Peter Falk Peter Falk

If you're a Peter Falk fan, you may be wondering why the five-time Emmy winner hasn't been gracing the small screen much in recent years. Since his last turn as America's most diligent detective (in 2003's Columbo Likes the Nightlife), save for a pair of TV-movies in which he played an angel named Max, Falk sightings have been scarce.

Regarding his next appearance in Columbo's trademark trench coat, Falk tells, "There's a bit of a problem. The script that I like, the network doesn't like. The script that they like, I don't like." What, we ask, is not to like about the follow-up that Falk favors? "That is a good question. A good question," he says, nodding. ABC wants Columbo's next case to center around the world of lingerie models, "so you can see why they would prefer that one."

Sure, other material comes his way, "but they send me things that I wonder why they would send to anybody," the actor reports with a laugh. "I should have been coming up with things [of my own to star in], but I never did. The golf course was calling, and there I went." That is, when he wasn't creating art with his charcoals. "I draw mostly women — and some of them have their clothes on!"

Falk, who admits that he doesn't watch much of today's television — "but like everybody else, I liked Seinfeld" — tells us that he is open to a juicy prime-time guest-star turn, à la Fred Willard on Everybody Loves Raymond or Cloris Leachman on Malcolm in the Middle, should the right one come along. "If I saw the part and it was really funny and it would be a lot of fun to do, I'd do it. But so far, I haven't seen anything."

In the meantime, fans can catch Falk at the multiplex in The Thing About My Folks (opening tonight in select cities), in which he plays pop to Paul Reiser, who also wrote the comedy. "He's a hell of a writer," says Falk. "There's something about his writing that is very real."

Folks sends the two men on an unplanned road trip, during which Reiser's character presents his dad with a sadly illuminating letter written decades earlier by the mother/wife character (Olympia Dukakis), who has just walked out on her husband. The actual instant in which Falk begins his commentary on the missive's message is one of the actor's favorites. "You can see that, emotionally, he is deeply, deeply affected," he says, setting the scene. "And when he gets done with the letter, he stands up, doesn't say anything, takes one step, then two, three and four, and it's still dead silence. And on the sixth step, as he's walking past the son, he says one word, and I guarantee you, folks, you will never anticipate what that word is.

"When I first read the script, I fell off the chair, I laughed so hard," Falk adds. "It's a terrific piece of writing."

The way Falk raves about that scene, and others in the film, proves that even after nearly 50 years in the business, he still relishes what he does for a living. And to think he worried about getting his own dad's approval! Recalling the moment he told his father, a workaholic store owner, that he wanted to go into acting, Falk reveals, "He said, 'You're going to paint your face and make an ass of yourself for the rest of your life?' He then put out his hand [to shake] and said, 'Good luck.'" Falk nods his head. "That guy was all right."