A Piece in the Columbo Jigsaw
When lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) is called in to a double homicide crime scene something about it bugs him despite the fact that his colleague, Det. Brown (Harrison Page), think it is a clear cut case. What is bugging Columbo is a cleanly cut piece of a picture he found on one of the bodies and then he meets Irving Krutch (Ed Begley Jr.) an insurance investigator who tells him the piece of the picture is a clue to where the money is from a huge hold up from a few years earlier. With the gang having been Italian he persuades Columbo to go undercover to find the other pieces so they can get the money back. But as Columbo participates in the undercover operation people get killed, he gets attacked and he begins to become suspicious of Krutch's motives.
"Columbo: Undercover" is one of those rare entries in the franchise which strayed from the formula which in my opinion was a big part of why "Columbo" was and still is so hugely popular. Now other episodes of "Columbo" which have tried to do things differently have to be honest disappointed me but this one kind of entertains. And the reason comes down to Peter Falk again as he was so masterful at playing humorous characters and with Columbo going undercover it plays to his strengths, allowing to have fun playing strong Italian characters.
But whilst "Columbo: Undercover" awards us with the fun of Peter Falk playing various characters the actual storyline which sees him trying to obtain pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and then becoming suspicious of insurance investigator Irving Krutch is not that great. The trouble is that once again the straying from the usual formula robs us of some of those expected Columbo elements and mannerisms which are a huge part of why "Columbo" was so enjoyable. On top of that whilst "Columbo: Undercover" gives us a few familiar faces in supporting roles no one makes a big impact and in a way there are a few too many familiar faces.
What this all boils down to is that again whilst "Columbo: Undercover" is entertaining the straying from the usual formula actually robs it of some of the things which were pivotal to the franchises success. But what this does have is the fun of Peter Falk as Columbo playing another character and that more than anything makes this entertaining.