Columbo (season 1)

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Columbo (season 1)
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 7
Original network NBC
Original release September 15, 1971 (1971-09-15) – February 9, 1972 (1972-02-09)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of Columbo episodes

This is a list of episodes from the first season of the American television detective series Columbo.

Broadcast history[edit]

The season originally aired Wednesdays at 8:30-10:00 pm (EST) as part of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.

DVD release[edit]

The season was released on DVD by Universal Home Video. The DVD includes the two pilot movies: Prescription: Murder and Ransom for a Dead Man.


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Runtime Original air date
3 1 "Murder by the Book" Steven Spielberg Steven Bochco 73 minutes September 15, 1971 (1971-09-15)

Ken Franklin (Jack Cassidy) is one half of a mystery writing team, but partner Jim Ferris (Martin Milner) wants to go solo. That would expose the fact that Ferris did all the actual writing, and would leave the high-living Franklin without his cash cow. Franklin makes it look like Ferris was investigating gangsters, then takes Ferris to his cabin two hours away. Lily La Sanka (Barbara Colby), a general store owner, happens to see Ferris in the car while Franklin makes a call to Ferris's wife (Rosemary Forsyth) to establish that he is far away. At the cabin, he convinces Ferris to call home and say he's working late at the office. During the call, Franklin shoots Ferris, then takes his body back north and dumps it on his lawn. La Sanka tries to blackmail Franklin into a relationship, so he bludgeons her to death and capsizes her rowboat, making it look like an accident.

Final clue/twist: After hearing, that Ferris wrote down any idea for his mystery novels as small notes, Columbo searches his office and house and indeed finds a note with the fake phone call alibi idea and confronts Franklin. After his arrest, Franklin makes the startling admission to Columbo, that in fact, it was his alibi idea (the only one he ever had).

Jack Cassidy played the villain in a total of three Columbo episodes (this one, episode 22 (Season 3), and episode 36 (Season 5)).

Note: In 1997 TV Guide ranked this episode number 16 on its '100 Greatest Episodes of All Time' list.[1]
4 2 "Death Lends a Hand" Bernard L. Kowalski Richard Levinson, William Link 73 minutes October 6, 1971 (1971-10-06)

Carl Brimmer (Robert Culp), the head of a private detective agency, is hired by Arthur Kennicut (Ray Milland), a powerful publishing magnate who suspects his wife, Lenore (Pat Crowley), of infidelity. Although Brimmer indeed finds evidence of her being unfaithful, instead of reporting this to his client, he attempts to blackmail Lenore into revealing secrets about her husband. She refuses and threatens to expose his plot to Kennicut, at which point Brimmer accidentally kills her in a fit of anger. He then dumps her body at a scrapyard and later joins the investigation into Lenore's death with Columbo. Brimmer secretly starts to divert suspicion away from himself and offers Columbo a job.

Final clue/twist: Unknown to Brimmer, Columbo secretly employs the use of a trick he learned as a boy to identify the killer. He let him know, that one of the victims contact lenses might be found at the crime scene or the car, the murderer must have been used. When Brimmer searches for it in the car he disposed the body with, he is caught by Columbo and Kennicut and confesses.

Note: This episode won an Emmy for writing and is known for the "glasses' effect" after Brimmer kills Lenore where both lenses of Brimmer's glasses show different images of him cleansing the scene of the crime.
5 3 "Dead Weight" Jack Smight John T. Dugan 73 minutes October 27, 1971 (1971-10-27)

Major General Martin Hollister (Eddie Albert), a retired Marine Corps war hero, learns he is being investigated for embezzling military funds, then shoots his skittish accomplice (John Kerr). The act is partially witnessed by Helen Stewart (Suzanne Pleshette), who was in a passing boat. She is wooed by Hollister into doubting her own story.

Final clue/twist: After an encounter with his nostalgia-crazy cook, Columbo realizes, that Hollister would've never let go of his signature revolver (the assumed murder weapon). He finds the weapon, which Hollister said is a replica made for the museum to his honour, and can identify it as the actual weapon that killed Hollister's accomplice.

