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Introducing Columbo

by Kate Fortmueller

Although Columbo is the title character of the show, in the original (1970s) episodes he is never the first character to appear on-screen. This scene (which occurs about eighteen minutes into the first episode) is not only Columbo's introduction within the narrative, but also his first appearance in the show. What does this entrance reveal about Columbo? How does this scene help us understand him as a different kind of character or policeman?

The timing of this entrance also reveals one of the key points about the structure of Columbo episodes. Episodes begin with elaborately planned murders that reveal the killer. Rather than trying to solve the mystery we are watching to see how the killer will slip up and what will lead Columbo to catch him or her.

Columbo "Murder by the Book" (1971) - Columbo's first appearance

In this sequence, the LAPD collect evidence and Columbo makes his first appearance on-screen.

from Columbo (1971)
Creator: Steven Spielberg
Posted by Kate Fortmueller