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Columbo

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I think the thing that works for Columbo is looking  not put together and bumbling.  It makes the people who have done the crimes feel so superior and intelligent than he is.  And that makes it so much fun when he solves the crime and they are shocked at being outwitted by what they'd assumed was a dim bulb!

 

That is certainly the template, and a wonderful template it is. (It consistently brings joy.) Running through my mind to see if I could find an episode I've seen that didn't fit this template, and the one I came up with was the Ruth Gordon episode. Atypically, in this episode the murderer has total admiration for Columbo from the very beginning. She feels genuine delight in his presence, and respects him not only as a person and a colleague but almost as a collaborator in the field of murder-solving. (Even though it won't ultimately work to her benefit.)

Edited by Milburn Stone
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Oh, I love the Ruth Gordon episode! Maybe that's why - she seems to like and respect Columbo.

I also love the speech he gives to that group, when she basically forces him on stage (was it a book reading, some other meeting?) where he talks about there being a little niceness in most people, even the killers he catches.

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My least favorite episode is just starting, the Irish one with character Joe Devlin and the firearms plot.  

 

And I have figured out I don't like the way Peter Falk behaves in 1976 and beyond...he has a way of rolling his mouth and his letters or something, it is very odd and I can't put my finger on it.  It seemed to change him once his new wife started in the series, Shera Danese. 

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My least favorite episode is just starting, the Irish one with character Joe Devlin and the firearms plot.  

 

And I have figured out I don't like the way Peter Falk behaves in 1976 and beyond...he has a way of rolling his mouth and his letters or something, it is very odd and I can't put my finger on it.  It seemed to change him once his new wife started in the series, Shera Danese. 

 

Who did she play? I think the episode we watched last night was from 1976, and it was a good one. (William Shatner as a TV detective, "Inspector Lucerne." Unusually good "cat-and-mouse" interplay between him and Falk through the whole episode. More of the concentrated one-on-one interplay than your typical Columbo episode.) Anyway, I don't know who Shera Danese would have played in this one--unless she was the producer's bimbo secretary. 

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That was a good cat and mouse with William Shatner!  Danese usually played a secretary who knew too much and was a love interest too.  She played that role for Louis Jourdan in the chef one and I can't remember her in in the one with Shatner off hand.

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I think she was pretty much a bit player in the Shatner one. You can see her in these screenshots here.

I just read her bio on Wiki and they met on the set of Colombo in 1976 so likely this episode!

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I think she was pretty much a bit player in the Shatner one. You can see her in these screenshots here.

 

Interesting. Those screenshots include several of the "bimbo secretary," and the end credits list Shera Danese as "Molly," but what I can't remember is whether the name of the bimbo secretary was Molly. Most likely that's her, though, because no other small female role is listed in the credits, and she did have some alibi-pivotal speaking lines (although not many). I will look for her in other post-"Fade Into Murder" episodes!

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Not a fan of later episodes either, his acting became so contrived and unnatural I just couldn't relate anymore.  I ones from the early seventies were the best but went downhill late 70's for some reason.  I still enjoyed them but the first few years were the best!

 

I'll check out Amazon, thx! 

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There's a flash sale of the complete series for $49.99 on Amazon. I'm not that excited about the 1990s movies, but the rest of them . . .

Heard about that earlier. It's a good deal. Don't think it includes the movies. Those are sold separately.

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Heard about that earlier. It's a good deal. Don't think it includes the movies. Those are sold separately.

 

There are multiple versions of the complete series. I think this is the one I have (I'd check, but it's packed for a move), and it does include the movies.

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There are multiple versions of the complete series. I think this is the one I have (I'd check, but it's packed for a move), and it does include the movies.

I double checked and it's not. They have it listed with the other two sets you can buy (which are the movies) for $76.90. Wish it was that one though, would save around $30.

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"Today only, save 67% on "Columbo: The Complete Series" on DVD. For the first time ever enjoy all 69 episodes from Columbo's seven seasons and all 24 television movies together in this 34-disc anthology."

 

The special features also indicates it's got the movies too.

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"Today only, save 67% on "Columbo: The Complete Series" on DVD. For the first time ever enjoy all 69 episodes from Columbo's seven seasons and all 24 television movies together in this 34-disc anthology."

 

The special features also indicates it's got the movies too.

Odd. *scratches head*

 

I saw something else on the bottom that mentioned about the 80's-90's movies.  Maybe it's the earlier movies?

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Odd. *scratches head*

 

I saw something else on the bottom that mentioned about the 80's-90's movies.  Maybe it's the earlier movies?

