Charles Santore, Columbo: Peter Faulk

Acrylic on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of the Artist, 2018
12 x 16 in.

Columbo was Santore’s first cover for TV Guide. The exaggerated size of the hand holding a cigar and the beige raincoat highlight the character’s trademark features. Interestingly, the saturated pink background was highly controversial. TV Guide editor Merrill Panitt hated the pink and would only purchase the illustration if the background were changed to blue.

Actor Peter Falk (1927–2011) was well known for his starring role in Columbo, a crime drama series. His character often diverted his suspects with his unkempt appearance and seeming absentmindedness but eventually caught them with his unrelenting approach and formidable attention to detail. Rather than being a traditional “whodunit” detective show, Columbo popularized the “howcatchem” approach, which reveals the culprit in the beginning and then proceeds to show the detective’s crime solving process. In the sitcom there is a dimension of class struggle: Columbo is a working-class detective and his adversaries, often played by important television stars, are wealthy and successful characters who commit murder because they have lost touch with reality.

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