November 2, 2015
In this case, Steven J. Cannell, who is one of the most underrated writer/producers in the television industry.
Yes, I wrote that. Out loud. Look at any of his work, and there is a very nice, well-honed sense of hitting the public tastes. He manages to work out the Columbo formula in this third-season entry, and integrating the then-popular idea of subliminal advertising, makes this a particularly enjoyable entry.
It also helps that Robert Culp plays the lead villain - a marketing research specialist with a background in psychology (hey, imagine that) also has a very interesting sideline: blackmail. When one of his victims decides to turn the tables, well....it's a very interesting, and nasty, twist. And Culp pays the villain to the hilt - unlike the cool, detached detective of Death Lends a Hand or the boisterous coach of The Most Crucial Game, there's a nice balance of malice and detachment.
But what makes this work is the script - we see Columbo working through the case in his usual manner, and there is quite a bit of "behind the scenes" exposition within the episode. But most importantly - it never feels boring or dull. (Or to put it another way, Cannell doesn't fill any of his script with filler). Even the resolution - the how of Columbo's final confrontation with the murderer - has a really great sense of irony, even more so that Suitable for Framing.
(Which we'll cover next week. Seriously).
But this is one of the best Columbo episodes created....and well worth watching.