Well, I guess I'll find out when I get my order, but according to this site, there 24 total movies after the 7th season. 

 

Updated to add - yep, it's the full set including the pilot movies.

Edited by Luciaphile
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Wow you got a great deal!!  I know the later Columbo's are usually panned, but I still enjoyed several of them.  I mean, when you know there will be NO more Columbos, you tend to overlook things not being up to the usual brilliance ;)

 

Speaking of brilliance....  tonight I watched A Friend in Deed with Richard Kiley and directed by Ben Gazzara.  I love this one and it's the only one I can remember watching from 1974 when it came out and I was a newlywed of only 20!  At that age, on the Friday night mystery movie rotation I seemed to like the McMillian and Wife series more and only halfway watched the Columbos.  Now I find McMillian and Wife unwatchable...   One thing I love about A Friend in Deed is what a great job casting did with the costars.  Everyone looks 'seedy' and believable.  Great acting and loved the location shots,too.  The décor from the 70's is really something to see ;)  All that carpeting and the carpeted bathrooms with four carpeted steps up to a large sunken tub-- wow.  The sunrooms with pianos and plants, paneling on walls that looked elegant back then.  It's like another character and I feel like I've time traveled after watching an episode! 

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Wow you got a great deal!!  I know the later Columbo's are usually panned, but I still enjoyed several of them.  I mean, when you know there will be NO more Columbos, you tend to overlook things not being up to the usual brilliance ;)

 

Speaking of brilliance....  tonight I watched A Friend in Deed with Richard Kiley and directed by Ben Gazzara.  I love this one and it's the only one I can remember watching from 1974 when it came out and I was a newlywed of only 20!  At that age, on the Friday night mystery movie rotation I seemed to like the McMillian and Wife series more and only halfway watched the Columbos.  Now I find McMillian and Wife unwatchable...   One thing I love about A Friend in Deed is what a great job casting did with the costars.  Everyone looks 'seedy' and believable.  Great acting and loved the location shots,too.  The décor from the 70's is really something to see ;)  All that carpeting and the carpeted bathrooms with four carpeted steps up to a large sunken tub-- wow.  The sunrooms with pianos and plants, paneling on walls that looked elegant back then.  It's like another character and I feel like I've time traveled after watching an episode! 

Oh so agree!!!  I loved that episode, acting was superb and his cast of regulars in their usual character roles.  I was in my 20's then so this was a picture into how the rich lived!  I laugh now at what we thought was brilliant then!  I think the one thing for me that changed with his portrayal of Columbo was he became more squinty eyed and was always smiling, grinning all the time not just at certain moments or am I thinking of the ones they made over a decade later that were just horrible!  

Edited by jodo
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 I know what you mean, Jodo.  In his later episodes he almost appears to be doing a caricature of 'Columbo' .  I read he was having problems with a dementia type illness so maybe that was the answer.  He gets silly and draws out his scenes-- really irritating to watch when he had such a great character down pat!   

 

By the way, if anyone has Netflix, Columbo is on there! 

Edited by stcroix
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 I know what you mean, Jodo.  In his later episodes he almost appears to be doing a caricature of 'Columbo' .  I read he was having problems with a dementia type illness so maybe that was the answer.  He gets silly and draws out his scenes-- really irritating to watch when he had such a great character down pat!   

 

By the way, if anyone has Netflix, Columbo is on there! 

 

He only did it up to 2003. So I doubt it was necessarily that. He would have still have been in the early stages of it. It manifested fully in 2008 from what I've read.

 

I didn't mind him in the later ones. He just played it more flamboyantly imo.

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I just watched a couple of the ones from the first season.  I watched Death Lends a Hand with Robert Culp.  He was always good when he played the killer.  This is the one with the shag rug and the contact lens.  I really enjoyed this one.  Then I watched Suitable For Framing with Ross Martin as the art critic.  He was one of the more unlikeable killers.  I did laugh when they were describing him as this great dresser.  Crushed velvet jacket and giant bowtie.  Oh yes, that was great.  I love the old fashions on this show.  Columbo with the landlady looking at the scrapbook had me cracking up.  She had to describe all the photos while Columbo was going crazy waiting to see the photo of the guy the dead girl had been dating.    

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I just watched a couple of the ones from the first season.  I watched Death Lends a Hand with Robert Culp.  He was always good when he played the killer.  This is the one with the shag rug and the contact lens.  I really enjoyed this one.  Then I watched Suitable For Framing with Ross Martin as the art critic.  He was one of the more unlikeable killers.  I did laugh when they were describing him as this great dresser.  Crushed velvet jacket and giant bowtie.  Oh yes, that was great.  I love the old fashions on this show.  Columbo with the landlady looking at the scrapbook had me cracking up.  She had to describe all the photos while Columbo was going crazy waiting to see the photo of the guy the dead girl had been dating.    