Kate Reid plays Helen's disbelieving mother, who is favorably impressed by Hollister.
6 4 "Suitable for Framing" Hy Averback Jackson Gillis 73 minutes November 17, 1971 (1971-11-17)

Art critic Dale Kingston (Ross Martin) murders his uncle and frames his aunt, Edna Mathews (Kim Hunter), to obtain what is considered to be one of the most valuable art collections in the world.

Final clue/twist: When Kingston hides the paintings he stole from his uncle after the murder in his aunts house to frame her, Columbo can prove that they were in Kingstons possession, because Columbo accidentally touched the paintings, when he visited Kingston earlier in the episode. So Columbos fingerprints are on them.

Don Ameche portrays the family lawyer, Frank Simpson.
7 5 "Lady in Waiting" Norman Lloyd Teleplay: Steven Bochco
Story: Barney Slater
73 minutes December 15, 1971 (1971-12-15)

Beth Chadwick (Susan Clark) murders her domineering older brother, Bryce (Richard Anderson), in order to gain control of her own life and the family business. She arranges for it to look like an accident but is tripped up by the sharp memory of her own fiancé, Peter (Leslie Nielsen), whom she hoped to marry.

Final clue/twist: When Columbo re-reads the testimony of Peter, he realizes, that Peter heard the gunshot before the alarm went off, contrary to Beth's version who killed her brother accidentally after the alarm went off.

In hindsight, the resolution of the episode is very weak. If Peters testimony was there all the time, no one ever read it correctly (shot before alarm)? This is not a case of genius deduction - just reading correctly what a witness reported.

Beth and Bryce's mother is played by veteran actress Jessie Royce Landis in her final performance not long before her death.
8 6 "Short Fuse" Edward M. Abrams Teleplay: Jackson Gillis
Story: Lester Pine, Tina Pine, Jackson Gillis
73 minutes January 19, 1972 (1972-01-19)

Roger Stanford (Roddy McDowall) is a chemist and photography buff whose uncle, David (James Gregory), has taken over a business that his parents built and his aunt (Ida Lupino) controls. David proposes selling the business to a conglomerate in return for a seat on the board of directors, then tries to blackmail Roger into resigning. Roger decides to murder his uncle with a box of exploding cigars. William Windom guest stars as the next-in-line Vice President whom Roger will have to remove before he can take over the company. Anne Francis plays David's secretary, who is involved with Roger.

Final clue/twist: Columbo tricks Roger into incriminating himself, bringing a box of cigars, that he claims came from the death scene, with him on their ride in a cable car. Roger fears these must be the same exploding cigars he had planted and gradually becomes hysterical, begging Columbo to throw the box out the window, only for Columbo to reveal that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
9 7 "Blueprint for Murder" Peter Falk Teleplay: Steven Bochco
Story: William Kelley
73 minutes February 9, 1972 (1972-02-09)

Elliot Markham (Patrick O'Neal) is an architect with a vision for a city of the future, and a penchant for classical music. His latest project is being bankrolled by the young wife of Beau Williamson (Forrest Tucker), a wealthy industrialist who has been away on a lengthy overseas business trip. When Williamson returns and finds out how his money is being spent, he is furious, and intends to cut off the funds. Markham decides that the only way he can continue his work is to eliminate Williamson. Simply killing him, however, poses a problem, because his money reverts to a trust fund when he dies. Markham comes up with a clever plan to conceal the body and make it appear as if Beau has gone on another long foreign trip. With Pamela Austin and Janis Paige as the women in Williamson's life.

Final clue/twist: Knowing, that Markham is after something by taunting him to dig at a construction side, Columbo goes for the extra mile and starts an expensive digging in search for the body, which's not found there. Later at night, when Markham tries to get rid of the body in the hole Columbo just digged for him (assuming, that no one will ever look for it there again), he's caught by the police.

This is the only episode Peter Falk directed.


  1. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 184. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.