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"Columbo" FAQ

1) What is Columbo's first name?

It was never given in the show. When Columbo is asked what his first name is, he says "Lieutenant". On another occasion, he is asked if he has a first name, and Columbo says, "I do, but my wife is about the only one who uses it."

There was an edition of the game "Trivial Pursuit" which claimed that Columbo's first name is "Philip," but this had no basis in the series, and was probably inserted as a way to prove a copyright violation if the game's materials were illegally copied. Later editions of "Trivial Pursuit" correctly state that the name was never mentioned.

For a close-up look at Columbo's name, as it appeared on his ID in the original series, see Columbo's First Name and decide for yourself. Also see Columbo's First Name and The Supreme Court: The "Philip Columbo" Story

2) Have we ever seen Mrs. Columbo?

No. There have been several times when she was supposed to appear, but she never did. She was reportedly seen (off-camera) by other characters in some episodes, and we have seen Columbo talking to her on the phone. We have seen her car, and a picture of her sister, Ruth, but that's the closest we've ever come to seeing Mrs Columbo.

For the full story, see All About Mrs Columbo.

 3) What is Mrs Columbo's first name?

When Columbo is asked for his wife's name, he says "Mrs Columbo".

Although Mrs Columbo's first name was never used in "Columbo," the answer might have been given in a unique television appearance, when Columbo gave a speech at the "Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" of Frank Sinatra. For more on this remarkable event, see Columbo Meets Sinatra.

4) What is the name of Columbo's dog?

Columbo and his wife had hoped to pick the dog's name by watching him to see what he does, but all the dog does is drool and snore; so they just call him by whistling, or by saying "dog" or "hey you".

Some people believe that Dog is the creature's proper name, but this is a matter of interpretation.

Columbo briefly tried naming the dog Beethoven, but the dog didn't like it. To hear this bit of Columbo history, go to Columbo Sounds.

5) What kind of car does Columbo drive?

In the show, Columbo has referred to it as "a 1950 Peugeot". In reality, there have been two cars: a 1959 and a 1960 Peugeot model 403 cabriolet.

For more on the Peugeot 403, see Inside Columbo's Car.

Fans of Columbo's infamous vehicle will also want to see  Columbo's Car Crashes, and the video compilation of Columbo's collisions in Columbo Video.

Also see, The Car and The Missing Peugeot.

6) What kind of cigars does Columbo smoke?

Many cigar smokers would like to know, but there is no good answer to this question.

Our only clues are that Columbo says he gets these fellas at the supermarket, and that several other characters have commented on the pungent aroma or poor quality of Columbo's cigars; so we know that they're a cheap, generic brand.

At least one cameraman who worked on "Columbo" has said that Peter Falk would just grab any kind of cigar that was handy; and in fact, careful observation shows that Columbo's cigars were of various thicknesses and colors at different times.

This is consistent with Peter Falk's own attitude toward cigars: he enjoys them occasionally, but he claims no special appreciation for quality or brands. This is one of many topics discussed in Peter Falk's excellent interview with Arthur Marx (son of Groucho) in Cigar Aficionado magazine.

For much more information about Columbo's cigars, and to see an exclusive close-up of the label on one of Columbo's cigars (maybe you can recognize the brand!), see Cigars, Smoking, and Columbo . You might also enjoy the related article, Columbo and Killers and Clues in the Smoke .

 7) Does Columbo have any children?

Like everything else Columbo says, this is open to question. For a discussion of the evidence, and for lots more on Columbo's family, see Columbo's Family Album.

 8) Did Columbo ever lose a case?

Columbo always figured out who committed the murder -- usually within his first few minutes at the crime scene, but occasionally after more prolonged puzzlement, as in Columbo Cries Wolf.

However, there were times when a perpetrator was never charged.

In Forgotten Lady, Columbo feels he has "a problem" because the killer, Grace Wheeler (Janet Leigh), is suffering from a neurological disorder, and probably doesn't even recall the murder, and because she is dying. Columbo agrees with Grace's longtime co-star, Ned Diamond, that Ned's phony confession will probably hold up just long enough that Grace will die before she ever gets arrested.

Some fans might believe that Nelson Brenner (PatrickMcGoohan), the killer in Identity Crisis, will escape any prosecution due to his connections at the highest levels of the federal government, and his value as a CIA agent. However, it is questionable that the CIA will still consider him so valuable after the details of his treacherous, double-dealing scams are revealed.

