Most Excellent (A)
1. Murder by the Book (Jack Cassidy)
Jack in one of a number of memorable turns on the show plays one half of a successful writing team...the untalented half. When his partner makes it known his intentions to break up the team, Cassidy's character makes sure he regrets that decision.
2. Blueprint For Murder (Patrick O'Neal)
Forrest Tucker makes a brief but memorable turn as an obnoxious Texas developer who gets the short end of the jerky stick when his architect murders him to keep a proposed building project from being axed.
3. Ransom for a Dead Man (Lee Grant)
A lawyer (Grant) kills her husband for the insurance money and makes the whole thing look like a kidnapping. It never hurt the Columbo series that most of the guest stars were actors or actresses every bit as talented as Peter Falk himself.
4. Suitable for Framing (Ross Martin)
Ross Martin kills his uncle for a valuable art collection and tries to pin the whole thing on said uncle's first wife. Full of 70s atmosphere - man what big cars they had. Don Ameche is the special guest star - he looks about 10 years younger than he is.
5. Death Lends a Hand (1971)
Robert Culp guests as the owner of a powerful detective agency who murders a client's wife. An unplanned murder, and some clever detective work by Columbo. Ray Milland is the special guest star & does an excellent job.
6. Lady in Waiting (Susan Clark)
A woman kills her brother in order to take over the family company. She attempts to make it seem like a case of mistaken identity thinking he is an intruder. Leslie Nielsen guest stars as her non-bumbling boyfriend.
Below Average (D)
7. Dead Weight (Eddie Albert)
To cover his tracks, a retired General (and war hero) murders his partner in defrauding the government. An odd, rather dull episode that tries something different and fails. Usually, the show focuses on Columbo and the Killer. Here we get away from the usual cat-and-mouse game to focus on a 3rd person - the murder witness played by Suzanne Pleshette. Pleshette gets almost as much airtime as Eddie Albert. Further, the murder is unplanned, Killer's post murder actions are unbelievable, and the ending seems rushed and rather obvious. Finally, Albert is simply too amiable and lacks the charisma of the typical Columbo killer.
8. Short Fuse (Roddy McDowell)
While good as an ape - McDowell simply doesn't have the star power to play a Columbo Villain and the story itself is average.
Season 1 overall
Compared to later seasons, Season One focuses more on the killer and the special guest star than Colombo. For example, in "Blueprint for Murder" Colombo doesn't show up until 20 minutes in, and a lot of attention is paid to the "Special Guest Stars" which include Forrest Tucker, Ray Milland, Don Ameche, Suzanne Pleshette, and Leslie Neilson. Further, the killers are usually caught because of their post murder behavior and traps set by Columbo - as opposed to simply analyzing the evidence. Cassidy kills a witness, O'Neal decides to move the body, Grant pays off her daughter to keep silent, Culp goes back to retrieve evidence, Matin kills a 2nd time and plants evidence, and Albert stalks and romances the potential witness to the murder. Falk is much more bumbling and less arrogant in the early shows.