You can quibble over what the greatest mystery show of all time is, but there's no denying that Columbo is one of the all time greats.
For more than 30 years, the brilliant LAPD detective kept entertained us as we watched him crack each case in his TV series and movies. But only the biggest Columbo fans will know all 13 of these facts about the series:
1. Let's start from the beginning
What set Columbo apart from other TV shows - aside from the writing, the acting, the great sense of humor, etc - was the unique reverse mystery concept. Each episode began with the murder (or other mystery) and the episode went on to reveal how Columbo solved the case.
Creators Richard Levinson and William Link call this twist on the classic TV mystery formula a "howcatchem," as opposed to a "whodoneit." it's no surprise that they went on to create other great mystery shows like Mannix, and Murder, She Wrote.
2. The original Columbo
While only Peter Falk is famous for playing Columbo, he wasn't the first one to step into the LAPD detective's shoes. Columbo first appeared in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show called "Enough Rope," where he was played by Bert Freed. Later, the detective was recycled for a stage show named Prescription: Murder and was played by Thomas Mitchell.
It was the TV adaptation of Prescription: Murder that finally featured Falk as Columbo, beating out singer Bing Crosby for the part. Since then nobody has embodied the character like Falk.
3. An inspired character
Columbo is pretty unique, and Falk deserves a lot of credit for making his character stand out (more on that later). But a host of other famous detectives and fast-talking characters inspired Columbo. G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character and Detective Porfiry Petrovich from Crime and Punishment were both big inspirations for Columbo.
4. Mrs. Columbo
While she never appears on-screen, Columbo loves to mention his wife, Mrs. Columbo, and fans have managed to compile enough hints and details about her for a full description. In a sneaky play on the Mrs. Columbo joke, Falk's real life wife Shera Danese made a number of cameos on the show. Very clever!
5. The other Mrs. Columbo
NBC tried to capitalize on Columbo's popularity with a spin-off show starring - yes, you guessed it - Columbo's wife Kate. Kate Mulgrew played the detective's wife, a crime reporter who solved mysteries of her own, but the show was a dud.
It was quickly renamed Kate Loves a Mystery, with the main character's last name changed to Callahan to erase any connection to the original show. Falk never appeared on the series, and by all accounts he hated the very idea of the spin-off.
6. There's a statue in Columbo's honor
See if you can crack this mystery: why did the citizens of Budapest, Hungary spend $63,000 to build a statue to the TV detective (and his dog "Dog") in the middle of the city? It turns out the statue is on Falk Miksa street, and Peter Falk is likely a distant relative of the 19th century politician behind its name. Now it all makes sense.
There are even more Columbo facts ahead, including the truth about Columbo's first name...