I won't deny my feelings for Columbo's return in the late 80s was firstly a feeling of joy which later transpired to vague disappointment, not necessarily because the new episodes are overwhelmingly bad - in fact there are plenty of things to recommend about them, the problem is, however, when compared with the original 70s series there's often a feeling that something's not quite right, and for one reason or another the show often fails to ignite like in the old days.
Actually, the strongest aspect of this series is often the basic premise of the storylines, which in many cases does compare most favourably with those from the 70s, and it is quite obvious, especially after getting reacquainted with them with this DVD release, that a lot of thought had gone into making the stories as strong as one would expect especially when compared to Columbo's previous high standards. Where these stories lose out, however, is in their translation to the small screen, where be it with the unnecessary drawing out of the stories to fill the allotted time, the slickness of the presentation, or the choice of actors playing the lead roles, that makes them infinitely inferior to their 70s counterparts. The biggest problem does appear to be the chemistry (or lack of it) between the killers and Columbo. Very rarely do these actors ever have the spark or charisma of those 70s villains to ever effectively ignite their roles - perhaps because they were at the time lesser known stars and lack a strong visual presence, but there is a degree of anonyminity about them that translates very much to an overall blandness. However, perhaps the biggest drawback is Columbo himself, as Peter Falk doesn't play his role with anything like the effectiveness of his early days. He lacks a sharp edge and seems distinctly groggy for the most part, which really does blunt much of the fine work laid down by those working on developing the plots.
The series only contains four episodes, also, which may not prove such good value for money as the previous series', also. Really, generally a very mixed bag overall, where obviously plenty of dedication had been applied to the concept of the stories, but somehow their effectiveness falls a little flat between then and the finished result. One could, and would perhaps be wise to ask whether Peter Falk would ever have been considered for the role of Columbo with the quality of his portrayal here, had it not been for his fabulously effective portrayal in the 70s. He has a richly deserved iconic status playing Columbo, where the role fits him like a glove, but that status comes from his portrayal in the 70s, his 80s portrayal really doesn't match up, and, if anything proves a hinderance at times to the show's general effectiveness. Perhaps it boils down to his age, although he wasn't excessively old at the time of this series' production.
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