He’s back, stumbling around, scratching his head, forgetting this or that, and all the while he’s cornering his suspect, nickel-and-diming them to the point of confession. ABC’s resurrection of “Columbo” should prove to be a breath of fresh air for the web’s ratings and for viewers who never tire of the crumpled detective. Add to that Faye Dunaway, and Peter Falk as scripter and exec producer on top of his role, and you have a knockout telepic.
As ageless as Falk has made Columbo, down to what must be the same wrinkled raincoat, Dunaway punches up the cast in a way only she can, playing the lover, party hostess, murderer and suspect feeling helpless as Columbo circles.
Plot starts off simple enough; two women, Lauren (Dunaway) and Lisa (Claudia Christian), plot to kill a man who’s playing both for love and money. The dirty deed done, both play dumb, acting as if it must’ve been a robbery gone awry. Lt. Columbo enters the crime scene as confused as a child in Grand Central Station. Underneath his coat, he absent-mindedly wears pajamas — as it’s late at night — and finding coffee is his priority.
Falk still can manipulate Columbo to allow him to set up a false sense of security with his suspects; his first and foremost prey is Dunaway’s character, after she fumbles a few clues only Columbo can find.
And once Columbo is on the trail, there’s none better at playing stupid while putting together “that report.”
Best scenes here flow when the cat-and-mouse game between Falk and Dunaway accelerates as she soon discovers the seemingly harmless detective is on to something — her.
Dunaway shifts gear as smoothly as a Porsche, going from hunter to hunted, all the while guarding a major plot twist that scales the telepic’s fortunate fates.
Claudia Christian plays her role as the second woman as tough as it should be , and director Vincent McEveety keeps a tight grip on Falk’s clean, unpredictable script. However, production values go from good to mediocre with no rhyme or reason.
There’s also a red dress in an early party scene that Dunaway must be dreaming of burning.
But there aren’t many bumps on this road, and that’s due largely to an old pro like Falk teaming with Dunaway to light a fire just when the new season started turning cold.