Season 1 Episode 3

Murder by the Book

Aired Unknown Sep 15, 1971 on NBC



  • Trivia

    • Columbo kneels down to get a bowl to grate the cheese for the omelet. However, when he takes the bowl out there is already cheese in it.

    • During the interview, Ken is clutching his hands in front of his face when the camera is on him. When the camera reverses angle and shows Gloria Jr., his hands are on the armrests of his chair.

    • As Ken asks Lilly how much blackmail she wants, the strawberry in her hand goes from intact (when the camera is behind her) to half-eaten (when the camera is facing her), even though she never puts it in her mouth.

    • Early in the episode, Ken points to 14 books and says that together they've done 15 Mrs. Melville books. The 15th is the one that Jim just finished. However, later Ken gives Lilly a copy of Prescription Murder, which is not among the 14 earlier ones. There's no reason for its omission, although there are two copies of Mrs. Melville in London.

    • In the beginning, Ken says that Jim wrote 15 Mrs. Melville novels. However, the shelf he gestures at has 16 books (two on the top with spines not visible). Also, when Ken returns to the office later, the two books on top have disappeared.

    • Trivia: On the way to Ken's cabin, Jim comments that he has the feeling of having done this before, even though he's never been to Ken's cabin. This line becomes explicable at the end, when we find that he had written down Ken's murder plot idea.

  • Quotes

    • Columbo: I'll tell you what the secret is to a good omelet. No eggs, just milk.

    • Columbo: And those were mysteries, too, weren't they, huh?
      Joanna: Um-hmm.
      Columbo: They're tricky, I'll tell you that. I could never figure those things out.

    • Franklin: All right, now what are you doing here?
      Columbo: I'm waiting for you. I happened to be in the neighborhood...
      Franklin: You're always in the neighborhood!

    • Franklin: I must say, I don't envy you.
      Columbo: I don't envy myself.

    • Columbo: Hey, I'm sorry. I'm making a pest of myself.
      Ken Franklin: Naw!
      Columbo: Yes, yes, I am! I know, it's because I keep asking these questions, but I'll tell ya, I can't help myself. It's a habit.

    • Franklin: Now, wait a minute. You, you look like you're troubled. Is there some reason for your question?
      Columbo: Uh, it's your mail.
      Franklin: My mail?
      Columbo: Isn't it funny how people are different? Now, me, if I found my partner dead I'd never think of opening my letters.
      Franklin: But I-I-I just did it to distract myself. I mean you gotta remember one thing. That's a great shock.
      Columbo: Oh, that's understandable. And bills are distracting.

    • Columbo: I don't understand.
      Franklin: Well, that's painfully obvious. One of these men had Jim killed.
      Columbo: Really? Why?
      Franklin: Tell me something--how long have you been a lieutenant, Lieutenant? Mrs. Melville would have put that together like that. (snaps his fingers)
      Columbo: Look, I, I wanna take all the help I can get.

    • Franklin: I'll tell you something, Lieutenant. See, if Mrs. Melville were on this case, oh, she'd be leaps and bounds ahead of you by now.
      Columbo: Is that the lady in the books?

    • Columbo: So you don't think I'm going to be able to find a cabin to rent, huh?
      Franklin: Best bet is to go down and check with some of the local real estate people.
      Columbo: Uh huh. Because I think it would be fun to be neighbors for a couple of weeks.
      Franklin: (laughs) Yeah.

    • Franklin: That's a provocative statement. Can you prove that?
      Columbo: Yes. Not with the witness, 'cause you killed the witness. But I got another way to prove it.
      Franklin: Will you enlighten me? I must say, I enjoy watching a man raise without any cards in his hand.

    • Columbo: You know what, Ken? I'm gonna tell you the truth. For awhile there I never thought I was gonna get you. Believe me, you had me going in such circles. I couldn't figure it out. Suddenly, I thought of something-- how clever that first murder was--the phone gimmick, working in late in the office. Brilliant!
      Franklin: Are you awarding gold medals today?
      Columbo: Yes! For the first one, not for the second one. That was sloppy. Mrs. Melville, she'd have been very disappointed.

    • Franklin: You want to know the irony of all this? That is my idea. The only really good one I ever had. I must have told it to Jim over five years ago. Who ever thought that idiot would write it down?

  • Notes

    • Marcia Wallace is credited, but all of her scenes were deleted and she doesn't appear in the final episode as aired.

    • This episode was directed by Steven Spielberg. In a later episode, "Mind Over Mayhem", a young whiz-kid character was named "Steven Spelberg," a reference to the (then) young director.

    • When Jack Cassidy was getting ready to play a scene as mystery-writer Ken Franklin, he would ask, "Who am I playing in this scene, Levinson or Link?" This was a reference to Richard Levinson and William Link, the creators and producers of Columbo.

    • This episode was originally filmed after "Death Lends a Hand," but the producers thought it was a stronger story and decided to lead with it for Columbo's first appearance as a new series.

    • Along with Patrick McGoohan (4 episodes), Robert Culp (4), William Shatner (2) and George Hamilton (2), Jack Cassidy (3) is one of only five actors to play more than one murderer on the series.

    • 90 minutes long.

    • In 1997 this episode was rated #16 in TV Guide & Nick at Nite's poll of the Top 100 TV Episodes of all time.

  • Allusions

    • Book
      Ken gives Lily a copy of a Mrs. Melville book. The title is Prescription: Murder, which is the title of the original Columbo play and pilot.