Columbo: Fade in to Murder
September 9, 2022 8:29 PM - Season 6, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Columbo investigates the death of a TV producer and immediately gets the attention of actor and murderer Ward Fowler (William Shatner), who plays a detective on TV. Fowler immediately sees through Columbo's aw-shucks act ("Why don't we stop pretending that I'm brilliant and you're simple for one moment?") and is among the least visibly rattled of Columbo's opponents. Episode is currently free to stream in the US via Amazon's Freevee (formerly IMDbTV), as is Columbo in general.
posted by brainwane (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is one of my favourites for the mix of dislike and calculation Columbo has for the actor. It’s not breaking the fourth wall but it still does twist in a meta way and there’s this nice recognition between them that makes the tension crackle.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 5:43 PM on September 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

I watched this the other night! It's such an odd and tense one, for the reasons you suggest. But Shatner is so perfectly cast.

I just watched one with Johnny Cash earlier tonight. How do they get famous people to be on this show and basically play slightly-but-accurately uncharitable versions of themselves?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:37 PM on December 18, 2022

One of the things I love about Columbo is peeking into the 1970s and seeing what the zeitgeist was, and what was on the writers minds. I only just recently learned about the Pachinko fad in the US, when one company was bringing over old Pachinko machines from Japan and selling them -- Ward has one in his guest bedroom, and I wonder what that would have told the audience back then. I also wonder this about Goldie from her episode, a character I adore (I think a lot of people do, this isn't controversial I don't think). Divorced, flirty, forward, I can only imagine what people thought of her back then.

Using video recording as a plot device is another one of those things clearly on the writers' minds. Not even the first episode in Columbo to do this! The setup that Ward had must have cost him $10,000 at the time. I don't even think it was VHS or Beta. (I got distracted. Both VHS and Betamax were out in Japan when this episode debuted, October 10, 1976. VHS had gotten to the US in September of 1976, and Beta in November, so Beta's out. There's a chance he could have had it imported from Japan, but I don't know how well voltage differences were handled back then -- the US's 120 volts would have fried Japan's 100v, and depending on where it was sold, it might not even be the right kind of 100v. It's most likely a Philips VCR (for Video Cassette Recording), which was released in 1972. ANYWAY...)

Also, Chekov makes an appearance in this episode!
posted by gc at 6:04 AM on February 23, 2023

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