It must have been watch Columbo night!  I watched another Robert Culp one as the killer, the one with subliminal frames.  It was so well done and written by Stephen Cannell.  I will have to see how many he wrote because it may turn out those are my faves.  The writing is superior.  

 

I think the episodes made in the 70's were the "cream of the cream" (to quote from Wily Magician!).  I noticed last night a huge difference in Columbo's appearance from that era to the ones made a decade or so later.  His eyes were squinty shut in the later ones.  Last night his eyes were visible.  

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It was so well done and written by Stephen Cannell.  I will have to see how many he wrote because it may turn out those are my faves.  The writing is superior.

 

jodo, Cannell also wrote books, both the Shane Scully series of mysteries & a few "straight" novels.  I've never read any of his stuff, but he certainly was prolific on TV.

 

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I just watched Candidate for Crime from season 3.  This is the episode where Jackie Cooper is running for senator and he kills his campaign manager.  He sets it up so everyone will think his manager was killed when mistaken for him. 

This episode has a lot of great Columbo scenes.  I loved the one in Jackie Cooper’s office where Columbo takes forever to get to the point.  Cooper is so frustrated with him.  This is also where Columbo figures out he is having an affair with the wife’s assistant.  He also sees the new jacket get delivered which takes us to another great scene.  Columbo is wonderful in the scene with the tailor.  He wants an expensive tailor made jacket ready for that weekend for his wife’s bowling supper.  I love this scene with the tailor.

The mistress is so scared of Columbo.  She doesn’t do well getting questioned.  We also get another scene of Columbo being pulled over in a spot check so the local cops can check his car.  Of course there is a lot wrong with it.  This gives Columbo the opportunity to drive a tow truck. 

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I just watched the one with the female tv exec, sleeping with her boss whom doesn't promote her when he gets promoted so she kills him.

It is a great, classic episode. The woman is an excellent villian, she kills out of a carefully controlled and focused rage and she maintains that control the entire ep. She doesn't try to solve the crime for columbo. She says "I don't know" to many of his questions.

I also enjoyed that columbo catches her in a lie about her jacket, and the car and he still puts the gun in the elevator ceiling to truly trap her.

The whole scene in the abandoned childhood home with the killer and Columbo was creepy and odd and interesting.

I think this is a great episode.

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Which are people's least favorite episodes? One of mine was the one I watched the other night, with Patrick McGoohan as the director of a military academy. The Netflix blurb said that McGoohan won an Emmy for his performance, IIRC. Well, the episode bored me. Maybe I need a little "vintage LA" in my Columbo episodes and this didn't have it (being confined almost exclusively to the military school location). Or maybe McGoohan's character wasn't clever enough for me. I don't know, there just wasn't enough depth or subtext or cat-and-mouse or whatever it is I watch Columbo for.

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I believe 2 that I like the least are season 5 A Case of Immunity and season 7 The Conspirators.  Those 2 just don't have the storylines that make me want to watch them again and again. 

 

The Conspirators is the one about: An IRA terrorist executes an arms dealer he considers traitorous; Lt. Columbo is on the case.

 

A Case of Immunity is the one about: The first secretary to the Suarian king may have immunity from the consequences of committing murder, but Lt. Columbo is wilier than any foreign diplomat.  

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I think you take the 'filler' scenes far too seriously. I personally find them very funny, especially the regulars who play the pompous waiters, maitre d', hairdressers, shop assistants etc, who can be pompous or just outrageously camp! They are part of the comedic charm of the Columbo series, as opposed to modern series which either take themselves too seriously, or indulge in quite awkard irony thats uncomfortable to watch.

 

The scenes where Columbo steps on the hem of the robes of the Arab killer, for example, or steps on the dress of the hysterical sister of the killer in the museum episode, or in the Carsini episode where the two waiters sip the port thats been ruined at the meal, or every time in cafes/restaurants Columbo gets the bill and is stunned at the expense, I find these so funny...this is why I like so many 70s shows, they have an innocence and naivite that is so comfortable and enjoyable, be it Rockford Files, Quincy, Columbo...

 

I'd ease up getting annoyed about the filler scenes in Columbo, frankly they break the pace up nicely, are performed by wonderful and talented actors and brighten my experience of watching Columbo (dreadful quirky Last Salute to the Commodore episode aside). Modern tv is often harsh, uncomfortable in its depth of cynicism and frequently uncomfortable to watch. Sit back and enjoy, take the 'fillers' as bonus enjoyment rather than padding scenes. Enjoy!

