Season 1
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes7
Original networkNBC
Original releaseSeptember 15, 1971 (1971-09-15) –
February 9, 1972 (1972-02-09)
Season chronology
Next →
Season 2
List of episodes

Here is a list of episodes from the first season of the American television detective series Columbo.

Prior history and broadcast

Main articles: List of Columbo episodes § Pilot episodes, and 1971–72 United States network television schedule

Prior to the broadcast of "Murder by the Book", NBC aired two pilots of the show, both with Falk as Columbo and writing by Richard Levinson & William Link. As a regular series for the first season, it originally aired Wednesdays at 8:30-10:00 pm (EST) as part of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie.

DVD release

The season was released on DVD by Universal Home Video. The DVD includes the two pilot movies: Prescription: Murder and Ransom for a Dead Man.


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Murderer played by Victim(s) played by Original air date Runtime
31"Murder by the Book"Steven SpielbergSteven BochcoJack Cassidy
as Ken Franklin
Martin Milner
as Jim Ferris and
Barbara Colby
as Lilly La Sanka
September 15, 1971 (1971-09-15)72 min

Ken Franklin (Jack Cassidy) is one-half of a mystery writing team, but partner Jim Ferris (Martin Milner) wants to go solo, exposing the fact that Ferris did all the actual writing, and thus leave the high-living Franklin without his cash cow. However, the pair have an insurance policy on which Franklin can collect if Ferris dies during the partnership. Franklin makes it look like Ferris was investigating gangsters. He tricks Ferris into taking a trip to Franklin's remote cabin two hours away. They stop at a general store, where, as Franklin makes a phone call to Ferris's wife (Rosemary Forsyth) to establish an alibi, the owner Lilly La Sanka (Barbara Colby)—obviously smitten with Franklin—peers outside to see whom Franklin brought with him and sees Ferris in the passenger seat of the car. At the cabin, Franklin convinces Ferris to call his wife and tell her he's working late at the office. During the phone call, Franklin shoots Ferris. He drives two hours back to his house with his dead partner in the trunk, dumping the corpse on his own lawn.

La Sanka tracks Franklin to Los Angeles when he is out on a date and loudly approaches him, making it clear that she knows Franklin killed Ferris, forcing him to cancel his date. He brings her the $15,000 she wants for her silence, feigning interest in her. The two have an intimate dinner in the back of her store, then he bludgeons her and puts her body in a boat, which he capsizes to make her death appear accidental.

Final clue/twist: After hearing that Ferris habitually wrote down ideas for his mystery novels on whatever paper was handy, Columbo searches his office and house and finds a note with the fake phone call/alibi scheme. He confronts Franklin with it, and Franklin confesses. Upon his arrest, Franklin makes a startling comment: the alibi idea was in fact his, the only good one he ever had.

Jack Cassidy played the murderer in three Columbo episodes: this one, episode 22 "Publish or Perish" (Season 3), and episode 36 "Now You See Him" (Season 5).

Note: In 1997 TV Guide ranked this episode number 16 on its '100 Greatest Episodes of All Time' list.[1][2]

The Mrs. Melville novel that is frequently seen in the episode is named "Prescription: Murder", the same name as Columbo's first pilot episode.
42"Death Lends a Hand"Bernard KowalskiRichard Levinson & William LinkRobert Culp
as Carl Brimmer
Patricia Crowley
as Lenore Kennicut
October 6, 1971 (1971-10-06)72 min

Carl Brimmer (Robert Culp), the very tough, hard-nosed head of a private detective agency, with unfortunate and fateful anger issues, is hired by Arthur Kennicut (Ray Milland), a powerful publishing magnate who suspects his wife, Lenore (Pat Crowley), of infidelity. Although Brimmer indeed finds evidence of her being unfaithful, instead of reporting this fact to his client, he attempts to blackmail Lenore into obtaining business and political secrets from her husband. She refuses and tells him she will expose his plot to her husband, at which point Brimmer accidentally kills her in a fit of rage. He dumps her body at a scrapyard and later joins the investigation into Lenore's death with Columbo. Brimmer secretly starts to divert suspicion away from himself and even offers Columbo a job.