In It's All In The Game, Columbo learns that the murder was committed by two women, a mother (Faye Dunaway) and her daughter; but he agrees to let the daughter escape to Europe, in exchange for the mother's confession.

 9) Which actor appeared the most times as a killer on "Columbo"?

Patrick McGoohan (4 episodes), followed by Robert Culp and Jack Cassidy (3 episodes each). Culp also appeared in a fourth episode, but not as the killer.

For details, see Serial Murderers, and see lots more about guest stars in other sub-sections of Notable Guest Appearances.

 10) How long has "Columbo" been on television? How many episodes are there?

Peter Falk first appeared as Columbo in a television movie, Prescription: Murder, copyrighted 1967 and broadcast early in 1968. Then there was a second movie, done as a pilot for the series, called Ransom For A Dead Man (1971).

The original series ran for 7 seasons on NBC, from 1971 to 1978, ending with The Conspirators. "Columbo" was one of several shows that ran in rotation as part of the NBC Mystery Movie; for more details, see Columbo Encyclopedia.

After an 11-year hiatus, ABC began a new "Columbo" series with Columbo Goes To The Guillotine in 1989, which continued as a series for 4 seasons, ending with Columbo: Undercover. After that, "Columbo" has appeared in a series of special television movies.

Including the pilot movies, and including the latest production "Columbo Likes The Nightlife", there have been 69 episodes of "Columbo".

For some interesting "then and now" images of Columbo, see Columbo's 30th Anniversary.

 11) Where can I get tapes of "Columbo"?

Columbia House presently offers 30 of the original 45 episodes from the NBC series, and there are about 5 episodes that can be purchased from Amazon or similar sources, or which have been sold as a 5-tape set from A&E. For details, see Buy Columbo Episodes On Tape

The ABC episodes have not been sold commercially.

Tape collectors might want to try the Columbo Classified Ads and look for opportunities to trade tapes.

Another good source is Ebay -- do a search for Columbo, and usually you will find a selection of episodes on tape, available for bidding.

12)   Can I get "Columbo" on DVD?

It depends on where you are. To date, Columbo DVDs have been released in Japan, and in the UK.

The Japan series of DVDs, from "CDJapan", reportedly will include all of the "original" 45 episodes - a great coup, since only about 30 episodes have been made available (on VHS tape) in the USA.

For details, go to .

In the UK, the first place to ever have Columbo on DVD, go to the "Universal Playback" site at

"Playback" currently offers 9 episodes, on 4 DVDs. Sorry, we don't know their plans for future releases, but presumably good sales will encourage more DVDs.

In the USA, the sad news is that there are no locally produced DVDs of Columbo - yet.

Columbia House has been actively working on the project, with "Columbo Phile" author Mark Dawidziak (who also supervised production and wrote the excellent liner notes for the Columbia House video tapes of "Columbo").

This DVD series should be a true gem when it comes out, as the current plans include "bonus" materials such as Mark Dawidziak interviewing Peter Falk and Bill Link about each episode.

Unfortunately, the production is currently stalled, as Universal is "sitting on" the DVD rights for the USA. Universal does have its own series of DVDs for other shows, which may be why they don't want to let someone else produce "Columbo" DVDs in the USA. But as of now, Universal has neither produced "Columbo" DVDs themselves, nor have they licensed Columbia House to do so.

We hope that Universal will do something soon, in the best interests of Columbo's fans in America.

Meanwhile, some fans wish to know whether they can watch the Japanese DVDs at home, in the USA. The answer isn't very simple.

DVDs are manufactured with "regional coding", so that generally they can only be viewed on locally made DVD players - "Region 1" in the USA, "Region 2" in the UK, etc. Regional coding is, incidentally, overlaid on separate issues of video format (NTSC in the USA, PAL in the UK, SECAM in France, etc.)

Japanese DVDs can be viewed in the USA only if you have a "multi-regional" DVD player, or a player that has been adapted to disable the regional coding. This gets into a grey area, as the "multi-regional" setting seems to be a largely undocumented feature. From anecdotes we have read, it might involve the salesman entering a "secret" code, using the DVD player's remote, or sharing that code with you. Or, some players might need to be modified with a hardware fix to the chip. Also, you might find sources on the internet that sell "multi-regional" DVD players, already pre-set to have this ability.

