Columbo (1971–2003)
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A Friend in Deed 

A police commissioner provides a false alibi for a wife killer, but then expects an alibi in return.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Halperin
Margaret Halperin
Hugh Caldwell
Artie Jessup
Bruno Wexler
Eleanor Zee ...
Lt. Duffy
Salesgirl (as Arlene Martell)
Victor Campos ...
Joshua Bryant ...
Dr. MacMurray
John Calvin ...
Charlie Shoup
Amos Lawrence
James V. Christy ...
Alma Beltran ...
Mrs. Fernandez


Hugh Caldwell kills his wife Janice and in despair asks for the help of his friend and neighbor Mark Halperin. Mark helps a friend in deed, of course, so the death appears to be the job of a thief, but Lt. Columbo has some doubts. There is not a single fingerprint of the deceased in her house and he begins to suspect Halperin. Unfortunately for Lt. Columbo, Halperin is the deputy police commissioner. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

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Release Date:

5 May 1974 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The funeral home featured in the stock shot (at around 36 mins) is not California. It is the luxurious Ephrussi de Rothschild villa and gardens in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera. This location is notably featured in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again. See more »


When Columbo visits the Deputy Commissioner's home there is a chessboard in the scene. The chessboard is not aligned properly, as any chess nerd will be quick to tell you. There is supposed to be a white square in the lower right hand corner. This causes the Queens to be placed on a square of their own color. The white Queen always starts the game at the white King's left as a result of this. See more »


Police Pilot: A little early in the evening for this burglar, isn't it, Commissioner?
Mark Halperin: You never know, Pete. Clocks don't mean a thing in an empty house, you know.
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References Strangers on a Train (1951) See more »


Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Played at funeral
See more »

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User Reviews

A top episode of a top series
11 November 2006 | by (Tulsa OK) – See all my reviews

This series - particularly the earlier episodes - is certainly one of the best ever. I missed this particular one when originally aired, but saw it several years later, and then again recently. (Like Andy Griffith's "Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock," this is a program for which one is grateful for the reruns available on cable today.)

This particular program, though, is the one I'd probably label my all-time favorite - among many, including those with the ubiquitous Columbo "killers," Jack Cassidy, George Hamilton, etc.

One of the greatest mistakes in the entire history of film was the casting of Peter O'Toole in the lead for "Man of La Mancha," rather than Richard Kiley, whose Broadway performance in this role was among the most acclaimed, ever. Kiley was an immensely- and diversely-talented actor, who should be more prominently recognized and remembered among his peers than he is.

His portrayal as the egotistic, manipulative, greedy deputy police commissioner, and the villain of this episode, is outstanding. The "shtick" of this series, of course, included the usually smooth, urbane, well-dressed, cosmopolitan qualities of the villains - contrasted markedly with Columbo's being the opposite in all of these.

This aspect is certainly apparent here - and the only somewhat puzzling part of the story is the seeming absence of Kiley's knowledge of Columbo's abilities beneath his sloppy exterior - and he would have certainly seen the records of the department certifying the lieutenant's significant abilities.

The main paradox in the history of "Columbo" was the ease with which he seemed to be able always to remain "under the radar," both within the department (even with those with whom he was most closely associated) and on the outside - despite having had to possess a better record for detection and solution of serious crimes than Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Sam Spade - combined.

There is no way a review of a "Columbo" episode could be a spoiler. We know from the outset that Kiley is the villain here - however, Columbo's inevitable foiling his devious, wily superior, is perhaps the most clever in the history of this long series.

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