Watching CBS’ new savior, Jeff Sagansky, hold his first press conference this week, I kept wondering whether he’d ever heard William Link, co-creator of “Columbo,” describe the origins of that classic Peter Falk detective show.
It “should have been a failure,” Link said, because it broke five cardinal rules of network TV: “It had very little action and almost no sex. The central character often didn’t enter until 15 or 20 minutes after the opening credits. The plots were complex, demanding the viewer’s strict attention. Entire episodes could be nothing more than stretches of cat-and-mouse dialogue. The lead, when he finally did show up, wasn’t a 6-foot, granite-jawed, two-fisted hunk of macho bravado, but a short, klutzy, badly groomed, ill-attired career officer who didn’t carry a gun and was easily winded.”
”Columbo” was part of a great lineup of early 1970s mysteries on NBC that also included “The Snoop Sisters” (Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick and Art Carney as their chauffeur in the pilot episode), “Hec Ramsey” (Richard Boone), “McCloud” (Dennis Weaver) and “McMillan & Wife” (Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James).