Columbo: Breaking Gifted Stereotypes


Columbo has been keeping me company lately.  While I am preparing supper and cleaning up the day’s dishes, Columbo is solving mysteries in the background.  If you have never seen Columbo, it deserves a look.  The series aired from 1968-1978 starring Peter Falk.  Columbo is a homicide detective that investigates suspicious deaths among the rich and famous in the Los Angeles area.  Unlike many recent detective shows that rely on forensic evidence, Columbo usually solves cases through logic.

I love how Columbo presents a picture of giftedness that isn’t stereotypical.  Giftedness is often stereotyped as a geeky, socially-awkward individual that is obviously highly intelligent.  Columbo very much goes against that stereotype and presents a picture of giftedness that often goes unrecognized.

Seeing Things Differently

Gifted individuals often see the world with different eyes.  They may see the same things that everyone else sees, but come to different conclusions about it.  In the show, Columbo repeatedly saw details that others missed.  These details would usually lead to him solving the case even when it was obvious to everyone else that it was an accidental death.


Some gifted individuals can become so lost in thought that they absentmindedly do something that makes them look ridiculous.  In one episode Columbo was lost in thought in an immaculate home.  As he was deep in thought, his cigar dropped ashes onto a pristine floor.  In another show, he bumped into things causing a TV production to stop.  He often gives the appearance of a buffoon who doesn’t know what he is doing.   This absentmindedness is far from absentminded.  In fact, gifted individuals who appear absentminded are usually deep in thought and may have several different lines of thought going on at once.

Social Competence

Another feature I love about the non-stereotypical treatment of giftedness in Columbo is his social competence.  He quickly makes the suspects comfortable and uses his bumbly, stumbly persona to gain more information.  Every once in a while you will see him depart from his persona to show that much of it is an act in order to solve the case.


Giftedness is so often stereotyped in reel life.  It was refreshing to watch Columbo and see giftedness played out in a way that often goes unrecognized.  Have you seen any of the Columbo series?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Many different bloggers have come together to talk about giftedness in reel life.  Stop by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum to read more.



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  2. I remember Columbo and I loved that show. You brought out facts and points about his giftedness I had never really thought about. This was so enlightening! Thanks!
    Celi Trepanier recently posted…Gifted Kids Turn Out “Just Fine”My Profile

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  4. Thanks for this! I kind of get irked when people imply that all gifted folks are bookish and socially awkward! Another show that this makes me think of is Psych!
    Aurora recently posted…There’s Not Enough Time for All of My Awesome!My Profile

  5. I watched this show as a kid, and I think I shall be revisiting it again. 😀

  6. I really enjoyed watching Colombo! I loved his tenacity and attention to minute details under cover of his bumbling absentmindedness.
    “Just one more thing…”
    Jo Freitag recently posted…Gifted in Reel LifeMy Profile

  7. Love this – especially the part about his social competence. I know many, many gifted people who are very good with people. I haven’t watched this show in years, but I’ll have to check it out again!
    Stacey recently posted…Quite InterestingMy Profile

  8. “This absentmindedness is far from absentminded. In fact, gifted individuals who appear absentminded are usually deep in thought and may have several different lines of thought going on at once.” << Exactly! I was just discussing this with a friend the other day! I haven't watched this show in a long time…I might have to add it to my list. 🙂

  9. We watched this show when I was a kid, and I was always fascinated by Columbo. It never occurred to me to think of him in these ways. He’s definitely in the line of detectives that began with Sherlock. Thanks for the insights!
    Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew recently posted…{GHF Blog Hop} That New Show About Kids Who Are “Geniuses”? Yeah, Let’s Talk About ThatMy Profile

    • Eclectic Homeschooling

      Yes. I was watching it recently and I started to notice some things that I hadn’t seen when I watched it years ago. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  10. Oh my gosh, I had completely forgotten about Columbo! I will have to revisit the show!
    Cait Fitz @ My Little Poppies recently posted…From leaky buckets to chuck-it-bucketsMy Profile

  11. I’m excited to check out Columbo with fresh perspective. Thanks for the recommendation!
    Bob Yamtich recently posted…The Extraordinary Empathy of a Data Analyzing Robot Youth LifeformMy Profile

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