Final clue/twist: Columbo becomes suspicious when he realizes a cut on the victim's face matches Brimmer's ring. He disables Brimmer's car, causing the vehicle to be garaged for repair. He has Lenore's body exhumed, then claims that one of her contact lenses was not with the body and is missing. He tells Kennicut the lens may be at the place where she was murdered, which gets overheard by Brimmer. After searching for it in his home, Brimmer goes to the garage after-hours and searches for it in the trunk of his car that was used to transport the body. He finds a contact lens, but is caught by Columbo, with Kennicut in tow. When Brimmer tries to throw the lens away the police stop him, and he confesses. After Brimmer is led away Columbo admits to Kennicut he had arranged everything, and that there never was a missing contact lens.

Robert Culp played the murderer in three Columbo episodes: this one, episode 12 ("The Most Crucial Game"), and episode 21 ("Double Exposure"). He also appeared (as the father of the murderer) in "Columbo Goes to College".

Notes: This episode won an Emmy for writing and is known for the "glasses effect" after Brimmer kills Lenore, in which both lenses of Brimmer's glasses simultaneously show different images on-screen of him cleaning the scene of the crime.
53"Dead Weight"Jack SmightJohn T. DuganEddie Albert
as Martin Hollister
John Kerr as
Roger Dutton
October 27, 1971 (1971-10-27)72 min

Major General Martin Hollister (Eddie Albert), a retired Marine Corps war hero, learns he is being investigated for embezzling military funds, then shoots his skittish accomplice, Col. Dutton (John Kerr). The murder is witnessed by Helen Stewart (Suzanne Pleshette), who was in a passing boat. She is wooed by Hollister into doubting her own story. Noted Canadian actress Kate Reid plays Helen's disbelieving mother, who is favorably impressed by the distinguished Hollister.

Final clue/twist: After an encounter with a nostalgic cook, Columbo realizes that Hollister would never have lost his signature revolver. Columbo retrieves the weapon, which Hollister claimed was a replica made for his museum display, and the police forensic unit identifies it as the weapon that killed Dutton.
64"Suitable for Framing"Hy AverbackJackson GillisRoss Martin as
Dale Kingston and
Rosanna Huffman
as Tracy O'Connor
Robert Shayne
as Rudy Matthews
and Rosanna Huffman
as Tracy O'Connor
November 17, 1971 (1971-11-17)72 min

Art critic Dale Kingston (Ross Martin) murders his uncle and tries to frame his aunt (Kim Hunter) to inherit his uncle's very valuable art collection. He later murders his lover and accomplice in the crime, art student Tracy (Rosanna Huffman).

Final clue/twist: Kingston hides the paintings that he stole after the murder in his aunt's house to frame her, then arranges a police search, ostensibly to clear his aunt of suspicion. Columbo has the police dust the paintings for fingerprints, and find Columbo's own fingerprints from when he touched the paintings during a visit to Kingston's home. Kingston says Columbo must have touched the paintings moments ago, but Columbo shows that he has been wearing gloves.

Don Ameche portrays the family lawyer, Frank Simpson.
75"Lady in Waiting"Norman LloydStory by : Barney Slater
Teleplay by : Steven Bochco
Susan Clark as
Beth Chadwick
Richard Anderson
as Bryce Chadwick
December 15, 1971 (1971-12-15)72 min

Beth Chadwick (Susan Clark) murders her domineering older brother, Bryce (Richard Anderson), after he attempts to break up her relationship with one of his executives, Peter Hamilton (played by Leslie Nielsen), a man he thinks is only interested in Beth for ulterior motives. His mailing a letter threatening to terminate Peter's employment if he didn't break things off with Beth causes her to reach the tipping point and to act to gain control of her own life and, it turns out, the family business (as there are no other siblings).

