Columbo’s Appeal

Columbo Pointing

In researching links for this site, I came across an obituary for Peter Falk, who died June 23, 2011.

Learning that it had been the night of June 23 (a Thursday that year) and not the next day (my wedding anniversary) was a jolt. I really, really, really, really like Columbo.

But the bigger problem came with this statement, in the New York Times obit:

“This is, perhaps, the most thoroughgoing satisfaction ‘Columbo’ offers us,” Jeff Greenfield wrote in The New York Times in 1973: “the assurance that those who dwell in marble and satin, those whose clothes, food, cars and mates are the very best, do not deserve it.

That’s not true.

Leave it to The Times, and a review from early in The Train Wreck Decade, but that is not why we’re satisfied. It’s not why we connect with Columbo.

The point is not that they “do not deserve it.”

If we thought that, we’d be guilty of the same sin as the satin-dwellers themselves, because we’d be judging the worth of people based on their wealth.

The point is that even the rich are subject to the same laws, moral or otherwise.

By and large, Americans do not begrudge people their money. In fact, in good and bad ways, we aspire to it.  Rather, we do not want them to receive inappropriate special treatment because of it. And yes, we give it to them ourselves too often. But we don’t want to, and we don’t want others to either.

What satisfies about Columbo, on this point anyway, is that if the wealthy violate reality, they will pay — just like the rest of us.

We don’t care if they drive a BMW.

We care if they drive it off a cliff and it doesn’t crash.

Recent

Trick Shot

Sometimes successful films — ones that aren’t expected to be, by many excellent people — spawn copycats, a fact as well-known as well-attested. The followers aren’t as awesome as the originals but they’re not always so awful, and the makers, if they care a little, will throw some new stuff in, or at least get people

Read More »

No Prizes for Subtlety

It was the sort of place you wouldn’t be found dead in; the guy on the floor didn’t agree. Didn’t seem to like the floor — but it was in better shape than his face. Then someone had gone duck hunting on his chest. And either another guy was standing in front of me, or

Read More »

Can We Tawk?

Comedienne Joan Rivers’ catchphrase was, ‘Can we talk?’ with all that that entails — its rhetorical nature, the Jewish thing, an implication that at least one of the parties will be better off for having done so … Like God. T’other day a priest spoke of ontological remembrance, the immediate and ongoing memory of past-present-future

Read More »

Hide and See

Something lost, Dallas Willard said once, might yet be very valuable. One’s car keys for instance. He was speaking somewhat in the context of salvation, if I recall … the general point was calling something lost doesn’t mean it’s not wanted — quite the opposite. Yet it remains … until finding its way out or being found

Read More »

Random

Whither Tebow?

So the question now is whether the future holds a place for Tim Tebow in the NFL. Well my goodness they didn’t think he belonged there before Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos … so who cares what they say now? When he was succeeding, they said he shouldn’t be. He just shouldn’t. Why not?

Read More »

Un Success Full

Thomas Merton was asked once to contribute to a book on success — specifically a statement of how he’d achieved it in his own life. I replied indignantly that I was not able to consider myself a success in any terms that had meaning to me. If it happened that I had once written a

Read More »

Shock and Appall

Our system is perfectly designed for the results we’re getting. We worship wealth and crave power. We have a job called “celebrity” and wink at vulgarity and reward villainy. We admire brashness. We randomly excuse or excoriate peccadilloes: depends on the news cycle, the fame or infamy possible, and the money and status of those involved.

Read More »

Covidomatic Libs

  Dear _____ , (supporter, donor, customer, friend, co-afflicted) In these _____ (unprecedented, challenging, dangerous, difficult) times, we know you’re _____ (standing strong, bearing up well, getting ripe, fingering the edge of the cleaver and gazing at your partner’s neck) and miss our _____ (plums, belly dancers, unmatched selection of fine wines, engine repair tutorials)

Read More »

Related

Hey Babe, Wanna Increase My Downline?

This wouldn’t be the first time someone “posted” a “blog” on their “website” while having nothing to say. Well, not nothing exactly, but certainly not being sure exactly what he wants to say. But then that’s part of what a blog is, or was. Or maybe that’s just the bad kind; definitely it’s the old

Read More »

Get In The Boat

You’re in this boat. I’m going to say the boat is our life in Christ, though over time the boat image, the water metaphor, has done yeoman’s work for pastors immemorial — it’s our body, our life, our church, our baptism, our faith, our death. You get the idea. Now imagine you’re the first guy

Read More »

The Walmart Fairy

Want to know when you can be sure the economy is in the turlet? It’s when even Walmart’s not hiring. According to this item, the company has hired essentially nobody for the last six years. Nobody says it’s since the bankers ripped us off again and the government let them, and all the oceans stopped

Read More »