No swagger, no violence, no gun.

So much a part of so many childhoods and, latterly, so many slots on afternoon TV, so vital at shaping what we all took to be moral truths, Columbo kept nagging away at all our plausible excuses, half-rational motives, almost-forgivable character flaws which, in the end, were not forgivable at all, no matter how beautiful or provoked the perpetrator.

I hope Falk was aware, in later years, how warm the affection was for him. In the end, it appears, he couldn't even recall the character he had made so famous.

Thankfully, and this is the way of these things, Lieutenant Columbo, though, remembers every little thing.

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