This case—it has me stumped!” says Peter Falk’s Lieutenant Columbo early on in Columbo: It’s All in the Game (ABC, Oct. 31, 9-11 p.m.). A bit later in this new TV movie, the creased crime fighter slaps his head and moans, ”This case—it’s got me wacky!” Well, you won’t be stumped or wacky watching It’s All in the Game. Like all Columbos, you get to see whodunit-in this case, it is the murder of a raven-haired lothario (Armando Pucci)—in the opening minutes. The primary guest star and suspect is Faye Dunaway, freshly hiatused from her soggy sitcom It Had To Be You. Game is, by contrast, one of the crispest, most clever Columbos in some time. Written by Falk, it has the sort of rigorous clue-detecting that series creators Richard Levinson and William Link used to provide.
Falk hits just the right notes in his performance, managing to avoid the kind of parody to which the Columbo character has been subjected by all too many comedians over the years. The movie’s subplot—in which Dunaway’s classy-dame character finds herself attracted to the hapless detective, flirting with him, pecking him on his five-o’clock-shadowed cheek, even buying him a new tie—is corny, but it’s enjoyably corny and doesn’t get in the way of the mystery. Airing opposite a new, ghastly woman-put-through-the-wringer TV movie (CBS’ No Child of Mine), this Columbo seems more entertaining than the ones we’ve seen lately. B+