The Usual. Somebody Killed Somebody.

What do you know? The second-to-last Columbo episode ever is the second-to-last one we’re covering! In “Murder with Too Many Notes,” Billy Connolly plays a past-his-prime film score composer whose protégé has secretly been the one producing the maestro’s best work lately. When the kid starts demanding some credit for his work, the composer sees no way out than to stage an untimely death for the wannabe John Williams. Author and film archivist Jenny Hammerton (Cooking with Columbo) joins us to discuss the episode, weather on our respective continents, what Columbo souvenir you’d want in your house, and so much more. Also- a contest to win Jenny’s book! Details in the episode.

21 comments on “The Usual. Somebody Killed Somebody.

  1. This episode of the pod sums up everything I’ve loved about JOMT – it’s made me want to look and think deeper into an episode that I’ve already watched (and, like you guys, actually rather liked). Plus by retconning a bunch of other thoughts and ideas into the episode as presented, it makes the Columbo episode far more intriguing.

    I’m going to re-watch it with the knowledge impaired from this pod, and see what I make of it now.

    Happy new year to you, and here’s hoping you can achieve the same level of retrospective improvement on your bound-to-follow Supertrain podcast.

    PS: The League Of Regrettable Sidekicks is rather fine isn’t it? Working my way through this Xmas present now…

    1. Just watched it again. Of the nineties (well, later) ones, I still think this is one of the (much) better ones. Almost 70’s-esque, in many ways.

      The suggestion of the lift being installed by Alex the Wunderkind of Murder, Smoke and Shadows fame almost works (if you squint a bit and ignore continuity, but since when has a Columbo hung on continuity?).

      The music certainly is a bit overpowering at times. One wonders if the title was a wry post-production nod to some of the content.

      Lots of other little nods (the drinking, the comment about the wife’s death) all feed in quite well.
      Columbo suspects it’s Crawford as soon as he can’t find the house key, coupled with everything else he’s seen / heard in the first meeting.

      If this was to be the last episode (and wasn’t the suspected last episode of the seventies before they changed mind – Last Salute To The Commodore – also directed by McGoohan?) then I think this would have been a pretty good way to go out. Better than Last Salute, and better than Columbo Likes The Nightlife.

      And wa-aa-aa-yy better than the last one you’ve got to talk about…

    2. Oh, you’re so incredibly kind, Jason, thank you! Those are almost overwhelming compliments, we appreciate them tremendously.

  2. One thing you don’t consider (though you came close at one point) is the title and where it comes from, and how it relates to your Columbo anti-body theory. The episode is a essentially a retelling of “Amadeus,” with Billy Connolly as the Salieri character and Chad Willett playing Mozart. In the play and movie, the rap on Mozart’s music is that it contained “too many notes”–that is, too much information to be absorbed easily.

    (I notice, too, you spoke with a magician for the magician episode, but you’ve done all three music-related episodes — Blueprint for Murder, Etude in Black, and this one– without inviting on anyone who can talk knowledgeably about music.)

    Thanks to Jenny for pointing out that Hillary Danner’s character is devastated by the killing, and that she would have scratched the killer’s eyes out. She right that we don’t see grief very often in Columbo. In most cases, it seems, the victim is left unmourned. In the entire thirty-year run of the show, I’d have to say the award for sheer nobody-gives-a-damn-this-person-is-dead-ness would have to go to “Fade in to Murder.” Here, the woman who owns a show, the one who signs everyone’s checks, is killed, apparently in a senseless robbery, and the next day, when Columbo visits the set, life is going on as if nothing has happened. No one suggests shutting down production for a day. The director doesn’t make a little speech about the need to soldier on because Claire would have wanted it that way. There’s not even a moment of silence.

    We’re down to the next-to-last episode in the series before we learn that a murder can ruin the life of a person who’s left behind.

