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.

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.

Abc Sunday Night Movie Columbo: A Bird in the Hand

(Sun.(22), 9-11 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production

Filmed at Universal Studios and on locations around L.A. by Universal TV. Exec producer, Peter Falk; producer, Christopher Seiter; director, Vince McEveety; writer, Jackson Gillis; creators, Richard Levinson, William Link.

Crew

Camera, George Koblasa; editor, Bill Parker; art director, Hugo Santiago; sound, Thomas E. Allen; music, Dick De Benedictis; production designer, Bill Ross.

Cast

Cast: Peter Falk, Tyne Daly, Greg Evigan, Frank McRae, Don S. Davis, Leon Singer, Michael Gregory, Steve Forrest, Stephen Liska, G.F. Smith, Carol Swarbrick, Ed McCready, John Petlock, Joel Beeson, Kay Perry, Joanna Sanchez, Bebe Louie.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more