Columbo walked right by Jim Rockford's trailer home and you probably missed it
A familiar Rockford Files face even shows up in the episode.
The Seventies gave us some eventful television crossovers. Charlie's Angels boarded The Love Boat. Barnaby Jones buddied up with Cannon for "The Deadly Conspiracy." The Six Million Dollar Man fused circuits with The Bionic Woman. Heck, even Mannix got tangled up (literally) with Lucy in "Lucy and Mannix Are Held Hostage."
But those shows were related in some way, spin-offs and parents, sharing a creator. It's tantalizing to think about the crossovers we didn't get to see. Private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) and homicide detective Lt. Columbo both operated in Los Angeles at the same time. They were on the same network, NBC. It makes sense that a case could have brought them together.
Alas, the Rockford Files / Columbo crossover never happened. Well, not officially. Because Columbo happened to stroll right by Rockford's "house."
"An Exercise in Fatality" kicked off the fourth season of Columbo. The rugged Robert Conrad played the owner of a health club chain who killed one of his franchisees. The former Wild Wild West star sports tracksuits and a deep tan. His character, Milo Janus, enjoys a brisk swim in the Pacific Ocean.
In fact, Columbo goes to meet Janus at the beach. Janus wears nothing but red trunks. Columbo, naturally, stomps through the sand in his raincoat and slacks.
But take a close look at the location of their meeting. Columbo parks next to an oceanside restaurant and walks to the water, waving at Janus. Does the building seem familiar?
That restaurant is none other than the Paradise Cove Beach Café, where Jim Rockford parked his trailer home in the parking lot. The establishment sits at 28128 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
And here's another fun coincidence: "An Exercise in Fatality" originally aired on September 15, 174 — two days after the series premiere of The Rockford Files on September 13, 1974. There is one caveat. In early episodes of The Rockford Files, Jim kept his trailer at the Tonga Lei Restaurant & Lounge, a few miles east in Malibu at 22878 Pacific Coast Highway. Still, it's cool to see the familiar stomping grounds on another crime show.
Oh, and that is not the only mystery series to visit the Paradise Cove parking lot. Check out this shot from "Keep the Home Fries Burning," a season-two tale of Murder, She Wrote.
Hey, that's not Maine!
Wait. There is one more curious connection between this Columbo episode and The Rockford Files. "An Exercise in Fatality" features Gretchen Corbett as a whipsmart secretary.
A handful of days later, Corbett would make her debut on The Rockford Files as Beth Davenport in "The Dark and Bloody Ground." Her attorney character would become a fan-favorite over 33 episodes of the series.
The only thing missing is a gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit.