Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Okay, I admit it. I missed a day. Yesterday. I worked nine hours on a client's project and after that went to lead the writer's group at Beyond Baroque. That was as much as I could accomplish in one day. In fact, it was more than I could accomplish. I was wiped out and stayed up half the night watching Columbo. Peter Falk was so cute when he was young, despite the rumpled funky suit and raincoat. Raincoat every day. In Los Angeles. Why do we like Columbo? I think it is because he defies expectations. He fools everyone by pretending he's incompetent. It usually isn't too long before the culprit figures out that he or she is being scammed. Still, we love to watch the supposedly underfunded buffoon put one over on the rich murderers.

I read somewhere that there are two ways to do a mystery show. One is like Columbo. You know who did it right from the beginning. The fun part is watching him figure it out. The other kind of mystery is the one where you don't know who did it, and you have to figure it out along with the detective. The question I'm asking today is why do I like Columbo so much when I know from the beginning who the culprit is? This is what I posit as an answer: I think I read and watch things more for character than for story - particularly television. I do love a story, but I think when it comes to TV, it's the characters I return for. The other trick to Columbo is that the writers give him worthy adversaries. It's brain vs. brain, and since Columbo plays such a convincing underdog, we want to see him win. Another tricky thing about Columbo is that every once in a while we end up liking the murderer. It's a great example of a protagonist and antagonist who are well matched, and maybe that's why I like it so much.

So, the question for today is why a story structure like Columbo works and if you don't like it or don't think it works, do feel free to say so. I won't be hurt if you disrespect my beloved Columbo.

And again, I admit that I missed my pages on April 20, 2015, but because we each have a day off a week, I'm getting right back on the horse.

1 comment:

  1. Because the show is not about the mystery but about Columbo. Imagine if Columbo was standing in the line at the Chinese Food restaurant with Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine. He could hold your attention doing nothing for the entire 30 minutes.