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I think you take the 'filler' scenes far too seriously. I personally find them very funny, especially the regulars who play the pompous waiters, maitre d', hairdressers, shop assistants etc, who can be pompous or just outrageously camp! They are part of the comedic charm of the Columbo series, as opposed to modern series which either take themselves too seriously, or indulge in quite awkard irony thats uncomfortable to watch.

 

The scenes where Columbo steps on the hem of the robes of the Arab killer, for example, or steps on the dress of the hysterical sister of the killer in the museum episode, or in the Carsini episode where the two waiters sip the port thats been ruined at the meal, or every time in cafes/restaurants Columbo gets the bill and is stunned at the expense, I find these so funny...this is why I like so many 70s shows, they have an innocence and naivite that is so comfortable and enjoyable, be it Rockford Files, Quincy, Columbo...

 

I'd ease up getting annoyed about the filler scenes in Columbo, frankly they break the pace up nicely, are performed by wonderful and talented actors and brighten my experience of watching Columbo (dreadful quirky Last Salute to the Commodore episode aside). Modern tv is often harsh, uncomfortable in its depth of cynicism and frequently uncomfortable to watch. Sit back and enjoy, take the 'fillers' as bonus enjoyment rather than padding scenes. Enjoy!

 

I'm not sure who you're responding to, Scarlet, because I don't recall anyone complaining about scenes like those. I love all the examples you mention, and I agree they're part of what gives the show its character. The only time I part company with the show is when these filler scenes become absurdly long--like the one with Vito Scotti as the undertaker on the steps of the funeral home, in the Johnny Cash episode IIRC. Somebody thought that diversion was going to be a lot more rewarding than it was.

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Just watched the one with the young scientist (Roddy McDowell?) who is childish and annoying. I think some people don't like that one cuz he is sooo annoying but I must say that the scene where it is cutting back and forth from the car driving up the mountain and the young guy in the bar is really good. The club music that plays over the scen is good and really gives a great attitude to the scene.

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Just watched the one with the young scientist (Roddy McDowell?) who is childish and annoying. I think some people don't like that one cuz he is solo annoying...

 

I've wondered whether the problem with that one is McDowell's performance. That is, I wonder if the writers had in mind a character who we'd be able to perceive was highly annoying to everyone, yet who we'd enjoy. Groucho was highly annoying to everyone in every Marx Bros. movie, but because the characters he was annoying were people we wanted to see annoyed, we loved it! That might have been the sort of intention here. But McDowell didn't hit quite the right note to make this happen, and instead he was every bit as annoying to the audience as he was to the other characters. That's the only way I can figure it. (Because it doesn't serve a show to intentionally present the audience with a character whom you just want to get off your screen.)

Edited by Milburn Stone
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I have to think you are right about the Roddy McDowell character, milburn. Many villains in columbo have a sympathetic angle and perhaps this character was supposed to be appealing in his desire to keep his fathers company intact. While immature and annoying, perhaps we were to see his cause as right and worthy. Didn't come off that way tho.

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I didn't think we were supposed to find McDowell's character sympathetic at all. He was depicted visually at least as slightly racist. He was horrible to poor Anne Francis and he was downright obnoxious. I think he's like the Robert Conrad's gym magnate/health nut--just one of those characters we're supposed to want Columbo to bring down.

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I didn't think we were supposed to find McDowell's character sympathetic at all. He was depicted visually at least as slightly racist. He was horrible to poor Anne Francis and he was downright obnoxious. I think he's like the Robert Conrad's gym magnate/health nut--just one of those characters we're supposed to want Columbo to bring down.

 

But there's a difference between the arrogant jerks (who have us licking our chops waiting for their comeuppance) and McDowell, who is just an asshole. With the arrogant jerks, you love seeing the whole thing play out, and the further out its drawn the more delicious it is. With McDowell, you just want to punch him in the face in the first scene and be done with him.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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One thing about Roddy McDowell's character that bugged me was the way he dressed.  Too old to dress that 'hip'.  I remember being a teenager and sneering at an older guy dressing like that or wearing his hair long  ;)  

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The problem with the Roddy Mcdowell episode may be in the script. They never developed the "sell the company to a conglomerate/keep daddy's company" plotline. So all we have to judge is Roddy's character's personality.  But  it wouldn't have taken much to make case for the conglomerate angle as a greedy sell-out thus lending righteous motivation to the crime. Perhaps it was in the culture at the time that conglomerates were "bad" so it was assumed. They also could have changed the scene wherein Roddy takes over the office-instead of being rude about it (turning down the dead man's photo) the script could have called for him to simply re-hang his father's picture. Al little heavy handed of a script, for a show that tells you in advance who the killer is. 

