September 15, 1971 to September 1, 1978
Created by Richard Levinson and William Link
Theme music by Henry Mancini
Originally part of The NBC Mystery Movie, alternating with previous season hit McCloud starring Dennis Weaver and other newcomer McMillan and Wife starring Rock Hudson, Peter Falk as Columbo was a seemingly bumbling detective in a worn, rumpled raincoat who drove a beat-up old car. But this was all a ruse to give false sense of security to his unsuspecting murder suspects, who were often subject to his meticulous investigations. The series, cancelled in 1978, later spawned several TV movies for ABC.
- Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo
Original Airdate: January 19,1972
Produced by Richard Levinson and William Link
Written by Jackson Gillis
from a story by Lester and Tina Pine and Jackson Gillis
Directed by Edward M. Abroms
Guest Stars: Roddy McDowall (Roger Stanford), Ida Lupino (Doris Buckner), James Gregory (David Buckner), William Windom (Everett Logan), Anne Francis (Betty Bishop), Steve Gravers (Sergeant), Lawrence Cook (Murphy), Rosalind Miles (Nancy), Lew Brown (Farrell), Jason Wingreen (Policeman), Eddie Quillan (Ferguson), Stuart Nisbet (Pinstripe), Annette Molen (Girl), Jim Neumarker, George Sawaya
Boyish but brilliant research scientist Roger Stanford is upset by developments at the Stanford Chemicals plant, a business started by his late father. His uncle, corporation head David "D.L." Buckner, wants to force Roger out and sell the company. To ensure Roger's cooperation, D.L. has had his nephew investigated, uncovering some embarrassing stains on Roger's record including gambling, drugs and car theft. It would be a shame if Roger's doting Aunt Doris would see this report. Doris, like Roger, opposes the selling, but D.L. will suppress his findings if Roger uses his influence to change his aunt's mind. Rather than submit to blackmail, Roger uses his scientific genius to plot his uncle's murder.
Although not the last episode aired during the first season, Short Fuse was the last to be filmed. It was considered to be the weakest of the series to date due mostly to the lack of time available to prepare a first-class mystery. As a result, the episode, originally titled Formula for Murder is badly paced, with scenes ending abruptly, disturbing the required delicate balance mysteries depend upon. In the book "The Columbo Phile" by Mark Dawidziak, the author comments that Short Fuse is given badly needed boosts by the typically strong performances of Windom and McDowall, stating "(Roddy McDowall) brings a contagious enthusiam to the role."
"He (Roger Stanford) was evil as all get-out. He was joyously evil. It was appetizing to play. The role could only work if it was done on a high level of enjoyment. He loved being this son of a bitch. And I loved working with Ida Lupino and Jimmy Gregory."
"Villains are always great fun to play, and these were very juicy roles. And remember, the villain got to be on camera and carrying on for twenty minutes before Columbo even showed up. Columbo was like Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was very rewarding."