Columbo: A Trace Of Murder (Thurs. (15), 9-11 p.m., ABC) Filmed in and around L.A. by Universal TV. Executive producer, Peter Falk; producers, Christopher Seiter, Vincent McEveety; co-producer, Jack Horger; director, McEveety; writer, Charles Kipps; camera, Frank V. Murphy; editor, Bill Parker; production designer , Hub Vraden; art director, Mary Dodson; sound, Thomas E. Allen; music, Dick De Benedictis; casting, Reuben Cannon & Associates, Eddie Dunlop. Cast: Peter Falk, David Rasche, Shera Danese, Barry Corbin, Raye Birk, Will Nye, John Finnegan, John F. O'Donohue, Dyana Ortelli, Kimberly S. Newberry, Maury Sterling, Vincent J. McEveety Jr., Jeffrey King, Richard Saxton, Cady Huffman, Roma Alvarez, Jim Almanzar, Donna Bullock, Franklin Cover, Alice Backes, Dion Anderson. Peter Falk's LAPD Lt. Columbo's back after a two-year sojourn, but the pause seems to have dulled the concept's edge. Charles Kipps' script can't match the suspense and wit of most of its predecessors; only Barry Corbin as wealthy, obnoxious Clifford Calvert energizes this edition. Columbo's fading with the quality of the cases. The vidpic, directed routinely by Vincent McEveety, has Calvert's conniving, ambitious wife Kathleen (Shera Danese, Falk's actual wife) having a secret affair with Patrick (David Rasche). To get rid of Clifton, she sweet-talks Patrick into knocking off Clifton's enemy, Howard (Raye Birk), and pinning the murder on Clifton. The M.O.'s Simon-simple compared to Columbo puzzles of the past. How would the murderer be discovered? How would Columbo find the solution? In this case, it turns out to be a stretch. Kathleen and Clifton are meeting at the church after the wedding and going on to the reception; Clifton, alone until then, has no alibi. Patrick goes about his grim work of murdering Howard, planting Clifton's cigar tip at Howard's home and lifting some evidence. Turns out Patrick's a forensic psychologist who's just been assigned to working with Columbo. And on this case. At this point the telefilm weakens, becomes dramatically thin, and isn't much fun. Shera Danese suffices as a nouveau riche West L.A. dame playing games behind Clifton's back, but Rasche, as the scenes are scripted and directed, isn't convincing as her lover. Others, with the exception of standout Corbin, make their way adequately. "Columbo," one of the TV's greatest detective series as originally devised by Richard Levinson and William Link and played by Falk since 1971, has frittered away its sophistication and its drive. Columbo's old raincoat's now shorter and fresher, and all that suspense built into the original cat-and-mouse cases has faded. The incomparable Peter Falk seems to have plumbed Lt. Columbo's character to its depths; time to move on before the amusing lieutenant shifts from charmingly eccentric to quaint. The usual high production values are maintained, and the tech credits are superior.

Columbo: A Trace Of Murder (Thurs. (15), 9-11 p.m., ABC) Filmed in and around L.A. by Universal TV. Executive producer, Peter Falk; producers, Christopher Seiter, Vincent McEveety; co-producer, Jack Horger; director, McEveety; writer, Charles Kipps; camera, Frank V. Murphy; editor, Bill Parker; production designer , Hub Vraden; art director, Mary Dodson; sound, Thomas E. Allen; music, Dick De Benedictis; casting, Reuben Cannon & Associates, Eddie Dunlop. Cast: Peter Falk, David Rasche, Shera Danese, Barry Corbin, Raye Birk, Will Nye, John Finnegan, John F. O’Donohue, Dyana Ortelli, Kimberly S. Newberry, Maury Sterling, Vincent J. McEveety Jr., Jeffrey King, Richard Saxton, Cady Huffman, Roma Alvarez, Jim Almanzar, Donna Bullock, Franklin Cover, Alice Backes, Dion Anderson. Peter Falk’s LAPD Lt. Columbo’s back after a two-year sojourn, but the pause seems to have dulled the concept’s edge. Charles Kipps’ script can’t match the suspense and wit of most of its predecessors; only Barry Corbin as wealthy, obnoxious Clifford Calvert energizes this edition. Columbo’s fading with the quality of the cases. The vidpic, directed routinely by Vincent McEveety, has Calvert’s conniving, ambitious wife Kathleen (Shera Danese, Falk’s actual wife) having a secret affair with Patrick (David Rasche). To get rid of Clifton, she sweet-talks Patrick into knocking off Clifton’s enemy, Howard (Raye Birk), and pinning the murder on Clifton. The M.O.’s Simon-simple compared to Columbo puzzles of the past. How would the murderer be discovered? How would Columbo find the solution? In this case, it turns out to be a stretch. Kathleen and Clifton are meeting at the church after the wedding and going on to the reception; Clifton, alone until then, has no alibi. Patrick goes about his grim work of murdering Howard, planting Clifton’s cigar tip at Howard’s home and lifting some evidence. Turns out Patrick’s a forensic psychologist who’s just been assigned to working with Columbo. And on this case. At this point the telefilm weakens, becomes dramatically thin, and isn’t much fun. Shera Danese suffices as a nouveau riche West L.A. dame playing games behind Clifton’s back, but Rasche, as the scenes are scripted and directed, isn’t convincing as her lover. Others, with the exception of standout Corbin, make their way adequately. “Columbo,” one of the TV’s greatest detective series as originally devised by Richard Levinson and William Link and played by Falk since 1971, has frittered away its sophistication and its drive. Columbo’s old raincoat’s now shorter and fresher, and all that suspense built into the original cat-and-mouse cases has faded. The incomparable Peter Falk seems to have plumbed Lt. Columbo’s character to its depths; time to move on before the amusing lieutenant shifts from charmingly eccentric to quaint. The usual high production values are maintained, and the tech credits are superior.

Columbo: A Trace of Murder

Thurs. (15), 9-11 p.m., ABC

Production

Filmed in and around L.A. by Universal TV. Executive producer, Peter Falk; producers, Christopher Seiter, Vincent McEveety; co-producer, Jack Horger; director, McEveety; writer, Charles Kipps.

Cast

Peter Falk, David Rasche, Shera Danese, Barry Corbin, Raye Birk, Will Nye, John Finnegan, John F. O'Donohue, Dyana Ortelli, Kimberly S. Newberry, Maury Sterling, Vincent J. McEveety Jr., Jeffrey King, Richard Saxton, Cady Huffman, Roma Alvarez, Jim Almanzar, Donna Bullock, Franklin Cover, Alice Backes, Dion Anderson.
camera, Frank V. Murphy; editor, Bill Parker; production designer, Hub Vraden; art director, Mary Dodson; sound, Thomas E. Allen; music, Dick De Benedictis; casting, Reuben Cannon & Associates, Eddie Dunlop.
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