So, yes it is possible to view Japanese DVDs in the USA. But, before buying Japanese DVDs, fans should be sure that their machine will be able to play them.

Japanese DVDs have dual sound tracks - you can choose English instead of Japanese when you play them. There are no subtitles for the dialogue, although some episodes do have subtitles just occasionally and briefly, to explain (in Japanese) the meaning of a written clue, such as a sign or a note.

13) Where can I find "Columbo" on television?

In the USA (and some other countries), the best way to search for "Columbo" broadcasts in your viewing area is to use a TV listings web site such as or . 

All of these sites have similar "search listings" functions: you enter your ZIP code, and whether you want cable, satellite or just regular broadcast channels, and then you can search for key or title terms such as "columbo". On the TVGuide site, you may have to first go to the current "TV Listings" before the "Search Listings" option appears.

These sites will search for all "columbo" broadcasts scheduled for about a week to a month beyond your search date, depending upon the site and the channel.

Early in 2001, A&E contracted to run the ABC "Columbo" movies, thus ending the long run of those episodes on "FoxFamily Channel". As of March 2001, A&E also runs the original 1970s "Columbo" at odd hours, thus making A&E possibly the first network to combine the "old" and "new" series of "Columbo". The schedule is still evolving, so check your listings.

If you do not find "Columbo" anywhere in your broadcast area or cable system (or if you want MORE Columbo!), your only choice might be to invest in a satellite system. Currently, the popular satellite services offer the original "Columbo"" series on channels including WCCO (a CBS station in Minneapolis) and KTVU (a Fox affiliate in San Francisco).

 14) What is the "phony gold" puzzle, from "The Bye Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case"?

The puzzle:

In a room are several sacks of gold pieces, as many sacks as you like. Each sack contains several of these gold pieces -- again, as many as you like. One sack, however, is full of artificial gold pieces, and they weigh differently. The solid gold pieces weigh, let's say, a pound each. And the artificial pieces weigh, let's say, a pound and an ounce.

Now you have a penny scale. You put the penny in, and you get a card, and that tells you how much the weight of the gold is. But, you only have one penny.  You have one reading on the weight.

Which sack has the artificial gold pieces?

The answer (as deduced by Mrs Columbo):

Well let's just say there are three sacks. And each real gold piece weighs one pound. But one of these sacks has the phony gold. And the phony gold weighs one pound and one ounce.

We're going to the scale. Now, we take one piece from bag one, we take two pieces from bag two, we take three pieces from bag three. That's six pieces. We take all six pieces, we put em on the scale.

Now...if all six pieces were real the gold, it would weigh six pounds. But if the first bag had the phony pieces, it would weigh six pounds and one ounce, because I only took one piece from the first bag. And if the second bag has phony gold pieces, it would weigh six pounds and two ounces, because I took two pieces from the second bag. And if the third bag were the phony bag, it would weigh six pounds and three ounces. And so on, and so on, and so on.'s a terrific puzzle.

15) What is the music that Johnny Cash sings in "Swan Song"?

This question is asked quite often, which tends to surprise us since most of the chorus consists of the title, "I Saw the Light".  One reason for the question, perhaps, is that so many "Columbo" fans see the show dubbed into other languages.

"I Saw the Light" is the song that Tommy Brown sings repeatedly, and which becomes an important clue because Columbo notices that Tommy changed the musical arrangement, before the plane crash, to better showcase the singer who replaces his wife.

Tommy also sings part of "Sunday Morning Coming Down" at the picnic, a Kris Kristofferson song which can be found on numerous Johnny Cash albums.

"I Saw the Light" was composed by country music legend Hank Williams, Sr (1923-1953), who wrote many popular songs including "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Jambalaya (Down On the Bayou)".

Hank Williams also wrote "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", known to "Columbo" fans as one of the songs that Vivian Dimitri listens to while lamenting over her dead husband in "Rest In Peace, Mrs Columbo".

We don't know of an easy way to buy a recording of Johnny Cash singing "I Saw the Light".

Johnny did a great rendition of the song, with Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Jr, , on an album called "The Survivors", recorded live at a concert in Stuttgart, Germany in 1981. This album is now out of print, but its version of  "I Saw the Light" floats around the internet as an .MP3. (Thanks to Steve Baratta for letting us know about the "Survivors" performance.)

Here are the lyrics as originally written by Hank Williams Sr, complete with chord changes:


Words and music by Hank Williams Sr.

