Ever wonder exactly where Columbo came from? Well, wonder no more, as we delve into the origins of the show while talking about “Prescription: Murder,” the TV movie that started everything. Okay, well, first there was the short story, then the play, then the 1950s anthology show episode, then this, but it’s all covered in the podcast. Gene Barry is Dr. Ray Fleming, the first in a long, long line of homicidal rich and powerful jerks who don’t count on Lt. Columbo being so awfully good at his job. Tilt Araiza (The Sitcom Club) joins Jon and RJ with an astonishing amount of research and knowledge in the field of Columbology. This is the one that started it all and it’s rather in place from the get-go.
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Some additions to my contributions: I completely forgot to mention that Prescrition Murder was revived on stage in a tour of the UK in 2010. Dirk Benedict was Columbo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRgrwvrtdiE
Too late for this recording, I got a copy of The Columbo Phile, in that it’s explained that Freed was persuaded to tone down his performance for fear of upstaging Richard Carlson, the nominal star (Freed is billed third). This might explain why Freed is low key and matter-of-fact in his first couple of scenes, maybe later he realized that on live TV, no-one could stop him taking it up a notch (Freed-Columbo is OVERJOYED when he’s told about the phony confession). I also forgot to mention Bert Freed biting through his cigar when the guy at the DA’s office suggests Columbo be taken off the case (later on, there’s no mention of Columbo’s superior not giving into pressure, Columbo says he put himself back on the case).
The published stageplay had some work done on it by Levinson and Link after original tour with Thomas Mitchell, so maybe some of the parallels I drew between 1962 and 1968 aren’t what theatre audiences saw.
The play is still in print http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/9024/prescription-murder and Dear Corpus Delicti is reprinted in Alfred Hitchcock’s A Choice Of Evils if you want to hit the second hand book market http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/Alfred_Hitchcock's_A_Choice_of_Evils_%28book%29
Dave Grusin isn’t on a Jazz Tribute to Brian Wilson, I was thinking of his younger brother Don.
Jon & RJ, you need to put Tilt “Research” Araiza on retainer.
This was my fave episode of the podcast. (My second fave was the Bleyaert one, for very different reasons.)
I don’t think there’s much more I can research as I’m sure no other Columbo story has such a convoluted genesis. I do have a file of UK transmissions dates for Mrs Columbo but nobody needs that.
Stringer Bell is a character on The Wire, not Homicide.
Ew, sorry, now, I’m that person. I’ll stop.
That was a terrific podcast. To be honest, this episode left me a bit cold when I first watched it. I felt like all the familiar Columbo tropes were just a bit heavy handed and they got better/subtler as the show went on.
Also, come on Gene Barry don’t go telling 1968 Peter Falk he can’t get by on his looks. He was ADORABLE. OMG.
Nice work, guys.
One thing that really struck me about this Columbo episode (if we can call it that) was not just how cinematic it was, but how specifically 1960s-cinematic. The costumes, hairstyles, music, and so on. It’s quite distinct from even the earliest episodes of the regular series.
By the way, remind me: what’s a Night Goliath?
Sh, we don’t say the Night Goliath’s name during the day.
Another great episode of a great podcast. This show is the highlight of my work week when it comes up.
On the subject of universe crossovers, I’ve recently been entertained by the idea that Columbo came from the New York/Isola of Ed McBain’s 87th precinct novels, where he was known as the weird guy from Homicide North with the bizarrely high closure rate.
On the subject of Dragnet, I recommend the film Appointment With Danger, with Alan Ladd as a postal inspector (!) who runs up against, among others, two thugs played by Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. Joe Friday: sanctimonious fascist detective by day, sadistic mob goon by night.
Hello Chaps, Colombo fan, friend of Tilt and first time listener here.
Very much enjoyed the podcast, like the relaxed style, learnt a few things, laughed approximately 7 times.
Colombo is on most weekends over here in the UK at the moment on two ITV channels and 5 USA so we’re getting to see a lot, which is most gratifying.
I’ve seen Prescription Murder a couple of times but hadn’t realised it was the first.
Fallen a little bit in love with Jon.
Wouldn’t it be funny if someone uploaded the short story to imgur or somewhere like that?
No, it probably wouldn’t.