The Columbo Phenomenon


Peter Falk died in June 2011. It made me realize that the essay I’ve intended to write since I started practice as a primary care internist in 1983 couldn't be put off much longer, or the majority of its readers would no longer know to whom I was referring. Falk played Columbo, an apparently inept detective in a successful weekly television show that started in the late 1960s and ran for several decades. Columbo threw off his suspects by his bumbling, apologetic, absent-minded persona, all the while lulling them into a dangerously false sense of security in which they let their guard down, predictably revealing more than they intended. The conclusion of each episode had him turning on his way out of a room and delivering the line that made him famous—“Just one more thing . . . ”—a signal to the audience that, for the perpetrator of the crime under investigation, the jig was up.

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