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LE FIGARO, 7 Février 1998


How many candles on Columbo's birthday cake ? Is the most famous detective on T.V. as old as TF1 maintains? Investigation.

Information sent to us by Nico Trenti - from France

Everybody knows his old convertible 403, the allusions to his wife, his basset hound or his crumpled raincoat. Yes, it's him, Lieutenant Columbo. Recently, this character has grown in scale, so that a polemic has appeared about his birthday.

Is Columbo thirty or not?

TF1, which is broadcasting tonight the first and the last episode during a special evening entitled "Happy Birthday, Lieutenant", thinks so. First, at 20.55, A Trace of Murder, a 1997 episode, will be broadcasted. But the treasure of the evening is, at 22.35, Prescription: Murder, the first episode of the series, so fascinating that you nearly regret that Peter Falk has decided to grow old with his character.

As Christophe Petit explains: "In Prescription: Murder, Columbo is developping a mannerism, which consists in harassing the suspect in order to unbalance him. Thirty years later, it has became a real methodology."

But this polemic about Columbo's birthday date is dividing the Columbophiles. According to Jean-Jacques Jelot-Blanc in his book "Télé Feuilletons", the series started on September 16th 1971 on NBC, with the episode Murder by the Book, by Steven Spielberg.

He explains: "If my book announces an other birthday date for Columbo, it's just because it deals with the series and not the TV-film." So, the real Columbo's birth doesn't date from the series, but from the TV-film broadcasted on February 1968: Columbo may be only twenty-seven.

According to J.-J. Jelot-Blanc: "In fact, it's only a question of appreciation, and I personnaly find this debate ridiculous." Actually, Columbo's birth dates back to the beginning of the 60's. So, Columbo should rather be thirty-eight! Christophe Petit relates: "Columbo was born in a short story entitled May I come in, written by William Link and Richard Levinson and published in March 1960 in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

At that time, his name wasn't Columbo, but Fisher. Then, he was baptized Columbo when the first version for T.V., with Bert Freed, was live broadcasted on NBC, on July 1960. Before becoming successful thanks to Peter Falk, Columbo has even been adapted for the stage, in a play with Thomas Mitchell." Thirty years and 70 episodes later, Columbo, who is always wearing the same
crumpled raincoat, is the most famous cop on T.V.. Perhaps should his wife give him a laundry iron for his birthday?

Article By: Olivier DELCROI

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