Many criminals made the mistake of underestimating Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide investigator with a crumpled trench-coat and a beat-up car, who certainly acted as an incompetent bumbler.
But he was so polite to every suspect, and he talked so much about his wife (who we never got to see on any episode, but who many believe later had her own show, starring Kate Mulgrew, later of Star Trek: Voyager fame) that he lulled even the shrewdest murderer into a false sense of security.
And although the audience had witnessed the murder in the beginning of each episode, it was still a surprise to see what mistakes the killers had made during the seemingly perfect murder.
A famous artist, Max Barsini, lives with his wife Vanessa and a beautiful live-in model
named Julie at his beach house/studio. Max's ex-wife Louise lives in the beach house next door. Together, these women comprise Max's own little harem. He loves them all in different ways, but, more importantly, likes to control them. In fact, Max derives a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that they all fight for his attention and are reliant upon him financially and emotionally. The competitive jealousy between the women reaches a head at the dinner table one night when Max asks each of them what they think of the other. Their answers prove the intense rivalry between the women.
Columbo is asked to investigate the disappearance of Diane Hunter, director of a men's magazine. Naturally, the prime suspect is her lover and co-editor Sean Brantley, who spends lots of time with the young girls he works with.
Columbo matches wits with a brilliant attorney responsible for the murder of the one man
who could stifle his meteoric political career.
Columbo unwittingly becomes part of a deranged woman's diabolical plot to destroy the two men she believes responsible for her husband's death in prison. After murdering one, she moves in on the other, Columbo, to kill the person closest to him, his wife.
While investigating the death of a popular actor, Columbo must outwit a cunning dentist,
who has set up his wife for a murder in order to keep up his image and expensive lifestyle.