As the murder is being committed in this episode, the butler and the maid are watching the 'Tonight' show with Johnny Carson (TVXOHOF member in January of 2007). We get to see several clips covering the entire episode, from Johnny's monologue to his goodnight to the audience and a look at who would be on the next show. This would turn out to be important in the Lieutenant's investigation in establishing the timeline for the murder that night.
But it also helped this televisiologist in establishing the date when this murder took place as well.
First off, here is the dialogue from those excerpts from Carson's show.....
We'll begin with the monologue:
CARSON: I'd like to announce before I start, the producers of "The Towering Inferno", "Poseidon Adventure", "Earthquake" are all contributing to the rest of my monologue tonight.
And then Johnny and Doc Severinson welcome their guest, Della Reese:
DELLA: How you feeling?
JOHNNY: l'm fine. l've not seen you for a long time.
DELLA: Yes, a long time. And l've been here several times, and I still think the monologues are great.
JOHNNY: Thank you. But they're not an aphrodisiac.
DELLA: Sometimes you're pretty good, Johnny.
JOHNNY: You, too?
DELLA: Yeah, you'd be surprised how sexy you look through my feet like that.
Johnny makes a quip about the two-way qualities of working in television:
JOHNNY: I probably shouldn't mention this because it'll give away secrets that were long kept in television.... We have a device, you know, in television, where you can also look out.
DELLA: Well, you sure had fun looking in my room, haven't you? Oh, yes. Yes, you have!
JOHNNY: You're an active squirrel....
We see an old man sitting in the chair next to Johnny's desk, but Della Reese is still cutting in:
DELLA: And l'm one of the few of us who have no rhythm.
JOHNNY: You never took singing lessons, per se, did you?
(It could be that I'm wrong (It wouldn't be the first time!) as to the identity of that first speaker. With that sound quality, it could be the old man was the one who had no rhythm.
And then Johnny makes his goodbyes and announces the next show:
JOHNNY: [Inaudible] will be here Monday with Steve Allen, Elke Sommer, Howie Lipton, prize fighter Wina Sturgeon, and a juggling professor, Jim Reinhart. Thank you all. Have a nice weekend!
One transcript site had Johnny saying "We'll be here Monday," but based on my research I know it has to be "MacLean Stevenson" as the guest host.
Here's what I came up with.
I was already predisposed to have that movie premiere for "Song And Dance" happen on a Friday night, especially since Johnny's sign-off indicated that the next show would be on Monday. But Friday just felt like a better night to hold such a gala.
So I needed an episode of 'Tonight' with Della Reese as one of the guests, with Johnny definitely hosting (he was known for taking a lot of nights off), and it had to have been broadcast on a Friday night.
I had one other clue - the three movies mentioned in the monologue. This episode had to happen after they had all opened; so with 'Earthquake' being the last (released in December of 1974), I figured it wouldn't be until some point in 1975 when all three disaster movies had fully permeated the public consciousness.
A quick search for "Della" on the Wikipedia page for the 'Tonight' show guest list for 1975 gave me the answer:
June 27, 1975
There were three guests that night:
- Earl Holliman
- Euell Gibbons and
- Della Reese as the musical guest.
What seals the deal is the description of the episode from the following Monday, June 30, 1975:
McLean Stevenson (guest host)
with Steve Allen.
I'm guessing that Wikipedia list is incomplete.
As for the other guests on the episode we're interested in, we never do see Earl Holliman, who was probably on first and schilling for 'Police Woman'. Good thing then - who needs another Zonk to disable?
And that means the old man was Euell Gibbons of "wild hickory nuts" fame as a Serlinguist expousing the benefits of Grape Nuts cereal.
But I'm glad they used Della Reese instead of Holliman and Gibbons because she can connect 'Columbo' to 'Sanford And Son':
- "Della, Della, Della" (1975)
"If Della Reese
is your niece,
is Attila the Hun."
Fred G. Sanford
Fred was a poet and didn't even realize it......
One last note - back then, the 'Tonight' show ran an hour and a half. And that played into Columbo's investigation.
I thought I had written about this before, but I couldn't find the blog post. No matter. This time I have pictures!