Peter Falk is riding high these days: He received mostly rave reviews for his current theatrical film, Tune in Tomorrow…, and earlier this year he won an Emmy for his portrayal of the deceptively bumbling detective Lt. Columbo, a role he reprises in Columbo Goes to College. The plot is a clever one: Columbo shambles onto a college campus as a guest lecturer and stumbles into a murder case. Two students kill a professor who’s going to expose them for stealing exam answers.
This adventure marks a small but interesting change in the Columbo formula: It’s always been the case, so to speak, that the murder is committed at the start of the show, and then Columbo is called in. Here, however, the killing occurs after Columbo is on-screen — the teacher is murdered in a campus parking ) garage while the detective is in a nearby classroom, lecturing with amusing tediousness (”I follow my nose, and when I get the scent, there’s very little I wouldn’t do to solve the case”). This detail, like many others in the carefully worked-out plot, brings fresh life to the series. The student villains are tiresome brats, but Falk is subtle and funny; Columbo Goes to College is a surprisingly solid comeback for this durable character. B+