Columbo: Season 9, Episode 3

Agenda for Murder (10 Feb. 1990)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 663 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 3 critic

This time Columbo is put on a murder that was made to look like a suicide. However, he notices some loose ends, and asks a lawyer and a governor to clear these problems up.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Mackey
Frank Staplin
Penny Fuller ...
Mrs. Finch
Anne Haney ...
Tim Haines
Toby Ritt
Arthur Hill ...
The Governor
Michael Goldfinger ...
Laundry Truck Driver
Annie Stewart ...
Rebecca Christy
Carol Barbee ...
Security Man #1


Oscar Finch is a lawyer, who uses illegal and underhanded methods to get his clients off, like coercing young men into destroying evidence, like Paul Mackey who worked for the D.A.'s office twenty years ago and whom he bribed into destroying some evidence against a client of his. Today they are joined at the hip and Mackey is a congressman and who has been asked by the Governor who is running for president to be his vice president. Finch hopes that this will mean a cabinet position for him. Finch is then contacted by Frank Staplin, the client that Mackey helped get off twenty years ago. Now unless Finch helps Frank again, he will tell everyone that Finch and Mackey were the ones who helped him avoid prosecution twenty years ago. Finch then kills him and makes it look like a suicide. But a few inconsistencies lead Lt. Columbo to believe that it was not and the fact that Staplin made a few phone calls to Finch before he died leads Columbo to see him. Written by <>

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Release Date:

10 February 1990 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Last film of Arthur Hill. See more »


As Columbo enters the office of Finch, whilst speaking to Diane in the background, he holds his arms crossed in front of him (including a cigar). The shot follows him into the office and films him from behind, whilst walking. Next shot (still walking) he walks with arms moving next to him. See more »


Frank Staplin: I need a favor, Oscar.
Oscar Finch: Forget it.
See more »


References Singin' in the Rain (1952) See more »


Mystery Movie Theme
by Mike Post
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User Reviews

Pretty much worthy to be viewed alongside the 1970's episodes
11 December 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Twenty years ago Oscar Finch was a lawyer who used any means necessary to get his clients off – including bribing young DA Mackey into destroying evidence against client Staplin. Now he is still a lawyer but he has managed to stay connected to Mackey over the years as his political career has taken him to the point of a race for Presidential candidate – something that Finch hopes will see him placed in a cabinet position. However Finch has not totally shaken off the past and when he refuses to help Staplin, Staplin threatens to expose the "favour" that Mackey and Finch did for him. Finch kills him and makes it look like suicide. However when Columbo investigates a drop if dried blood gives him pause, while a modern redial function on the telephone gives him the last person Staplin called – Oscar Finch.

As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. With the strict adherence to formula it is usually simple enough for the series to do the business although I have had my fingers burnt with some of the "new" Columbo's. However this one appeared to have more potential with a solid cast and a plot that serves the formula well. It started well with the usual contrived murder and moves forward well with a solid mystery that Columbo gradually picks away at. It doesn't totally hang together and at some points the lack of consistent progress towards the solution is a bit of a turnoff but generally it does enough to keep it all moving forward. The film has a few attempts at comedy – one or two fall totally flat (Columbo questioning the laundry delivery guy) but some are really nice (Columbo telling Mackey his wife's name is Mrs Columbo).

What makes it better than many of the other modern Columbo films is a collection of good turns from the cast. Falk looks good – other films gave him grey hair and made him appear physically weaker, but here he looks as sharp as he did in the 1970's (sharp being a comparative word when used in reference to Columbo of course). McGoohan is a welcome return to the series after quite a few recent films had had murders that just didn't stack up at all against Columbo. Here McGoohan knows to play it up in this sort of thing and does his stern, intelligent and sinister authority figure role that the other films had given him and he does it well. The film could have give them more scenes together but they both work well together and their performances compliment one another within the formula. Credit also to McGoohan the director; he doesn't totally shake off the TV feel it has but he does give it more of a professional product. Support is good from Arndt and Zorich along with series regular Kirby. The only really bad turn was from Taggart as Mrs Staplin.

Overall an enjoyable entry in the new Columbo series thanks mainly to the presence of McGoohan as murderer and director. It does have the odd duff moment but mostly it moves forward really well and compares well with the 1970's episodes. Fans will love it and it is good enough to maybe win over some new ones as well.

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