The American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?
We’ve all seen the absentminded, scruffy detective Columbo shuffling about in his shabby raincoat and cigar. But here are some little known facts about this TV legend.
#1 He never uses his first name. If asked for it he simply says, “Lieutenant”. However, in some episodes the name Frank Columbo can be clearly seen when he shows his police ID.
#2 His uniform is a crumpled raincoat over a suit and tie. The raincoat is almost a tool of his trade. His wife once buys him a new raincoat and he complains that he “can’t think” when he is wearing it.
#3 He has been called “Socrates in a raincoat” due to his questioning style. He pesters his suspects with endless ‘innocent’ questions to pick holes in their account of events. He plays dumb, only to end with the devastating “just one more thing” when he destroys their alibi.
#4 The creators said that the character was inspired by Porfiry Petrovich, the police inspector in Dostoevsky’s crime classic ‘Crime & Punishment’. Petrovich also wears a raincoat and says “let me ask you one more little question”.
#5 He always has a cigar in his hand, although it is not always lit.
#6 The plot of one episode involved a man being framed by the culprit deliberately leaving a distinctive Havana cigar at the crime scene.
#7 He has a Basset hound called simply ‘Dog.’ He is shown making attempts to find a name for it, including ‘Beethoven’ which it did not appreciate.
#8 He always knows ‘whodunnit’ but occasionally lets the guilty party go free. He once let a murdering daughter escape if her mother confessed, and once agreed to arrest another suspect, knowing the true murderer was ill and would die before she was exonerated.
#9 He speaks fluent Italian in several episodes.
#10 Johnny Cash guest starred as a murderer. He sings the Hank Williams song, ‘I Saw the Light”, which is his downfall. He changes the arrangement of the music to commit murder and it is this which gives Columbo the key to solving the crime.
#11 He sometimes got assistance from unusual places. A monkey once helped him to solve a crime – in Death Hits The Jackpot he proves the suspect was at the murder scene by the little paw prints left by the monkey on the murderer’s medallion.