Monday, September 12, 2011

This Week in Television History: September Part II

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As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

September 16, 1927
Peter Falk was born. The actor is best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo.

He appeared in numerous films and television guest roles, and has been nominated for an Academy Award twice, and won the Emmy Award on five occasions and the Golden Globe award once. The Columbo character was originally played in a 1960 episode of the NBC anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, where the detective was played by Bert Freed, and in a subsequent Broadway play by Thomas Mitchell. Falk first appeared as Columbo in Prescription: Murder , a 1968 TV movie, but the character was not the subject of a show of its own until 1971. Columbo aired regularly from 1971 to 1978 on NBC, and then more infrequently on ABC as TV movies beginning in 1989. The most recent episode was broadcast in 2003.

Despite his frazzled exterior, Columbo possesses a keen mind and invariably solves his cases by paying close attention to tiny inconsistencies in suspects' stories, hounding them until they confess; he merely puts on a good show of being dimwitted so that the criminals will be more at ease around him. Columbo's signature technique is to exit the scene of an interview, only to stop in the doorway to ask a suspect "just one more thing," which often brings to light the key inconsistency. Four of Columbo's cases gave Falk the chance to work with his longtime friend Patrick McGoohan, the latter playing the episodes' villain roles.

In May 2009, it was reported that Falk is suffering from dementia, and he no longer remembers his role in Columbo. In June 2009, a conservatorship was placed on him by a California court.

At a two-day conservatorship trial in Los Angeles in June 2009, one of Falk's personal physicians, Dr. Stephen Read, reported Falk rapidly slipped into dementia after a series of dental operations in 2007. Dr. Read said it was unclear whether Falk's condition had worsened as a result of anesthesia or some other reaction to the operations. He went on to add that Falk's condition was so bad he could no longer remember the character of Columbo. Shera Danese Falk was appointed as her husband's conservator.

Falk died at his Beverly Hills home on June 23, 2011, at the age of 83. The cause of death was later revealed as cardiorespiratory arrest, with pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease as underlying causes. Falk was survived by his wife and two daughters. His daughters said they would remember his "wisdom and humor".

The Los Angeles Police Department also issued a statement of condolence to Falk's family, stating they were "proud" to be associated with Columbo as well as stating that he was "one of the all-time great TV cops."

September 17, 1951
Cassandra Peterson is born. The actress s best known for her on-screen horror hostess character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. She gained fame on Los Angeles television station KHJ wearing a black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown as host of Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation. Her wickedly vampish appearance was offset by her comical character, quirky/quick-witted personality, and valley girl-type speech.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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