REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


“Undercover.” From the COLUMBO series. ABC/Universal TV, 2 May 1994. Starring Peter Falk as Columbo. Teleplay by Gerry Day. Based on story by Ed McBain. Produced and Directed by Vincent McEveety. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link. Executive Producer: Peter Falk. Producer: Christopher Seiter. Guest Cast: Ed Begley Jr, Burt Young, Harrison Page, Shera Danese, Tyne Daly.

   Sorry for the commercial interruptions on this YouTube video.

   OK, who is this character posing as Columbo? Where is the inverted mystery? The real Columbo, one properly dressed in his car with his dog does not arrive on screen until the final scene. Until then this imposter works in a police station where he shares a desk with his partner, needs his Captain’s approval to take the case, goes undercover, carries a gun and gets knocked out by the bad guy in this average TV mystery.

   And the most unforgiving flaw with this cop show posing as a Columbo episode, was I knew who the killer was while Columbo believed it was another suspect. We expect more from Columbo.

   After a man is murdered by someone searching for a piece of a photograph, the alleged Columbo goes undercover searching for the killer and the photograph that would lead to the location of the missing four million dollars from a botched bank robbery.

   The acting, directing and production values were up to usual Columbo standards. The script by Gerry Day (Wagon Train, Dennis the Menace, Murder She Wrote) had its moments such as when one character described Burt Young’s character as looking like that guy from Rocky. But there was nothing about this episode that made it special enough to abandon the series premise of the inverted mystery or the main character’s methods.

   Columbo does a story by Ed McBain, master of the police procedurals! There are so many things wrong with that sentence.

   The McBain book adapted here was Jigsaw (1970). This and the episode “No Time to Die” (adapted from McBain’s book So Long As You Both Shall Live (1976) and was the only COLUMBO episode without a murder) were the only Columbo episodes not originally written for the series. Both books were from McBain’s 87th Precinct book series.

   This episode is also available on DVD (Mystery Movie Collection: 1994-2003).

SOURCE: The Ultimate Columbo Site.