I need justice or joy today.A friend in a group text, describing her quest to find something to watch on TV
I think my friend’s quote perfectly sums up what many of us need during uncertain and troubling times such as a global pandemic. I tend to lean more toward joy because I want to laugh or at least not be stressed out by what I’m watching. But sometimes when the world is overwhelming, I also need justice. I need to know that the good guys are going to win and the bad guys are going to lose, and during the pandemic, I have found that nothing has filled my need for justice like watching Columbo.
Columbo is perfect for these here pandemic times especially because Columbo (the titular detective) is all about bringing smug rich, white murderers to justice. If you, like me, have been severely disgusted by the callous response to the COVID-19 crisis by those in power who are mostly smug rich, white people who seem to be perfectly fine with the fact that over 500k people have died in the US and who enact policies that show a complete disregard for other people’s lives, then you might like to see smug rich, white people get their comeuppance in an episode of Columbo.
I mean, I really cannot put into words the satisfaction of hearing Columbo “just one more thing” someone who thinks they are SO SMART and SO CLEVER that they really, truly think they have gotten over on him when they, in fact, haven’t. It is just…a balm for the soul.
If you’re unfamiliar with Columbo, it’s a “howcatchem,” meaning that the audience knows who committed the crime and how the person did it, but the fun of the episode is (a) watching Columbo figure it out and (b) trying to figure out what mistake the criminal made. Because the audience knows that Columbo knows but we just don’t know how he knows, but also the criminal thinks that Columbo doesn’t know so the dance between Columbo and the criminal is pretty great. The criminal also thinks they are smarter than Columbo so, if you’re me, you get to yell at the screen several times per episode some variation of “You are not smarter than Columbo, you smug rich miscreant” or “I know you not really out here trying my man like you’re smarter than him. I know you are not doing that.” It’s very satisfying.
In one episode, when Columbo caught the criminal, he basically said to the person who was an author, “And you would have gotten away with it if you weren’t such a terrible writer.” Imagine getting caught committing murder because you’re a bad writer! That hurt my feelings, and I didn’t even do anything. Bad at murder because you’re incompetent at writing? Ouch.
The show is streaming on Amazon Prime and Peacock, but I suggest paying the $2-3 to start with the true pilot, the movie Prescription: Murder, which is available on Amazon. It sets up the conceit of the show perfectly and, again, the way your ire will build at the murderer and then the satisfaction you feel when he’s caught makes it well worth the price of admission.
There’s been a lot of talk in the past year about how television and movies have been used as propaganda to make people think that the police are always good guys and that we should root for them, which is true (cf. the history of Dragnet). But I also texted this to my friend when I told her to watch Columbo: “acab and ftp but Columbo is the exception.” And I stand by that, especially if you are looking for something to watch that satisfies your need for justice while we continue to suffer the effects of poor leadership during the pandemic.
For this year’s A to Z Challenge, I have decided that I’m going to focus on comfort reads/watches as we enter our second (!) April in the pandemic. Tune in Monday to see what I choose for D!