Wednesday, February 28, 1979
Television Reviews
Mrs. Columbo
(NBC Monday Night At The Movies)
With Kate Mulgrew, Henry Jones, Lili Haydn, Robert Culp, Edie Adams, Bob Dishy, Rene Auberjonois, Priscilla Pointer, Allan Rich, Frederic Forrest, Barney Martin, Christopher Allport, Herb Armstrong
Supplier: Gambit Prods. & Universal TV
Exec Producer-Writer: Richard Alan Simmons
Producer: James McAdams Director: Boris Sagal
120 Mins., Mon. (26), 9 p.m. NBC-TV
Peter Falk, overloaded with theatrical-film offers, walked out of "Columbo" while it was still getting respectable Nielsens. So NBC has decided to keep at least the name alive by giving flesh to the wife of Lt. Columbo. She was referred to in the original series but never seen on camera.

With the talented Kate Mulgrew in the part, "Mrs. Columbo" is a plump, intelligent bundle of energy who's trying to do the housework, rear a seven-year-old daughter and hold down a job as reporter for the kind of weekly community paper that's distributed free to the supermarkets in the Los Angeles suburb where she lives.

It also appears she's going to be asked to solve crimes as a sort of amateur sleuth. Hollywood tv writers are ingenious people, but one wonders how they're going to dream up pretexts to get her involved in new murder mysteries week after week.

The two-hour pilot episode, for example, asked the audience to believe in the following premise: a successful lawyer (Robert Culp) is so concerned about the wife (Edie Adams) he doesn't love any more despite her devotion to him that he arranges for her murder rather than - by asking for a divorce - causing her to die of grief. "I just can't go on living a lie," he says, an expression of regret on his face, to the cold-blooded killer (Frederic Forrest) he's asking to do the job.

And the viewer is also asked to swallow Mrs. Columbo's accidentally stumbling onto the crime as a result of overhearing a conversation in the lawyer's house through her telephone intercom, whose wires keep getting crossed with the intercom installed in his house.

The unbelievable premise was further undermined by shameless padding, including pointlessly unfunny byplay between Mulgrew and Bob Dishy as a dim-witted plainclothesman and heavy-handed bits of whimsy centered around a visit by Mrs. Columbo to a veterinarian to find out what's wrong with her torpid, lifeless basset hound and a visit to an auto-repair shop to get an estimate on a top-to-bottom overhaul of her beat-up old convertible.

Exec producer Richard Alan Simmons, who also wrote this two hour episode, explained Lt. Columbo's absence by putting him in London for an international police convention.

But his absence week after week could cause a yawning gap into which "Mrs. Columbo" might fall after a few episodes, never to be heard from again. -Demp.

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