Columbo () is an American television series starring Peter Falk as Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.
The character and show, created by Richard Levinson and William Link, popularized the inverted detective story format, which begins by showing the commission of the crime and its perpetrator; the plot therefore usually has no "whodunit" element, and instead revolves around how a perpetrator known to the audience will finally be caught and exposed (sometimes referred to as a "howcatchem").
Columbo is a shrewd but inelegant blue-collar homicide detective whose trademarks include his shambling manner, rumpled beige raincoat, cigar smoking, and generally disheveled appearance. His remit appears to cover wealthy and affluent sections of Los Angeles and suspects are affluent, often members of high society, who try to carefully cover their tracks. On several occasions he has been brought onto a case at the request of an influential relative. Suspects are usually initially dismissive of Columbo's circumstantial speech and apparent absentmindedness, but become increasingly unsettled as his pestering behavior and formidable eye for detail lead him to tease out incriminating evidence. Usually but not always, his relentless approach leads to self-incrimination or an outright confession but always to an arrest, albeit in one case of a man he knows to be innocent, who confesses to protect another individual who happens to be terminally ill in the expectation of the charges being dropped after the death of the culprit ("Forgotten Lady", Season 5). On two occasions, "Mind Over Mayhem" (Season 3) and "It's All in the Game" (Season 12), he resorts to framing the murderer's child to obtain a confession.
Episodes of Columbo are between 73 and 98 minutes long, and have been broadcast in 44 countries. In 1997, "Murder by the Book", directed by Steven Spielberg, was ranked No. 16 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time and in 1999, the magazine ranked Lt. Columbo No. 7 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. In 2012, the program was chosen as the third-best cop or legal show on Best in TV: The Greatest TV Shows of Our Time.
In 2013, TV Guide included it in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time and ranked it at #33 on its list of the 60 Best Series. Also in 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it No. 57 in the list of 101 Best Written TV Series.