My 10 favourite TV performances

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A while ago, my mate Robert Dick mooted assembling a list of his 10 favourite TV performances. It got me thinking, so here’s mine. What are your favourites?

* Peter Falk (Columbo in Columbo)

* Martin Freeman (Tim Canterbury in The Office)

* Tamsin Greig (Alice Chenery in Love Soup)

* Allison Janney (CJ Cregg in The West Wing)

* David Jason (Del Boy Trotter in Only Fools and Horses)

* Shelley Long (Diane Chambers in Cheers)

* James Marsters (Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

* Bob Peck (Ronald Craven in Edge of Darkness)

* Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing in Friends)

* David Suchet (Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Poirot)

Narrowing it down to 10 was tough. I didn’t have room for Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation), Bradley Whitford (Danny Tripp in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), John Cleese (Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers), Terry O’Quinn (John Locke in Lost), Kirstie Alley (Rebecca Howe in Cheers), John Thaw (Morse in Inspector Morse), Hugh Fraser (Captain Hastings in Agatha Christie’s Poirot), Jason Alexander (George Costanza in Seinfeld), Dexter Fletcher (Spike Thompson in Press Gang) and others that have slipped my mind.

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My 10 favourite episodes of Columbo

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* Prescription: Murder (20 February 1968) – Peter Falk debuted in this ‘one-off’ TV movie, told entirely from the point of view of the killer (a psychiatrist played by Gene Barry who offs his wife and gives himself an elaborate alibi).

* Murder by the Book (15 September 1971) – the first episode once the show went to a series. Written by Steven Bochco and directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s about a crime novelist who wants rid of his writing partner. The murderer’s played by Jack Cassidy in the first of three Columbo-killer appearances.

* The Greenhouse Jungle (15 October 1972) – which is notable for the murderer being Ray Milland, surely a piece of knowing casting. He also played the bad guy in Dial M For Murder, a Hitchcock movie that’s more or less a pilot for the Columbo format.

* Any Old Port in a Storm (7 October 1973) – Donald Pleasance is superb as a wine-connoisseur murderer who uses a clever way to shift the apparent time of death.

* Forgotten Lady (14 September 1975) – a devilishly clever script, in which Janet Leigh kills her husband. Why she did it, why she shouldn’t have done it, and what happens next are all marvellous twists.

* Now You See Him… (29 February 1976) – Jack Cassidy returns to play a charismatic magician who uses his act to stage an alibi.

* The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (22 May 1977) – Theodore Bikel plays a member of Mensa-type club who murders his colleague. Columbo has to go toe-to-toe with a genius to prove he’s a killer.

* Agenda for Murder (10 February 1990) – Patrick McGoohan (in one of his four murderer roles) won an Emmy for playing a lawyer who kills someone who’s blackmailing him. McGoohan also directed the episode.

* Butterfly in Shades of Grey (10 January 1994) – in perhaps the series’s most ingenious plot, William Shatner plays a radio shock-jock who wants to kill a man who’s helping his daughter.

* Columbo Likes the Nightlife (30 January 2003) – the show got bonkers near the end, with episodes that broke from the formula, involved Columbo going undercover and cosying up to the mob, and even one without a murder. In this final episode, the show goes all Quentin Tarantino for a flamboyantly directed thriller about a nightclub. British actor Matthew Rhys was the show’s last ever killer.