Ah, the wonders of the interwebs rabbit hole. Just the other day I was relatively bored and decided to check out an episode of the venerable detective series Columbo. Noticing a discrepancy between the episode numbers as they appeared on Netflix and on a YouTube posting, (I was looking on YouTube because I was thinking about running one of the episodes as a feature here, which I’m certain I will do in the next few weeks) I decided to see if I could square the difference by looking at the episode list on Wikipedia.
Well, I did manage to clarify that little mystery, but I was at the same time surprised to find out that Peter Falk was not the first actor to portray the character on television, and in fact that the famed lieutenant goes back much further than I expected. I’m not going to go into the character’s literary origins right now (I’ll save that for the actual feature on his own show), but his first televised appearance was in the mystery anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show, which was created as a summer replacement for the The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.
I’ll admit beyond that I didn’t do too much digging (the Chevy Mystery Show apparently doesn’t even rate its own Wikipedia page), but what little I did do turned up this: there were apparently 18 total episodes, and ran on NBC during the 9 – 10pm hour from May thru September of 1960. There was also apparently a 1961 run, but it appears that it likely consisted of repeats from the 1960 series rather than a run of new shows, but the details of that are unclear. Most of the episodes were hosted by Walter Slezak, but at least a couple of the last episodes, including today’s feature, were hosted by none other than Vincent Price. One reference that I found listed this episode as having been produced by famed radio writer/producer/director Himan Brown, but it is not listed among his IMDB credits (though interestingly, another episode of the series is listed there).
So why, considering the fact that all of this started with Columbo, am I not sharing the episode that featured him here? Well, there are two reasons, really. First off, it appears that that episode is only available for viewing in the archives of the Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles – I certainly wasn’t able to find it anywhere else. And secondly, not only is the episode hosted by Vincent Price, but it stars Cesar Romero. who most of you will of course know from his role as the Joker in the Batman television series of the 1960s, though his performance here is decidedly more restrained than his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.
So here, for your viewing pleasure, direct from 1960 is the Chevy Mystery Show episode “The Suicide Club”: