Columbo Catches a Finch
20 years ago Oscar Finch (Patrick McGoohan), a lawyer, coerced Paul Mackey (Denis Arndt), who worked in the D.A.'s office, to destroy critical evidence they had on one of his clients, Frank Staplin (Louis Zorich). Ever since then Finch and Mackey have remained close and with Mackey now a congressman with the chance to become Vice President thanks to the Governor (Arthur Hill) asking him to run with him, Finch hopes he will get a cabinet position. But that is when Staplin gets back in touch as he wants their help again or else he is going to tell everyone about their corruption. After murdering Staplin and going to great lengths to make it look like suicide Finch finds himself dealing with Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) who becomes suspicious by a few things which don't add up.
One of the great things about "Columbo" was when an episode had an intentional murder you would get the planning and staging of the killing. And it has to be said that "Columbo: Agenda for Murder" has one of the most detailed with us not only getting the planting of evidence right down to gun powder on a hand but also the careful staging of an alibi as well. Of course there are always the mistakes and director Patrick McGoohan not only hints as what the clues will be which Columbo stumbles across but drops a few red herrings in there.
But of course what always made "Columbo" so good was Peter Falk and as "Columbo: Agenda for Murder" was made in 1990 you get the best of both worlds. By that I mean that on one hand you get the sharp minded Lieutenant who sees the flaws in the evidence. But on the other you also get the Columbo comedy as he drives his old car which he parks badly and constantly has a knowing smirk on his face without it going over the board which was some times the case in the later "Columbo" TV movies. And it is a joy to watch especially with Falk giving Columbo the full beans, so to speak, in this episode.
Now there is of course a possible reason why Peter Falk was in such fine form in "Columbo: Agenda for Murder" as his good friend Patrick McGoohan was not only appearing opposite him as the killer but McGoohan also directed this TV movie. And trust me when I say that McGoohan matches Falk in every way in this episode making for some great interactions between their characters with Falk comically playing off of him. But then there are also other fine performances in this episode as well with Anne Haney bringing plenty of her trademark smiles and busy body characterisation to the part of one of Finch's secretaries.
What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Agenda for Murder" is as expected an entertaining episode with lots of detail but more importantly lots of character with McGoohan and Falk looking like they were having as much fun making this as we get watching it.