It was 1971. Both Steven Spielberg and Steven Bochco were in their 20s, just starting out and yet to make their mark as icons of film and TV. Spielberg was largely an episodic director in television a few years away from his first blockbuster, Jaws. Future 10-time Emmy winner Bochco had co-created his first series, the 1969 NBC medical drama The Bold Ones: The New Doctors and had just landed a writing job on the hit NBC detective drama Columbo starring Peter Falk.
The first episode he penned was the Sept. 15 1971 series premiere, Murder By the Book, which followed two TV movies that aired in 1968 and 1971 and served as pilots. Spielberg was hired to direct Murder By the Book. The duo’s collaboration launched a hit series that had a successful 10-season run on NBC and ABC. (Above is a photo from a celebration of Columbo‘s 30th anniversary where series star Falk was presented with a copy of the Murder by the Book script signed by Bochco and Spielberg.)
And while Spielberg and Bochco’s professional paths diverged after their work on Columbo, they remained close for the past 47 years. Bochco recently appeared in the 2017 HBO Spielberg documentary about the life and career of the Oscar-winning director. Here is what Spielberg said tonight about Bochco’s passing, which has prompted outpouring from Hollywood.
“Steve was a friend and a colleague starting with the first episode of Columbo in 1971 that he wrote and I directed. We have supported and inspired each other ever since and through many deep mutual friendships we have stayed connected for 47 years. I will miss Steve terribly.”