Let’s Go to the Party, Carl

TitleCard_Make Me A Perfect Murder

In “Make Me a Perfect Murder,” Trish Van Devere is a network TV up-and-comer who figures she’ll get her big break once her boss/special night friend is put in charge of the entire joint. That does not happen, so she shoots him dead and concocts a plan for escaping discovery with far too many moving parts. Fighting through a case of whiplash, Columbo is able to figure through the whole thing. Also, Lainie Kazan plays some Judy Garland analogue? Donna Bowman (The AV Club) and Noel Murray (The DissolveThe AV Club) join Jon and RJ for the hugs and neck rubs.

4 comments on “Let’s Go to the Party, Carl

  1. You seemed pretty lukewarm on this episode. While it wasn’t one of the best ever, it did a good job illustrating some of the recurring Columbo themes about detective work.

    For example, there’s the often-creepy intimacy that develops between detective and suspects. To have any hope of solving the crime, the detective has to get to know the victim and suspects very well. I’m told that a lot of suspects try to turn this to their advantage; certainly, a lot of Columbo suspects do. It rarely works well, on TV or in real life. The detective may seem to trust the suspect, but it’s an act.

    And then there’s the routine nature of police work. The killer in this one thought she’d planned things out really well, but left a lot of loose ends. The gun is an obvious one: sure, it’s clever to hide it in the elevator shaft, but even in a large building there’s a finite number of places where a gun could be stashed within a couple of minutes after a shooting. The police don’t have to be geniuses to do a good job of searching; they just need to be thorough and methodical. In this episode, we don’t even see them find the gun; we just see how Columbo uses the discovery to trick the killer.

    I also agree whole-heartedly with the Tumblr entry: I’d like to see more of these characters and how they ended up here.

    Great bit at the end of the podcast, by the way.

  2. As I mentioned before this was the first episode I ever saw so it holds a special place for me. On top of having my mind blown by the reverse who done it format, it was my first real experience with a sympathetic killer. Katie is a really layered character, I mean how many murderers can you say that their fatal character flaw is that they were too nice?

    Columbo, the show, while pretty progressive (for its time anyway) in many ways did often treat women in a pretty shonky manner. Kate plays really fair, she is never portrayed as too weak to be a “man’s world,” nor as the “dragon lady” corporate type that would be cliche in the next decade. She sort of exists in the nexus of using traditional female societal roles (mistress, backrubs, etc) to get ahead while at the same time legitimately trying to be the best at everything she put her hand to. All this while being a really trusting and loyal friend. Its almost as if her motive for murder was the deep hurt at being “betrayed” (which, as you pointed out, is ironic as she was legit not ready for the role she thought she had earned) and the convoluted way of doing it was a “I’ll show you just how capable I am.”

    Her ultimate failure, I suppose, was not really understanding what the nature of “running the West Coast” was all about.
    I guess the biggest problem with this episode is Kate is more interesting as a character than the episode she was in. I actually would have loved a spin off of her serving time in prison for the crime, negotiating life on the inside.
    Looking forward to the next show, where-in Columbo is shoe horned into a first year writing class homage to Agatha Christie!

    1. Your mentioning Agatha Christie reminded me of two things: (1) my theory about the reason why Columbo was a hit in the UK, namely that audiences recognised that the show was a variant of the posh country-house murder-mystery plot, ever popular, which Aggie and other “cosy” mystery writers revisited again and again in their books, and (2) the Columbo episode titled “Playback”, with Oskar Werner as the villain, is basically a ripoff, albeit with updated technology, of (SPOILER WARNING) Agatha Christie’s The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd.

      More literary connections: I’m sure I read somewhere that what inspired Link and Levinson to create the basic reverse-mystery concept of Columbo, where you see the murder being carried out up front, was the Dr Thorndyke mystery novels of R Austin Freeman. So there you go.

      Class dismissed.

  3. I think the amusement park at the end was a call-out to Lady From Shanghai, the Orson Welles film. It looks like the Welles’-used amusement park, located outside San Francisco, Playland-at-the-Beach (demolished in 1972). In one shot you can see the word “Playland” and they talk about how they are filming down at the beach. They don’t go obvious and use the funhouse, but invent a new backdrop, the carousel. I agree this is one of the most cinematic episodes of the series.

    As I mentioned in comment for the Dabney Coleman episode this is one of the four episodes I can think of where either the killer or the victim lives at the beach. Not only is a beach house short hand for decadent West Coast living, but it also recalls the backdrop of Robert Altman’s The Long Good-bye which is also set in Malibu.

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