Complications in Beth's plan contribute to Columbo's suspicions. Beth had planned to claim the shooting was an accident. She removed his house key from his key chain thinking it would require him, late at night, to try to enter the house via her bedroom. However, Bryce had a spare key which he had hidden under a flowerpot thus entering the house without ado. She improvises as best she can but her story will ultimately be undermined as a result of this turn of events. Meanwhile, her true personality emerges, showing a very different side than that shown earlier, before the murder.

Final clue/twist: When Columbo re-reads the testimony of Peter Hamilton, who had driven to the house after receiving the letter from Bryce, he notices that Hamilton climbed over the gates and heard the gunshots before the alarm went off, not after. The detail is enough to undo her entire story. Columbo tells Beth that Hamilton won't like doing it, but he will testify to what he knows.

The Chadwick siblings' mother is played by veteran actress Jessie Royce Landis in her final performance not long before her death.
86"Short Fuse"Edward M. AbromsStory by : Lester Pine & Tina Pine and Jackson Gillis
Teleplay by : Jackson Gillis
Roddy McDowall
as Roger Stanford
James Gregory
as David Buckner
and Lawrence Cook
as Quincy
January 19, 1972 (1972-01-19)72 min

Roger Stanford (Roddy McDowall) is a chemist whose uncle, David (James Gregory), has taken over a business that his parents built and his aunt (Ida Lupino) controls. David plans to sell the business to a conglomerate, and threatens to reveal Roger's scandalous doings at the office to his aunt if he does not quit. Roger is unbothered, since he has already has a plan to murder his uncle in motion. David is killed by a box of cigars rigged to explode as he drives through the mountains with his chauffeur. William Windom guest stars as Everett Logan, the next-in-line vice president whom Roger discredits as part of the offshoot of the murder, so Roger can take over the company. Anne Francis plays David's secretary, who is romantically involved with Roger. Lawrence Cook plays David's chauffeur and right hand man.

Final clue/twist: Columbo, Roger, and Everett take a cable car up the mountain. Columbo shows them a damaged but intact box of cigars and tells him it came from the car wreck, indicating that David and his chauffeur were in fact killed by the car's gas tank exploding and not a bomb. Roger, thinking they are the booby-trapped cigars he had planted, screams at Columbo and tries to get rid of the box. Columbo reveals that the box is not from the car, but another box from David's belongings.
97"Blueprint for Murder"Peter FalkStory by : William Kelley
Teleplay by : Steven Bochco
Patrick O'Neal
as Elliot Markham
Forrest Tucker
as Beau Williamson
February 9, 1972 (1972-02-09)71 min

Elliot Markham (Patrick O'Neal) is an architect with a vision for a city of the future, and a penchant for classical music. His latest project is being bankrolled by the young wife of Beau Williamson (Forrest Tucker), a wealthy industrialist who has been away on a lengthy overseas business trip. When Williamson returns and finds out how his money is being spent, he is furious, and intends to cut off the funds. Markham decides that the only way he can continue his work is to eliminate Williamson. Simply killing him, however, poses a problem, because his money reverts to a trust fund when he dies. Markham comes up with a clever plan to conceal the body and make it appear as if Beau has gone on another long foreign trip. With Pamela Austin and Janis Paige as the wives, present and past, in Williamson's life.

Final clue/twist: Markham repeatedly goads Columbo into excavating a building site to search for Williamson's body, until Columbo finally does so. It yields nothing. Later that night Markham returns to that site with the body, assuming no-one would ever look there again. However Columbo has known what Markham has been up to all along, he emerges from the shadows with other policemen and arrests Markham. Columbo reveals that he knew something had happened to Williamson when he checked his car and found the radio turned to a classical music station, something odd for Williamson, who only listened to country music.

John Fiedler portrays Williamson's doctor.

This is the only episode of any TV series which Peter Falk directed.


  1. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. pp. 184. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  2. ^ "The 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". IMDb. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved October 1, 2018.