Tyne Daly’s appearance as the soused, over-sexed wife of a bullying, towering sports magnate gives the formulaic “Columbo” a helpful lift. With Peter Falk’s Lt. Columbo less eccentric than usual and Jackson Gillis’ teleplay an outlandish puzzle, “Columbo,” running against same-time crime forays on CBS and NBC, makes a good bid for ratings.
Dolores’ (Daly) husband, Big Fred (Steve Forrest), dies in a hit-and-run accident before his no-good nephew Harold (Greg Evigan) can dispatch him with a pipebomb. Harold, in L.A. on the run from a Vegas mobster, has been playing footsie with the older Dolores over the years and thinks he’s got the upper hand , what with Big Fred out of the game.
Police Lt. Robertson (Frank McRae, giving his role a good spin) begins to investigate Fred’s death. Along for the ride: Lt. Columbo (played with subdued confidence by Peter Falk).
Evigan proves an effective weakling, and G.F. Smith turns in an amusing comedy bit as a Rolls Royce salesman (though it’s not clear why pedestrians get such a boot out of Columbo trying to squeeze himself under a showroom auto). Forrest supplies his customary authority, and the rest of the cast is top-notch. Vince McEveety’s direction is resourceful.