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Agreed. Donald Pleasance's character was one of the most sympathetic in the series, and his motive was very similar, but his motivation was avoiding the loss of quality the corporate buyout represented to him.

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The problem with the Roddy Mcdowell episode may be in the script. They never developed the "sell the company to a conglomerate/keep daddy's company" plotline. So all we have to judge is Roddy's character's personality.  But  it wouldn't have taken much to make case for the conglomerate angle as a greedy sell-out thus lending righteous motivation to the crime. Perhaps it was in the culture at the time that conglomerates were "bad" so it was assumed. They also could have changed the scene wherein Roddy takes over the office-instead of being rude about it (turning down the dead man's photo) the script could have called for him to simply re-hang his father's picture. Al little heavy handed of a script, for a show that tells you in advance who the killer is. 

 

You make a persuasive case, novhappy. But I think even if the writing had underlined these important elements (which you're right, it failed to do), miscasting was another fatal error. McDowell may simply have been too old. I try to imagine the script you have in mind, and I think it works--as long as the actor playing the McDowell character is something of a kid. Somebody who's just reached the age of majority, ideals intact. But McDowell was too old at this stage to play the part of the naive, idealistic kid who might engender sympathy. Instead, he presents as a case of arrested development. Which is just annoying.

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How old was roddy when it was made? You are right I assumed him to supposed to be 21 or 22.

How old was roddy when it was made? You are right I assumed him to supposed to be 21 or 22.

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Pegging the year of the episode at 1972 (plus or minus a year), McDowell would have been 44.

 

Somebody like Bruce Davison (fresh off The Strawberry Statement) or Timothy Bottoms (fresh off The Paper Chase) might have been able to put across the naive youthful idealism schtick.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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Yes aunt Jess. I watch on MEtv on Sunday nights. Well actually I DVR it and watch it while I fall asleep. I can usually get two nights out of one episode. I've never seen any of the newer ones.

On a side note I wish MEtv would show Macmillan and wife. I fondly remember that show from my childhood as well as Columbo

Edited by novhappy

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I might watch an episode of Macmillan, but the only one I've set for series record is Bob Newhart.  I watch most of the MTM, and Odd Couple.
My taste has changed over the years, and my DVR has a lot of Mike Holmes and Bryan Baeumler, and other home renovation shows.
Don't know why I like 'em.  I don't do any of it.  But the first time Mike busted through drywall, I was hooked.

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My ME station has 2 episodes of  Law & Order: Criminal Intent and a Seinfeld, from 8 to 10:30 tonight, something else other nights.
McMillan isn't on the list for my area.
This station is new in my area, so I wonder if whoever had the station before (can't remember, I didn't watch it) was obligated to air those shows for a certain period.

 

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METV @ 12:30AM EST  Tues thru Sat., has been rotating the old mystery movie series that NBC used to air back in the '70s.  It includes one series type per week.  So far they have aired:  McCloud, Banacek, McMillian and Wife, and this week is Columbo.  They haven't been gutted by commercials, except for my local commercial issues below.

 

Here is a link to refresh your memory: 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC_Mystery_Movie

 

How refreshing, the first episode of Columbo that they aired this week ran the first 25 minutes without a commercial break.  I was happy to see that.  My main gripe is the local commercial overlays that overlay the national commercials that METV airs, run too long past the national commercials and eat into the part of the show on at least a few occasions during any given episode.  Nothing worse than having the local commercials come back from commercial break while the show has been running nationally for at least a few minutes.

 

 

 

My ME station has 2 episodes of  Law & Order: Criminal Intent and a Seinfeld, from 8 to 10:30 tonight, something else other nights.
McMillan isn't on the list for my area.
This station is new in my area, so I wonder if whoever had the station before (can't remember, I didn't watch it) was obligated to air those shows for a certain period.

.

That is something that your local channel that is airing METV is doing.  METV has nothing to do with that.   Perhaps it is a ratings issue.  I think there is some sort of note on the bottom of the TV screen saying that some of the METV programming may not be available in all areas.

Edited by icemiser69

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The one thing I'd love from MeTV and from Netflix--it's a small thing, but if I were emperor, I'd decree it--is to show the full "NBC Mystery Movie" intro, complete with fantastic Henry Mancini theme, before the episodes.

 

It's never gonna happen, but I can dream.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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