Columbo Goes to College

Episode 56 – Columbo Goes to College

The fifty fourth episode of Columbo was titled Columbo Goes to College and was the first episode of the show’s tenth season. A pair of privileged college students kill their professor to avoid punishment for cheating on an exam. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a particularly arrogant couple of killers and the welcome return of a much-loved face.



Cooper Redman (Gary Hershberger) clearly enjoys being the big man on campus, but when a third girl in eighteen months has an abortion following a night with him, his father reaches the end of his tether and threatens to cut him off if there is one more screw-up. Meanwhile his friend Justin Rowe (Stephen Caffrey) has managed to copy the questions for an upcoming exam. When their professor, D.E. Rusk (James Sutorius) discovers the transgression it seems both boys could be facing the end of their respective academic careers. Their solution is to kill the professor and hope blame falls on the mob; his ex-lover Mrs Clark (Katherine Cannon); or her husband, the aptly named Coach Not-Appearing-In-This-Film.


Robert Culp returns to the show as Rowe’s father, the university’s legal counsel, while William Lucking and Jim Antonio play Dominic and Joe Doyle – an ex-con and his brother – who are temporarily positioned as fall guys for the boys’ scheme. Bridget Hanley appears briefly as Rusk’s widow, while Maree Cheatham has her moments as Rowe’s mother.


Director E.W. Swackhamer helmed his only Columbo episode, while Jeffrey Bloom followed up the excellent Agenda for Murder by penning this script, the second of his three for the show, from a story he conceived along with Frederick King Keller – now better known for his directorial work.


If you have thoughts on any aspect of Columbo Goes to College, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.


Columbo Goes to College was released in 1990. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    To each and every one of my fellow Columbo enthusiasts here on the forum: I wish you a Very Merry Christmas! 🙂

    • And to you!

    • Ian Baxter

      Happy Christmas Largo!

    • Red Hobbes

      Merry Christmas Largo!

  • Roberto

    Yes, Happy Holidays to all in the Columbo Podcast universe, Gerry and Iain and all listeners. We have a nice little community here and thanks to all who make it so fun.

    Now on to the coal in the stockings. I have not yet listened to this week’s podcast, and I am fully aware that this episode/movie is a favorite among some Columbo fans. But “Columbo Goes To College” is one of my least favorite Columbo offerings of all time. I would rather watch an endless loop of “Commodore” than one more viewing of this tripe. To coin a phrase, I hate “Columbo Goes To College” with the heat of a thousand suns.

    For the sake of the season I will not offer a long list of my negative opinions of this episode. I hope others enjoyed it much more than I did, including Iain and Gerry. I look forward to listening to the podcast.

    • Quite surprised with that Roberto. Thought it held up ok!

    • You never know how a show will come off to a particular person. I thought this one was pretty good–towards the upper end of par, anyway. But I also thought Dagger of the Mind was a fun episode, and I’m definitely in the minority there 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    A fun episode, although I agree with the podcast guys about wanting a little bit more in the gotcha moment. Just one thing to pick you up on… Robert Culp killed 3 men and 1 woman.

    • Good catch.

    • I thought this Gotcha rocked. The looks on those boys faces was priceless. Admittedly, it would have been even better if Rowe’s dad were there to see it.

      • Ian Baxter

        IF Culp had been there we’d have a couple of options…
        1. He backs his son up and leaves with them on a defiant note.
        2. He is left looking shocked, stunned and broken.
        3. (my personal preference) He has a Scrooge moment, sees the light, pays Columbo a great compliment, sides with justice and turns on the boys at their defiant outcry saying they won’t get off, putting the final nail in the coffin.
        I love the ‘what ifs’ of Columbo… like what if Iain had spent his childhood watching Columbo 🙂

        • Definitely agree, Ian. Number 3 would have been awesome!

          • Red Hobbes

            Or there could’ve been a 4th option, where Culp appears as the previous killers that Columbo caught and repeatedly shake their fists at the two boys, all grumbling about how if THEY were Rowe’s father they’d’ve raised him better. 😉

          • Hah! Now why did that bring Scooby Doo to mind…? [Shakes fist] “And I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for these darn kids!”

          • I like this one.

  • Red Hobbes

    This was a very solid episode. IMO, possibly in the top 10 all time Columbo episodes if for no other reason than the sheer arrogance and cold detachment of the killers.

    The gotcha isn’t the strongest, and that’s unfortunate given how strong the story was up to that point. As I think about it, I think what derailed the gotcha was how long the scene went. If they had trimmed maybe five minutes from it, it would’ve been perfect.