    1. Ohhhhh, my stars and garters. ..

      I completely missed any connection with Amadeus, and that does sort of recast the episode in a different light, for me. I had ascribed some degree of paternal sentiment to Finlay, but if his role was the mocked and wounded Salieri then, yeah, his promises were all wounded pride. That’s very interesting…

  3. Really enjoyed this episode of the podcast. This was one of the episodes of the Columbo series that I tended to not watch as often, but as Jason (above) said, I will go back and re-watch. I could not help but think about what memento from the Columbo series I would love to have. After hearing R.J. mention Mrs. Melville books, I would actually like to have the Mrs. Melville portrait. It always seems to have a warm-but-spooky aura about it. It would look nice in my den. OK, I don’t have a den – but I would create one if I did get the painting.

    PS – I have never watched the George Wendt episode – and I have seen the majority of the episodes dozens (at least) times.

  4. What memento would I like to have from a Columbo episode? Robert Culp’s ring from Death Lends a Hand — with the two diamonds and the raised border.

  5. Hi – I have watched again, and embarrassed to say that I don’t understand the how the “notes” add to the already solid clues (ex – wrong shoe size, baton in elevator, stolen music, etc.). Did the killer steal the notes? I feel so dense. Thanks for any info.

    1. I’ll have to rewatch it, but as I recall, Gabriel was coding little love notes to Rebecca in his music. For example, the name “Rebecca” may be spelled with the notes D-B flat-E-C-C-A. (D is “Re,” the second note of the scale and, conveniently, the first two letters of her name.) Likewise, “Gabe” may be spelled with the notes G-A-B flat-E. So it would appear that Finlay did indeed copy Gabriel’s work. But you’re right: it’s confusing and unnecessary. More to the point, it wouldn’t prove much. Composers rip each other off all the time, and busy, overworked film composers often subcontract jobs to other composers. Not everything with Mike Post’s name on it was written by Mike Post, as I learned when I interviewed a film composer who worked out of his garage in North Hollywood. Hope this helps.

      1. That level of intricate puzzle-work sounds about right for McGoohan’s temperament. I have a tin ear, myself, so thank you for the insight!

  6. The podcast captured this episode very well. I was grimacing through the whole slow-drive-home sequence until I remembered that McGoohan had directed it. At this point, after seeing “Agenda for Murder” and especially “Last Salute to the Commodore,” it’s clear that McGoohan had a definite aesthetic, dwelling lovingly on drawn-out, awkward, frustrating situations until characters and viewers alike squirm. Every time I rolled my eyes after that, I imagined McGoohan laughing at me, which I’m sure he would have loved.

    I also agree with Jenny and Joe that Hillary Danner portrayed her character’s grief really well. A fine, heartfelt performance.

  7. I saw this episode when it first aired in 2001, but not since. As a result of this podcast, I decided to watch it again. My huge problem with the episode is that there’s no “Gotcha!” — no final clue that nails the killer. Instead, Columbo gives a list of circumstantial clues: that the elevator was heard on the concert recording, that Gabriel was drugged, that he wore the wrong shoes — none of which nails Crawford. Columbo also speculates that Crawford removed Gabriel’s house key and stole his Killer score, but offers no evidence to support this conclusion. And yet, quite inexplicably, Crawford concedes defeat and quietly surrenders. I fully expected a “Where’s your proof I did any of these things?” retort, followed by a “Gotcha!” clue. But it never came.

    What the script treats as if it were a “Gotcha!” are the GABE/BECCA and BECCA/GABE musical notes on the baton and thank-you note — but these prove nothing. While Rebecca refers to these musical notes as “something personal that he would appreciate,” they certainly were no secret code. Anyone with rudimentary musical knowledge could decipher them. More importantly, no one disputed that the baton Columbo found was the one Gabriel was using on the roof. So why the elaborate setup on the roof, with keyboard and blackboard, to reveal what they spelled?

    All great Columbos have a great “Gotcha!” All good Columbos have a good “Gotcha!” This episode didn’t even have a lousy “Gotcha!” It had none.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.