Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Power Rangers range with power! Oh and it's Elizabeth Banks.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Beauty, the beast and me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Weekend Box Office

No no, not Donkey Kong. Not YET anyway.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What You Love About Columbo

It's Sunday, which means MeTV (and COZITV) will run an episode of Columbo. There is no mystery show more reliable, more fascinating, more ODD than Columbo. And perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the show is how surprising it manages to be even though it is formulaic as hell.

Columbo in the seventies, played by Peter Falk
You know the Columbo formula. In the first 20 minutes a person, usually rich and high in status, callously commits a premeditated murder. You see how they plan the crime and you see them commit the crime. Lt. Columbo, an LAPD homicide detective who looks like he's held together with chewing gum and duct tape, examines the scene and some anomaly convinces him that a murder has been committed. Usually at this point Columbo also knows how the crime was committed and who's responsible, but spends the rest of the show making the perpetrator's life a living hell, all the while acting as though he's too dumb to solve any case, let alone this one.

Now here's is the first thing that is surprising about Columbo. You've just read the plot of almost every episode. This is how it always goes down. By rights you should not be surprised by anything that happens. And yet it's always a little different, because of the way that Peter Falk plays him. In fact, I understand that there was a lot of on camera improvisation on the show, because it kept the guest stars on their toes. And after all Falk had plenty of experience in that from his John Cassevetes movies.

And in fact the more you see Columbo the more of an enigma he becomes. Did you notice that they never say his first name on the show? Can you state with complete certainty that there even IS a Mrs. Colombo? (Yes I know they made a spinoff series about her, but you never saw Mr. Columbo in that. I think she was just a woman named Columbo. OR she was Columbo's beard. Maybe they were each other's beards.) And Columbo is always polite, but he obviously has a driven and ruthless nature.  Dude's some kinda sociopath.


In later years, the part was taken by the guy who played the Grandpa in The Princess Bride
I have this theory that the reason mysteries are such a durable genre, is we are truth-seeking creatures. The more we know about the way the world really works, the better we can survive. The search for truth is in our DNA. In a normal mystery, when the murderer is revealed that's the catharsis. It's the truth, at last!

The writers of Columbo deny themselves that catharsis. How can the ending of a Columbo episode be satisfying?

The catharsis comes not from learning the truth, it comes from watching a guest star who has lied for ninety minutes (or more) ADMIT the truth. Every episode ends when the antagonist admits to Columbo, at last, that they did it. Sometimes they are grateful that they don't have to lie any more. Sure there's usually also a level of class class warfare from the common-slob detective bringing down the rich and powerful, but what really sells it is the confession. I guess if you are always looking for the truth, making someone admit they have been lying to you is plenty satisfying.

Anyway, I don't think there was a more satisfying but formulaic murder mystery show until House came along.