…like that of his contemporary Telly Savalas of “Kojak” fame, Mr. Falk’s prime-time popularity was founded on a single role.
A lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department, Columbo was a comic variation on the traditional fictional detective. With the keen mind of Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe, he was cast in the mold of neither ”” not a gentleman scholar, and not a tough guy. He was instead a mass of quirks and peculiarities, a seemingly distracted figure in a rumpled raincoat, perpetually patting his pockets for a light for his signature stogie.
He drove a battered Peugeot, was unfailingly polite, was sometimes accompanied by a basset hound named Dog, and was constantly referring to the wisdom of his wife (who was never seen on screen) and a variety of relatives and acquaintances who were identified in Homeric-epithet-like shorthand ”” an uncle who played the bagpipes with the Shriners, say, or a nephew majoring in dermatology at U.C.L.A. ”” and who were called to mind by the circumstances of the crime at hand.