Columbo () is an American crime drama television series starring Peter Falk as Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. After two pilot episodes in 1968 and 1971, the show originally aired on NBC from 1971 to 1978 as one of the rotating programs of The NBC Mystery Movie. Columbo then aired less frequently on ABC from 1989 to 2003.
The character and show, created by Richard Levinson and William Link, popularized the inverted detective story format (sometimes referred to as a "howcatchem"), 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.
Columbo is a shrewd but inelegant blue-collar homicide detective whose trademarks include his rumpled beige raincoat, unassuming demeanor, cigar, old Peugeot 403 car, unseen wife (whom he mentions frequently), and often leaving a room only to return with the catchphrase "Just one more thing."
The recurring plot's homicide suspects are often affluent members of high society; this has led some to see class conflict as an element of each story, however the show's creators have stated that setting the program in the world of the wealthy and powerful was to create a fish out of water feeling, not to make a social or political point. Suspects carefully cover their tracks and are initially dismissive of Columbo's circumstantial speech and apparent ineptitude. They become increasingly unsettled as his pestering behavior teases out incriminating evidence. His relentless approach often leads to self-incrimination or outright confession.
Episodes of Columbo are between 70 and 98 minutes long, and have been broadcast in 44 countries. The 1971 episode "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 ranked 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 33rd on its list of the 60 Best Series. Also in 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it 57th on its list of 101 Best Written TV Series.