I [G] wandered so aimless life filed with sin

I [C] wouldn't let my dear savior [G] in

Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night

Praise the Lord [D7] I saw the [G] light.


I saw the light,  I saw the light

[C] No more darkness no more [G] night

Now I'm so happy no sorrow in sight

Praise the Lord [D7] I saw the [G] light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along

Worries and fears I claimed for my own

Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight

Praise the Lord I saw the light.


I was a fool to wander and stray

Straight is the gate and narrow the way

Now I have traded the wrong for the right

Praise the Lord I saw the light.


16) Where can I write to Peter Falk?

The best way to write to Peter Falk is through Universal Studios, where he maintains offices.

Peter Falk, Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

17)  Who sings "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" in the episode "Rest In Peace, Mrs Columbo?"

This is one of the most frequently asked "Columbo" questions of all time. Columbo fans in large numbers are captivated, almost haunted by the recording that Vivian Dimitri listens to as she sits alone, deep in depression, sipping wine, fondling a stuffed toy, and gazing at slides of her dead husband.

But, hard information on the singer's identity is elusive.

A German Columbo site offered the speculation that it's jazz artist Shirley Horn -- but no documentation is offered, and we have never found any evidence that such a recording was made by Shirley.

A fan once said that the singer is "definitely" Cassandra Jones, who does have an album featuring this song. However, Cassandra's recording didn't come out until years after "RIP, Mrs Columbo".

Another fan was so determined to get the answer, that she attempted to contact the musical director of the episode -- but nothing came of that effort.

Finally, we think we have the best answer available.

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is featured on a Cowboy Junkies album, called "The Trinity Session", released in 1988 - two years before "RIP Mrs Columbo". (It's also included on the "Best of Cowboy Junkies" CD, 2001.)

The Cowboy Junkies rendition is virtually identical to the recording in "RIP Mrs Columbo" -- same arrangement, similar voice and same style.  Note-for-note, almost exactly the same.

In fact, the only way to tell them apart, is to play the 2 versions line-by-line, one right after the other. This experiment does reveal minor variations in voice and instrument inflections, in a few places. But the similarity is so great, that it seems either (1) "RIP Mrs C" used an alternate take by the Cowboy Junkies, or (2) the Columbo people hired an anonymous studio singer and musicians to blatantly clone the Cowboy Junkies recording.

The "studio musician clone" theory seems most likely -- just based on studio economics (and the lack of a credit for Cowboy Junkies). So, we may never know the actual identity of the singer in the television show.

But, for Columbo fans who are fond of the recording of this song in "RIP Mrs Columbo" (and there are many, many such fans!), we suggest that they would be extremely happy with the "Cowboy Junkies" CD.

We wish to thank two fans, Linda and Cory, for their help in unraveling this longstanding musical mystery.

Sorry, we don't have any information on the other recording that Vivian listens to - a slow, sad version of "It Had To Be You". But, this one has never generated anywhere near the number of inquiries as "I'm So Lonesome…"

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" is, incidentally, written by the late, great country artist Hank Williams, Sr., whose other songs include "I Saw the Light", famously performed by Johnny Cash in "Swan Song".

18) What about the new episodes, "The Man Who Murdered Himself", and "Murder By Suicide"?

Entries about these two episodes, supposedly coming out in 2002, have appeared in The Internet Movie Database. The IMDb also claims that Joel Grey will co-star in "The Man Who Murdered Himself". Other sources have picked up on it, and have repeated the story.

However, that information is wrong.

We have it on excellent sources that the Joel Grey story is a complete hoax. Moreover, while we have heard that a script called "The Man Who Murdered Himself" has been around for a while, it is absolutely false that the script will be produced in 2002.

"Murder By Suicide" was written by Frank D'Angeli, a friend of this site (see Scrapbook article, "An Open Letter of Thanks", "Murder By Suicide" is an excellent story, and we hope to see it produced some day - but, the author assures us that there is no current decision to produce it as a new episode. So, the IMDb story about this episode is clearly another hoax.

The IMDb is a valuable resource, but it accepts essentially anonymous contributions, which occasionally turn out to be pranks or mistakes. Unfortunately this is an example of them publishing a false story, which has continued to spread.

The next episode after "Murder With Too Many Notes" is definitely "Columbo Likes The Nightlife" (2002). And if that is successful enough for ABC, current plans are to follow that with an episode (title unknown) which involves a murder around a "reality-based" TV show.

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