Turns out, Columbo had one more international case to solve.
Spending this past year stuck indoors allowed people to watch lots of old TV shows. Some of us caught up on TV history. For example, did you know that in 1974, Peter Falk had to address the people of Romania to stop an uprising over a lack of Columbo episodes?
For the uninitiated, Columbo was an American TV show starring Falk as a detective who was always asking one more question and getting the answers he wanted out of suspects. The show originally aired on NBC from 1971 to 1978.
It was hugely popular back in the day and had a reputation for having huge guest stars like John Cassavettes and Leonard Nimoy. And the popularity of the show was not just in the United States, but worldwide.
In Romania, people loved Columbo. They loved it so much that when the show's 1974 season ran out of episodes, they began revolting. And the government got very worried.
Just learned that Columbo was so big in Romania that when new episodes stopped being made, the Romanian government feared citizens would start a revolution and Peter Falk was called in by the US State Department to cool things down pic.twitter.com/mFTTJTsuWA
Just learned that Columbo was so big in Romania that when new episodes stopped being made, the Romanian government feared citizens would start a revolution and Peter Falk was called in by the US State Department to cool things down pic.twitter.com/mFTTJTsuWA— John Frankensteiner (@JFrankensteiner) June 11, 2021
As you can read in that tweet, Twitter user John Frankensteiner dug up a 1989 Chicago Tribune article describing the incident. While many people cried "bullshit," the AV Club found a Peter Falk interview where he describes the whole incident.
As Falk states, there was a Romanian Government quota on how much American television the people could watch. And when the people ran out of Columbo, they wanted more. And they were willing to fight for it.
The only problem was, Columbo only averaged around 10 episodes a season, so there were not more episodes, but the Romanian people were convinced the government was lying to them and hoarding the detective series.
The US State Department arranged a meeting between Falk and a Romanian representative in New York. They convinced him to read a speech in Romanian, to quell the people. The speech was written out phonetically, and thanks to Wikileaks, we have it for you here.
"EXCUSE ME. DO YOU HAVE A MINUTE? ALO. I'M LT. COLOMBO... SOMETIMES I'M KNOWN AS PETER FALK. WHEN AN ACTOR PORTRAYS A ROLE, HE HOPES HE'S CREATING A CHARACTER THAT THE AUDIENCE CAN IDENTIFY WITH, AND FROM WHAT WE'VE HEARD HERE IN HOLLYWOOD ABOUT ROMANIA'S ACCEPTANCE OF THE COLOMBO SHOW, I GUESS WE MUST HAVE BEEN DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. SERIOUSLY, I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MUCH EVERYONE CONNECTED WITH THE COLOMBO SHOW FEELS ABOUT RECEIVING SUCH HEARTWARMING NEWS. WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK ROMANIAN TELEVISION FOR HAVING PUT US ON THE AIR ON SATURDAYS AND SUNDAYS. BUT MOST OF ALL, ALL OF US, MYSELF AND THE CREW AND THE OTHER ACTORS, WE WANT TO THANK THE ROMANIAN PEOPLE FOR THEIR GREAT RESPONSE TO OUR SHOW. I HOPE SOMEDAY I CAN COME TO YOUR COUNTRY AND ENJOY THE TRADITIONAL CULTURE AND HOSPITALITY OF THE ROMANIAN PEOPLE. IN THE MEANTIME, COLOMBO WILL BE SEEING YOU AGAIN ON TELEVISION THIS FALL. UNTIL THEN, ONCE AGAIN, MY THANKS AND MY BEST TO EVERYBODY."
This is obviously very strange, but if you've seen a Columbo episode, you know they're really fun and could get addicting, especially if you thought a higher power was keeping them from you.
Let us know what you think of this wild story in the comments.