Best and Worst Columbo Episodes

Best

1. Any Old Port in a Storm
2. Make Me a Perfect Murder
3. Murder Under Glass
4. The Conspiritors
5. Try and Catch Me
6. Murder by the Book
7. Negative Reaction
8. Playback
9. Dead Weight
10. Swan Song
11. Etude in Black
12. A Stitch in Crime
13. Identity Crises
14. A Case of Immunity
15. Suitable for Framing
16. Blueprint for Murder
17. How to Dial a Murder
18. Now You See Him
19. The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case
20. A Friend in Deed
21. A Matter of Honor
22. By Dawn´s Early Light
(and most others from the 1970′s)

Worst

1. Last Salute to the Commodore – Confusing story, bad acting, etc…
2. Dagger of the Mind – A free trip to London for the cast and crew.  That’s about it.
3. The Greenhouse Jungle – Good acting by Ray Milland, but that’s about it.
(and basically any produced after the 1970′s – they just don’t have whatever it was that made me like the original shows)

 

 

65 thoughts on “Best and Worst Columbo Episodes

  1. Pingback: Adding a “Like” Button to phpbb | Tom Brennan's Blog

  2. The fact that you haven´t listed “By dawn´s early light” as one of the top 3 episodes pretty much kills any credibility.

    • Thats right, my favorite and most creative murder. Especialy when Patrick Mcgoohan just stand’s there at attention when the cannon blows up, and doesen’t even blink an eye. one reason why falk who was also a good friend said he was an underated actor.

    • Tom i’m surprised that you have The greenhouse jungle on your worst episode list. I throught it was pretty good, ray milland was superb as the rich stuck-up snob killer. Who was obviously bugged by columbo’s presence. It’s for you columbo ha.nice little twist he explain’s phase 3 to his nephew. Also liked the part when his nephew’s mistress come’s to see him in the greenhouse and get’s a little spooked. you don’t like orchid’s, actually sir, there my favorite corsage, INDEED. ha. But did not make much sense seeing his nephew’s classy wife wanting anything to do with a falcon eddie. not exactly prince charming lol.

      • What? NOOOOOOO that’s Kahn! How can you say that :) Well, I still like that episode, even though it was probably just an excuse for the production team to get a free trip to Mexico.

    • I Dont Rate the greenhouse jungle much either but I can think of a Handful of seventies that were poorer ,
      Mind over mayhem . Murder under glass , Dead weight , Short fuse Matter of honor and Old fashioned Murder .

  3. Wow, you’re right – that’s a good one and I missed it somehow. But personally, I wouldn’t rate it as one of the top three. In fact, I would probably put it below the next Patrick McGoohan episode, Identity Crisis.

    • What about “Murder, a Self Portrait”? I swear I only watched it because of Colombo. The acting was AWWWWFUL n like 12 hrs in n there was still no murder.
      I don’t watch to see any of these terrible actors. I watch Columbo to seeeeee Columbo n how he goes about solving the case.

      • Wait a second, that’s the title of the one with character Max Barsini the painter, who lives with 3 women, one wife one ex-wife one cute model? Sorry, I kind of like that one. Some bad acting by the women, but Patrick Bauchau does a great job and there’s also a side part by Vito Scotti, probably one of the best side actors ever in multiple Columbos. So I’m hoping you have the titles mixed up :)

  4. That’s a cool list. “Last Salute to the Commodore” is rated by many as the worst, but for some reason I enjoyed it, not immensely, but the suspense was certainly there, and I can’t say I saw it coming. I also didn’t particularly like “Dagger of the Mind” but it wasn’t too dreadful. I find that I did not like most of the plots that occurred outside of LA. I didn’t mind “The Greenhouse Jungle” myself.

    Personally, the three episodes I disliked were “No Time to Die” (S11) which was plain awful from beginning to the end. The format was cliched, the motive was contrived, the plot was nonsensical. I also didn’t like parts of the first and the last episode. “Prescription for Murder” is fine or even very good in many ways. But the ending is horrible. Columbo basically wasn’t a match for the villain who had completed the perfect murder and he had to resort to hounding and intimidating the villain’s lover, using tactics that would probably have the entire case thrown out of court today. It ruined what would have been an otherwise stellar episode. I was also disappointed with the last episode, “Columbo Enjoys the Nightlife”, which in itself was fine as far as the plot is concerned, but I dislike the new style applied, which made the episode too edgy and modern and lost the old rustic Columbo charm. I didn’t feel like I was watching Columbo (the same complaint as “No Time to Die”. “Murder in Malibu” was also a bit much, with the guy basically having an affair with every single female cast, including the maid.

