Season 8 Episode 1

Columbo Goes to the Guillotine

Aired Unknown Feb 06, 1989 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

Columbo Goes to the Guillotine
A fake psychic conspires with an old friend (who debunks psychics) to convince a secret government agency that he really is a psychic. Afterwards he meets with the old friend, a magician, at the magician's workshop and kills him to settle a long-standing grudge. The psychic makes the death look as if the magician was killed accidentally by a guillotine he used as a trick.moreless

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  • More of a new series than a continuation, the 1980s and 1990s "Columbo" movies are a shell of what came before. Avoid.

    I have a tremendous amount of affection for Peter Falk and the legendary Lt. Columbo. The run of NBC episodes in the 1970s rank as my personal favorite mystery series of all time. The combination of the writing, the strength of the guest actors and Falk's own quirky performance all helped to make the show a classic.

    That's why it pains me to say it, but "Columbo" jumped the shark with the 1989 and onward revival series on ABC. Several things are wrong with the new series, and most of them can be seen in the premiere, "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine." For one thing, the shows have been padded out to a runtime of about 90 minutes, versus the 70 minutes for the older shows. Notice I said "padded," because that is exactly what these longer shows are - stretched for time and a 2 hour format. The result is slow pacing, which was never a problem before. Next is the caliber of the guest stars. While Anthony Andrews is alright, he does not have the gravitas and charisma of some of the original's best killers. This problem would be replicated with less-than-compelling actors (Fisher Stevens, George Wendt, etc.) popping up over the run of the revival. And finally, we have Peter Falk. Falk always kept Columbo with a sense of humor, but here he has gone too far to the extreme and we have a detective who is downright goofy, if not borderline senile. We see none of the edge of the old Columbo, and it's easy for suspects to write him off, because his behavior is so inappropriate. Columbo would get embarassed as a fish out of water, but now he's just a fool. It's similar to the transformation of Adrian Monk from quietly suffering to loud nincompoop over the run of his show.

    Stick with the NBC classics. The fact that Universal has yet to release any more of the new episodes on DVD may be an indication that fans prefer vintage "Columbo" as well.moreless
  • After more than a decade Columbo returns.

    After more than a decade Columbo returns The villain in this one is professional psychic Elliott Blake (Anthony Andrews ) The victim is magician Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe known from his role in the Matrix movies as Councillor Hamann) a once cellmate of Elliotts' who had been the psychic's co-conspirator in a plan to steal military secrets. Max is found lying next to his guillotine trick with his head severed from his body. An accident, says the coroner, but Columbo of course has his doubts.

    This episode doesn’t live up to the benchmark of the more superior Columbo episodes from the 1970's but it is in fact quite ok.moreless
Anthony Andrews

Anthony Andrews

Elliott Blake

Guest Star

Anthony Zerbe

Anthony Zerbe

Max Dyson

Guest Star

Karen Austin

Karen Austin

Dr. Paula Hall

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

    • Trivia: This episode contains a true rarity--a clear shot of Columbo's face as he reacts to the sight of an extremely grisly homicide. As befits a veteran officer, his reaction is restrained, but he does react.

  • QUOTES (0)

  • NOTES (3)

    • 89 minutes long

    • This is the first episode of the second run of the series which lasted from 1989 to 2003.

    • When revived by ABC as part of its new "ABC Mystery Movie" wheel, Columbo alternated weeks with Burt Reynolds as "BL Stryker" and Louis Gossett Jr. as "Gideon Oliver". For its second ABC season, "Gideon Oliver " was canceled and replaced by two new shows, a revival of "Kojak" starring Telly Savalas, and Jacklyn Smith as "Christine Caldwell" . By the third season ABC abandoned the wheel programing and just aired the "Columbo" movies as periodic specials.


    • The character of Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe) is obviously patterned after The Amazing Randi - himself a practicing magician and escape artist - who achieved a degree of celebrity during the 70's and 80's by debunking self-proclaimed psychics. One incident involved a "psychic" who was supposed to have been able to turn the pages of a phone book with his mind. Randi determined that he must be secretly blowing the pages, so sprinkled powder all around the phone book so that any air motion would be detected. The "psychic" was thus thwarted - not to mention publicly humiliated. Perhaps the most famous incident involved Uri Geller who was reputed to be able to bend forks and spoons simply by rubbing them. In 1973 Geller was invited to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Carson - himself an amateur magician - conspired with Randi such that Geller had to use only props (silverware) provided for him by the Tonight Show staff. Geller was thus unable to bend anything.