Wednesday, October 24, 1979
Television Reviews
With Kate Mulgrew, Henry Jones, Lili Haydn, Don Stroud, Dee Wallace, John Aprea, Tom Stenschulte, Ted Danson, Howard Witt, Robert Feero, Deborah Shelton, Charles Thomas Murphy
Supplier: Universal TV
Exec Producer: Bill Driskill Supervising Producer: Jim McAdams
Producers: Merwin Gerard, Stuart Cohen
Director: Don Medford
Writer: Larry Hertzog
60 Mins., Thurs., 10 p.m.
"Kate Loves A Mystery," which started out as a short flight pilot series called "Mrs. Columbo" when it aired last season, went through title changes of "Kate Columbo" and "Kate The Detective" before it made its season debut under the "Mystery" handle Thursday (18). The skein does not seem to have undergone any fundamental alterations other than the introduction of Don Stroud as a police detective friendly to the lead character.

The "Columbo" identification, which was more for b.o. appeal than plot necessity, seems to have been dropped completely and star Kate Mulgrew, at least in the opening stanza, was merely Kate No-last-name, a reporter for a paper in "the valley" (presumably in the Greater Los Angeles area). As the title implies, she is nosey about homicides - in fact, she appeared downright meddlesome in the homicide in question, the demise of a housewife involved in afternoon prostitution.

After considerable mucking around gathering the dimensions of the racket, plus a finale featuring a high-speed car chase, the hour came to an end without any clearcut indication that the murder had been solved - although the head villain had Kate at gunpoint during the car chase, which is not evidence that he killed the victim. Apparently Kate loves a mystery but is only lukewarm about evidence that will stand up in court.

All of which suggests that "Kate's" hiatus time has been devoted to making interior changes that don't matter rather than adjustments that would. Mulgrew is not the problem - she has a strong personality and presence that wears very well, and deserves plot challenges that involve something more complex than being put in personal jeopardy. Her regular support -- Henry Jones, Lili Haydn and Stroud - had little to do in the opener, a particular waste of Stroud, an actor of strong presence who deserves a better function than being merely the cop who bails her out of trouble when muscle is needed.

"Kate" is thus still a skein without a clear focus on what it intends to be. Mulgrew has the potential to register strongly as the series lead, but she must be given sturdier material to accomplish that goal. - Bok.

Mrs. Columbo
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Kate Columbo/Kate Loves A Mystery/Kate The Detective
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