Thursday, February 8, 2007


In this past week's episode of 'Extras' (which took place even earlier in Toobworld due to it being shown already in the UK), Maggie Jacobs was able to figure out how old Andy Millman was when he lost his virginity through a series of exasperating questions and observations.

"What are you?" Andy finally snapped. "Columbo?"

Are you havin' a Zonk? Is he havin' a Zonk?

No, he wasn't. Andy was not referring to the TV show because there is no 'Columbo' TV series in Toobworld. He was referring to the actual Lt. Columbo of the LAPD (the one who looks remarkably like the actor Peter Falk).

Back in the early 1970s, Lt. Columbo was sent over to London as a representative of the Los Angeles police force to observe criminology methods at New Scotland Yard. While tagging along with Detective Chief Superintendent William Durk on what appeared to be the accidental death of producer Sir Roger Haversham, Columbo was able to solve two heinous murders which brought down the West End's leading theatrical couple, Nicholas Frame and Lillian Stanhope.

The solution of the crime was literally staged at the London Wax Museum, where the figures of all the participants were on display - Sir Roger, Mr. Frame, and Ms. Stanhope.

Now, it's pozz'ble, just pozz'ble, that the curators of the Wax Museum decided that what the exhibit needed was a wax figure of Lt. Columbo himself in order to bring the display full circle, from the victim to the murderers to the American cop who figured it all out.

And with that wax figure there would naturally have to be some kind of placard to give the museum visitors additional information about the Lieutenant.

As a kid, perhaps Andy Millman spent many long hours at the London Wax Museum where he not only learned a lot about Columbo, but where he also found inspiration to become an actor. (And if his agent Darren Lamb screws up his career even more than he did at the BAFTA Awards, perhaps Andy found inspiration to commit murder as well!)

But that wouldn't be the only place where people like Andy would have learned about Lt. Columbo. Even though most of his cases were solved in Los Angeles (asides from the British trip, of course, as well as a murder in Mexico and one on the high seas), Columbo enjoyed a world-wide reputation for his prowess as his career wound down. (We know it couldn't have happened too much earlier, because most of his suspects never heard of him, and they were far from being out of the loop.)

Consider the high-profile nature of many of his cases. Among the murderers he brought to justice were the conductor for a major symphony orchestra, the publisher of a racy men's magazine, two best-selling mystery novelists, the star of a highly rated detective series, the owner of a glamorous cosmetics empire, the owner of a noted winery, a wunderkind film director, a renowned painter, a celebrated photographer, a famous poet, an influential restaurant critic, a TV cooking show host, and two fading actresses from the glory days of the movies, as well as the previously mentioned couple from London's theatre scene.

(You know what kind of murderer I always hoped to see Columbo go up against? A spoiled but brilliant child star. Elijah Wood would have been great in the role back in the day, Jodie Foster even earlier in the timeline of 'Columbo'. Haley Joel Osment could have scored high ratings riding the crest from 'The Sixth Sense'. Why not Dakota Fanning now? Or Abigail Breslin?)

These are not people who can be arrested for murder without some notoriety and exposure. It's because of people like these that networks like Court TV came into being!

And one name would keep cropping up in any news reports or analyses of these cases - Columbo.

So from my viewpoint, I see nothing out of the ordinary in the fact that Andy Millman knew about the detective, and that he knew his friend Maggie would understand the reference.

Zonk averted. Mystery solved.

Oh! (And you knew I'd have to say this.) Just one more thing.......

In the grand scheme of things in the TV Universe, there were three Lt. Columbos, two of whom reside in Earth Prime-Time. The one who resembles an actor named Bert Freed must be shipped off to the dimension of TV remakes, even though his was the first appearance of the character. Hey, there's just no denying Peter Falk's interpretation from taking its rightful place in the pantheon of the main Toobworld.

But that first 'Columbo' (seen in an episode of 'The Chevy Mystery Show', "Enough Rope") was the same story seen several years later in the first 'Columbo' pilot, "Prescription: Murder". Had it been a totally different story, we could have allowed Bert Freed's version of the detective reside in the same TV dimension as Falk's. However, we have to relegate it to the dimension usually reserved for the remake follow-ups, in much the same way we did for the first version of 'The Strange World of Horace Ford', which starred Art Carney.

The third version of Lt. Columbo can reside in the same TV dimension as the Columbo we know best, since his life is radically different. This Columbo was never seen, but his wife Kate and their daughter were the focal point of a different series, 'Mrs. Columbo'.

Now, NBC and Universal may have wanted the audience to think that she was married to the character played by Peter Falk, but for once the audience proved to have some smarts and they rejected the whole notion of the series. Eventually the producers dropped the attempt to link the show with 'Columbo'; instead they had Kate Columbo get divorced and start living under her maiden name of Callahan.

The audience knew she couldn't be married to the great Lt. Columbo because he often mentioned his wife as his high school sweetheart, and there was at least a 20 year difference in the ages between Columbo and Kate Callahan. And from the description provided by her husband, Mrs. Columbo probably resembled Maureen Stapleton or (my choice) Sada Thompson.

However, that doesn't mean Kate Callahan couldn't have married a different Lt. Columbo in the LAPD. There's no law that says that last name couldn't have been borne by two different cops on the force.

There's also a photo of this Mrs. Columbo floating around on the web somewhere which shows her standing in front of the battered Peugeot owned by THE Lt. Columbo. (In our world, this was a publicity photo meant to sell the premise that she was married to the great detective.)

No Zonk in that photo. She just happened to have her pic snapped while she was standing near the vehicle. Nuff said.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the photos floating around the great interweb, portraying "Mrs. Columbo" doing word puzzles (something Columbo has mentioned several times, that his wife loves to do) as well as the pictures of her sitting with a dog, strangely similar to the one Columbo drives around with.