    • Oh yeah! “No Time to DIe”. I don’t think I’ve ever watched that one entirely from start to finish. It has to be the absolute worst of all. I don’t even think anybody gets killed! Some of the plots that get a bit silly are ones like “Fade to Murder” where Captain Kirk gets caught by leaving his fingerprints on the bullets in the gun returned to the prop room. Didn’t need Columbo for that detective work. But still, I like the episode for the interaction between the characters. Prescription Murder is interesting to watch because Columbo hasn’t yet taken on the attributes he had through the 1970′s shows, but he’s still good. I do like that Columbo fools the killer into incriminating himself, but you’re right, the way he does it is a bit unbelievable. Oh well, I bought every DVD so I guess I have to watch them. P.S. Sorry for the delay in my reply.

      • No Time To Die was just a shitty platform, an audition if you will, for 2 awful actors to almost immediately move on to “Melrose Place”. The last minute is asinine. Columbo holding a gun like he just found out it shoots bullets. And I’m lost on the reason why the episode ends with him asking what time it is. WTF?

        • ha ha funny remark, is that the one where he was hardly in it, and nobody got killed. his niece or somebody got kidnapped. that was the worst one of them all. but i diden’t pay to much attention to the later ones.

  5. Man, you missed out some gems in your top 20.

    Double Exposure has an absolute brilliant ending.

    Troubled Waters deserves a place as does Murder by the Book.

    Try Amd Catch Me is also a classic.

    • Oh yeah… Double Exposure and Troubled Waters… both very good episodes. I’m just running out of room in my list I think! And the other two you mentioned are among the very best – 5 and 6 in my list today.

  6. I agree with you that two of the worst episodes in the COLUMBO series are LAST SALUTE TO THE COMMODORE and DAGGER OF THE MIND. I dislike NO TIME TO DIE as well. The latter and LAST SALUTE… are so boring that they put me to sleep. Moreover, the overacting of both of the villians in DAGGER… is simply dreadful.
    Notwithstanding, I believe that you overlooked two of the finest episodes of all on your list of best episodes—A FRIEND IN DEED and A STITCH IN CRIME. In fact, my top four picks are quite different from yours: 1) A FRIEND IN DEED, 2) NEGATIVE REACTION, 3) A STITCH IN CRIME, and 4) MURDER BY THE BOOK. Clearly, A FRIEND IN DEED stands out as the best episode because of its refreshing, new developments and twists in the plot highlighted by its fantastic ending. To see how Columbo constantly outsmarts and entraps the police commissioner who has the authority to end his career at will is breathtaking. The other three episodes have solid plots and great endings as well. In addition, Lennard Nimoy and Dick Van Dyke give stellar performances as villians in A STITCH IN CRIME and NEGATIVE REACTION, respectively. I am delighted to say that I still enjoy watching the COLUMBO re-runs (smile).

    • Thanks! I totally missed A Stitch in Crime. It’s one of my favorites, especially since it’s one of the few (only?) times Columbo actually gets upset, banging a coffee pot (or something) down on the doctor’s desk. Good ending, but not nearly as good an ending as A Friend in Deed. I do like it anytime Columbo tricks the killer into revealing information. But… I guess A Friend is just a little boring to me at times – I don’t exactly know why so I’ll put it near the bottom for now. My favorite ending (by far) is The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case. The story, the music playing, the storm outside… just amazing work these people did in the 70′s. Glad to hear you like the old shows!

    • patricia, i also agree that last salute to the commodore was the worst of the original’s. it was strickly a whodunnit completly out of character of the format. followed closely by dagger of the mind. and what happened to pussy galore, living hard.

  7. I was just watching the whole serie, and stumble on “Last Salute to the Commodore”.

    I though it was me, but obviously not. Repeated scenes (they shake two times hands on the boat), bad acting, Columbo acts funny and confused, and overall bad directing. It’s a shame that Patrick Mc Goohan be responsible for a so poor piece of work. He should have stayed “The Prisonner” and not trying to direct a movie… I am not even going to finish it.