    It was great to see Robert Culp again, but his appearance and character raised a question that always bugged me about the later episodes. Whenever an “All Important Big Shot” or AIBS tries to throw his or her weight around and threaten Columbo with their connections, I always wanted to see them go and see the DA or someone and discover just who the hell Columbo is, and his record. It’s a trope that served it’s purpose at the beginning of the series, but now at this point it’s overstayed it’s welcome, IMO.

    I’m about to listen to the podcast now guys.

    Oh, just one more thing… Happy Holidays everyone!

    • Definitely wouldn’t be in a top ten (if I had one), but a solid episode for me. I thought Falk played Columbo a bit to dopey at times, but much of that may have been purposely done, as in Columbo deliberately pulling the wool over the kids’ eyes.

      • Red Hobbes

        That’s how I took it, Columbo playing along to his suspects expectations.

        • Makes sense, Red. Even so, he could’ve dialed it back a bit, for my tastes, and still got the point across loud and clear. Still a fine episode, as is.

        • Largo

          Exactly! Good ol’ Columbo outthinking and outmaneuvering those two smarty pants jerks! Great stuff that ranks in my own top ten revival episodes list!

    • Largo

      “This was a very solid episode. IMO, possibly in the top 10 all time Columbo episodes if for no other reason than the sheer arrogance and cold detachment of the killers.”

      My feelings exactly, Red! I agree that the ‘Gotcha!’ sequence should have been much more polished at the scripting stage, let alone during the actual filming and the editing of same. Both of the killers are arrogant jerks with self-entitlement issues to the max. It is truly enjoyable when Columbo drops the net on these two boys that think they’re both mature and adult males! Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Show Notes: Enjoyed the interview with Lucking, and that old interview with Bridget Hanley was a hoot. Check this out: I went to Ms. Hanley’s wikipedia page to learn a little more about her, and it had the following to say:

    Hanley married Egbert Warnderink “E. W.” Swackhamer Jr., a producer and director of Here Come The Brides, on April 26, 1969. Together they had two daughters, Bronwyn and Megan.

    Did you guys call out that she was the director’s wife in the podcast? If so I missed it. And holy crap, if my name was Egbert Warnderink, I’d be going by E.W., too.

    Thought the interview with Fred Keller was interesting as well.

    • We caught the daughter, but not the wife, I think.

      • Yeah, interesting. I wonder how many relatives would have cropped up in some of the earlier episodes, if they had named all the minor characters in the credits. Definitely, this second series does a better job of crediting all the actors who actually appear in the show, if even for a moment.

  • Just finished the podcast with the missus and it was enjoyable as always. I thought Gerry and Iain did a nice job of extolling the episode’s virtues as well as pointing out its various flaws. Every episode has flaws of course, but none in this one were enough to take away from its enjoyment.

    Merry Christmas, all!

  • rachel critchley

    I watch this episode on a regular basis because it’s such a pleasure to watch Gary Hershberger and Stephen Caffrey. They give perfect understated performances, I still kinda believe they were the closest of friends. I love to watch Gary Hershberger during the last scene, how he keeps his smile straight while freaking out with his eyes.

    • I caught that, too. He makes a great job of slowly unraveling as Columbo tightens his net.

    • Agree with this. Great camaraderie between the pair.

    • CarlosMu

      Yes I thought they were great. Usually I don’t enjoy when the actors are kind of unknowns, but these two were great.

  • CarlosMu

    Was I the only one confused about the plane tickets? Why was he asking everyone about plane tickets that didn’t exist?

    • Because he had invented the plane ticket story, he knew anyone that said they were aware of them must be lying.

  • Just got around to watching this episode: very good performances all round. I particularly liked Rowe Jr’s impression of Frank. Gary Hershberger – who played Mike in Twin Peaks – was instantly recognisable to me, but I thought that both young actors were superb. Thoroughly enjoyable and I now look forward to catching up on the podcast.

  • skydog

    “This is amazing. Are you saying, are you saying that Dominic Doyle, Lieutenant, did all of this right underneath our noses? In our own truck?” LMAO

    I thought this was a great episode. That being said, it was a crying shame to not see Robert Culp get his comeuppance. How in the world did they set that up and not pay it off? The boys even used him in their plan and Columbo doesn’t even play that card.

    Coop and Justin were perfectly smug and overconfident and not only tried to nudge Columbo in a certain direction, they practically force-fed him rumors and false leads.

    I laughed out loud when Columbo hit the wall while parking his car. Coop and Justin also had Columbo’s mannerisms down after about a day of knowing him. Too bad they couldn’t keep a straight face until they were out of Columbo’s sight.

    Anyone else have a flashback to “A Friend In Deed” when Columbo revealed that the car belonged to his wife and the killers were the only ones who knew the description and could plant the evidence?