Peter Falk’s detective with the trademark rumpled raincoat and easy-going demeanor has been around for almost 40 years. Columbo movies ran for 10 years on NBC and the character was later resurrected for two dozen movies on ABC. Audiences love spending time with the seemingly bumbling cop and Peter Falk is anxious to play the character once more but there’s a little problem.
Universal Television has a completed Columbo movie script that was initially called “Hear No Evil.” It was later renamed “Columbo’s Last Case” and would mark the 70th and final time that Falk plays his popular character. Columbo has helped Falk earn four Emmy Awards and, if production began soon, the film could be ready for February 2008 (the 40th anniversary of the sleuth’s first appearance).
Unfortunately, none of the networks are interested. ABC, who aired 24 Columbo movies from 1989 to 2003, was offered the project but they declined. Executive VP of programming at NBC Universal Charles Engel says, “It took a while to find the right [script] and for Peter to give it the okay. It’s a darn good script with a really clever twist ending, but ABC opted not to go forward. No one wants to buy a movie with an 80-year old lead.”
NBC (who, like Universal Television, is also owned by General Electric) was offered the movie but the peacock network isn’t doing TV movies these days. NBC Universal ‘s USA Network passed on the project as well.
In a time when networks are desperate to attract younger audiences, is the lack of interest due to Falk’s age? William Link, who co-created the character with Richard Levinson, says, ” Ageism is rampant in Hollywood, at all levels, but this might be more than ageism. The detective shows on the broadcast networks are all police procedurals dominated by endless discussions of forensic evidence. Columbo was a classy, clever, witty show that challenged you to use your mind. It wasn’t something designed to just race across your retina. It didn’t rely on violence or technical jargon. It was a talky show, and there was an elegance to the talk, and that’s just the kind of thing that terrifies the networks these days.”
Fortunately, there is hope for “Columbo’s Last Case.” Columbo has a strong following in many countries across the globe like Japan, Germany, England, France, Italy, Romania, Holland, Brazil, Ecuador and even Iran. Engel is pursuing foreign partnerships which will hopefully take on some of the costs and make the project more financially appealing to a US network.