    • Ha ha… I’ll have to struggle through it again to look for the double hand shake. But McGoohan must have learned something over the years, because a few of the later episodes were directed by him, and they are worth watching.

  8. I’m watching Forgotten Lady with Janet Leigh one of my favorites, great cast and acting. I love the sweet scenes with Columbo and his dog eating an ice cream cone.

    Another favorite of mine is the one on the cruise with Robert Vaughn (not sure the name of episode)

    The best ending is Negative Reaction, just brilliant !

    Peter Falk is excellent as Columbo.

    • Robert Vaughn in “Troubled Waters” – great scene when Columbo catches him with the fingerprints inside the gloves! And “Negative Reaction” with Dick van Dyke. Amazing job as the killer, I wouldn’t have expected it from him. Yes, that ending is one of the best! But watch “The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case” for my favorite ending.

  9. Hated “Commodore” episode for some very good reasons already stated. To me though, the very worst episode was in the ABC revival. “Columbo Goes Undercover.” Columbo gets beaten up and winds up in the hospital. In the NBC Mystery Movie original, nobody touches Columbo. NOBODY!!

    • Agreed, Columbo Undercover is difficult to watch. Why couldn’t they make them as good as the ones from the 1970′s :) Undercover is the one where a bunch of puzzle pieces show where the treasure is located, but of course the last piece could have basically been used alone – sill. And Columbo even fighting or acting tough is wrong wrong wrong. He doesn’t carry a gun – he has other cops visit the shooting range for him. The writers should have watched more of the 1970′s shows.

      • The reason why the later one’s weren’t nearly as good, is because at the beginning columbo was part of the NBC sunday night mystery movie platform. Along with MacMillin and wife and McCloud. they rotated through the month. no other network has done something like that since. of coarse columbo was far better than the other two. so because the episodes were limited to around 7 or so a year, gave them more time to work on the quality of them. I heard a rumer year’s ago that peter falk wanted to continue making them after they dropped the platform, but the network wanted him to make more per-year. He refused because he did not want to sacafice the quality of the show. Sadly he was to old, when they started up again. out of gas.

  10. Tom. Glad you saw this and agree with me!! I also have one other silly observation, or maybe not so silly. The guest stars in the NBC years were stellar. With a few exceptions in the persons of Patrick McGoohan and Robert Culp, the ABC years lacked the star power of the early years. The NBC version provided fine actors that Peter Falk deserved to have. Additionally, the musical backing tracks in the earlier years were phenomenally good. They started to slide a little in the 5th, 6th and 7th seasons although they were still good. The ABC years, in my own opinion, lacked the musical quality of the original years, substituting synthesized arrangements. Although some of the earlier episodes reused some pieces of music in other episodes, the musical scores created mood and underscored performances given by some terrific actors.

    • Exactly! The killers of the 1970′s were mostly great, well-known actors of the time, and having that interaction between detective and killer was what made the show. Interesting that you mention music, which to me was mostly unimpressive until the last few of the 1970′s shows where Patrick Williams got involved and made it great. So maybe watch “Make Me a Perfect Murder” and see if that changes your mind a bit about that era. Unfortunately, Patrick didn’t seem to try nearly as hard when they hired him back years later for more episodes.

  11. Tom. I don’t know whether or not this has ever been brought up, or even noticed by many, but William Shayne, Inspector Henderson himself, from “The Adventures of Superman,” had a very brief, uncredited cameo as the murder victim at the very beginning of “Suitable for Framing.” Had to look twice but it is him!!

    • Hey you’re right! That episode always cracks me up because the victim has no lines, just smiles, and then dies. Hope he got paid for that :) I’m glad to see that you found part of the fun of these old episodes is seeing the bit-part players. Check out Jamie Lee Curtis in “Bye Bye Sky High…” when she tells Columbo he can’t eat the donut. And Peg Bundy in “Candidate for Crime” as a secretary – doesn’t even look like her she’s so young. Of course her dad directed that episode.

