Daly, Delores and the Drink
Harold McCain (Greg Evigan) is a gambler all but one who seems to lose more than he wins and as such has mounting debts and some heavy hitters after him. Harold's uncle just happens to be Big Fred (Steve Forrest) a millionaire businessman and owner of a football team but Fred is tired of Harold's gambling and won't lend him any more money. It is why Harold comes up with a plan to murder his uncle by placing a bomb under his car and then pump his uncle's wife Delores (Tyne Daly), a drunk who has a thing for him, for money. The thing is that whilst Big Fred dies it is because he was run over whilst jogging rather than being down to the bomb which when Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) learns that someone was planning on killing Fred starts his investigations.
"Columbo: A Bird in the Hand" is what I would call a pantomime episode because everyone in this episode over plays their parts. We have Greg Evigan turning on the evil eyes as Harold anxiously watches Columbo snooping around. Then there is León Singer who turns on the accent as gardener Fernando. But mostly there is Tyne Daly who really lays on the alcoholic aunt aspect of her character who is hot for Harold. And of course there is Peter Falk giving it bumbling and humble etc etc. But I say this is a pantomime episode because the humorous nature of the over the top acting is intentional especially when it comes to Columbo's banter with Harold and also Delores.
As such whilst "Columbo: A Bird in the Hand" delivers this interesting set up of an intended murder being gazumped by what appears to initially be an accidental death before we get an accidental murder the focus is for at least the first half very much on the humour something which was pretty common in the "Columbo" TV movies of the 90s. And it has to be said that this is an enjoyable episode mostly because the love which Tyne Daly brings with her and because of her full of smiles and liquor performance as southern belle Delores. I wish I could say more but in truth "Columbo: A Bird in the Hand" is a surprisingly simple episode, of course a predictable one and rests on the humour and the guest performances rather than the crime or the actual investigation although it does have a bit of a twist.
What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: A Bird in the Hand" is really an episode for those who enjoyed the comedy of Columbo rather than the crime solving part. And for those who did watch for the comedy get it two ways with the usual antics of Peter Falk but the wonderfully comical acting of Tyne Daly as a drunk.