  12. Chuck McCann really made me laugh in “Double Exposure.” He tries to blackmail Robert Culp and then wants to shake his hand after the “agreement” was made. My God, it was Robert Culp for goodness sake! Should have seen it coming!!. Met Chuck a few years ago at one of those celebrity “meet and greet” events. Class act and he genuinely seemed to enjoy talking to and mixing with fans.

  13. I like all the 70s episodes except 3 or 4 matter of honor is the worst of the 70s also dead weight was poor ,requiem for a falling star ,dagger of the mind and last salute to the commodore my top 10 are the bye bye . try and catch me , negative reaction , suibtqable for framing ,playback, by dawns early light publish or perish ,a friend in deed , double exposure , double shock troubled waters and so on you get the idea, as for the later episodes the only one I really liked was agenda for murder with Patrick mcgoohan and columbo goes to college,no time to die and undercover werew the worst and strange bedfellows.

  14. I enjoyed most of the 70′s episodes. My favorites are A Friend in Deed, Any Old Port, and Murder by the Book but I liked many others. The Commodore and Mind Over Mayhem (somewhat ridiculous) are my least favorite. I thought the series lost mojo after the initial run, probably due to aging and a lack of freshness.
    Also, Falk was ever critical of the product management was putting out. After the unspectacular Short Fuse, he sought to direct and produced Blueprint for Murder, a solid ending to a stellar first season for the series. He continued to hound management as the product vacillated from great to good to lesser and eventually quit when he no longer wanted to put his name on it. Point is, his determination made the series what it was. He also recruited great actors (McGoohan, Cassidy, Bikel, Culp, Miley, Leigh, etc.). Some of the plots ultimately failed but it wasn’t the fault of the hawkish Falk. The series is thoroughly him.

  15. I have been watching the show ever since it started, and agree any old port in a storm could be the best. but i think a friend in deed should second, at least top 5. also outside of the originals, the later ones stunk. only one i kind of liked was death hits the jackpot. if there was ever a perfect match for an actor and show, peter falk was it.

    • You’re right – I probably should raise “A Friend In Deed” up a bit. Good story, and a really good ending. Nothing better than fooling the evil boss. And there’s also Val Avery again, who does a great job. I also like Death/Jackpot better than most of the newer ones. And Ashes to Ashes, and Murder with Too Many Notes are decent – maybe because the killers do a good job of acting (as in Death/Jackpot where Rip Torn is excellent). Now I need to go watch these again :)

      • first time i’ve replied to one of these thing’s. but i’m glad were on the same page tom, columbo is my all time favorite tv show. there’s also a category for best ending’s. most people pick how to dial a murder, but i’ve alway’s loved the ending to short fuse. when roddy mcdowall goes mad laughing after he realizes he’s been tricked. another good ending is the end to death lend’s a hand, when columbo wait’s for the clock to chime.

  16. worst from the 7o s mine are a matter of honor takes first without cant stand it , dagger of the mind , last salute short fuse dead weight and requiem for a falling star these were poor episodes so was lovely but lethal .

    new ones worst thats easy undercover absolute worst no time to die , murder a self portrait ,strange bedfellows ,murder in Malibu murder with too many notes columbo goes to the guillotine sex and the married detective and bird in the hand ashes to ashes

    better episodes from the new run death hits the jackpot best , agenda for murder , murder of a rock star columbo goes to college murder smoke and shadows .

    • Uh oh… A Matter of Honor is pretty good I think. Maybe it’s just because Khan is the star – he stole that show. And I guess it was a time when producers thought it was ok to make some fun of Mexico (i.e. the guy who fakes his car accident injury “La cabesa, la cabesa”. Always cracks me up :) And I need to argue a bit about Dead Weight, where Mr. Douglas and Mrs. Hartley were great guest stars. That’s one of my favorites. Requiem, yeah, you’re right it’s mostly filler but still fun to watch only because of the 1970 things like the Jaws shark. I do agree with your non-1970′s assessments though!

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  18. Just to clear up , one misprint The rated 2nd episode is called Make me a perfect murder not THE perfect murder , its one of my favorite episodes but I wouldn’t put it second

  19. Oops, thanks! #2 is possibly my real favorite, but Any Old Port in a Storm is on top partly because my brother makes wine and it’s kind of a family gathering to watch that episode.

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