St. Louis Post Dispatch – TV Guide 
Feb 25 – Mar 3, 1979
Surprise! Surprise! It’s ‘The Mrs.’ – Columbo Shoulda Had It So Good
By  Vernon Scott of UPI International

Lt. Columbo, television’s unkempt slob of a detective, plodded off into the sunset last year after a half-dozen seasons of high ratings.

 Peter Falk, who starred as the rain-coated, cigar chomping police investigator had had it.

 NBC-TV and Universal TV fooled around with the idea of a new dramatic series based on Columbo’s wife, never seen on the show but often referred to by the shuffling, garrulous detective.

 Network brass thought of playing Mrs. Columbo as a female counterpart of her husband, perhaps even a slattern, just this side of a bawd.

 Brenda Vaccaro, she of the husky voice and frizzy hair, was the inside choice for the title role in “Mrs. Columbo.”

 But in the august chambers of NBC-TV’s higher echelons it was wisely concluded that, while the public might be amused by a grungy but loveable hero, a less than squeaky clean heroine could be a disaster.

 Viewers were given no inkling of what Mrs. Columbo looked like during “Columbo’s” six years on the air despite frequent references to her.

 Typical of Columbo’s offhand remarks about his wife was the observation, “Mrs. Columbo doesn’t just read the newspaper, she reads everything from the obituaries, to the personal notices to the shipping news.”

 Over the years one grew to suspect Mrs. Columbo was, at best, a household drudge, methodical and boring. Perhaps she lazed around the house all day in a terrycloth bathrobe, hair in curlers, drinking coffee and watching soap operas.

 It stands to reason that Columbo fans are in for a shock Feb. 26 when “Mrs. Columbo” debuts in a two-hour pilot show of the new series which settles down to a regular hourly format in its second week.

 Mrs. Columbo, it turns out, is young, pretty, possessed of a lovely figure and apparently is twice as bright as her slovenly husband.

 Playing Mrs. Columbo is Kate Mulgrew, a pink-cheeked Irish Catholic native of Dubuque, Iowa, who has lived and worked in New York for several years. She looks to be no older than 25.

 Columbo should be so lucky.

 Ms. Mulgrew cheerfully acknowledges that Mrs. Columbo probably will not fit most viewers’ preconceptions of the policeman’s wife.

 “She’s the antithesis of Columbo – efficient, rather clean, vivacious and practical,” Kate said during a production break. “She’s not a detective or a policewoman. And, of course, Columbo himself will never be seen on the show.

 “Mrs. Columbo runs the house and takes care of things her husband neglects. Even though he’s much older, she’s the sort of woman he’d fall in love with.”

 Kate, who’s never owned a TV set and who saw “Columbo” only once, says she hopes viewers will be happily surprised by Mrs. Columbo’s appearance.

 “I suppose people were led to think she was matronly and dowdy,” she said. “I hope they are genuinely pleased when they see me as Mrs. Columbo. To those who say I’m too pretty, too young or too sexy, I say fiddlesticks.”

 Unlike Lt. Columbo, who was never given a first name, Mrs. Columbo’s given name is Kate. Written into the new show is a 7-year-old daughter. Also on hand is the ancient Peugeot driven by Columbo and a mopey basset hound named White Fang, referred to in past “Columbo” scripts.

 Mrs Columbo is not to be compared with the heroic “Charlie’s Angels” nor the cop played by Angie Dickinson in “Police Woman.” Neither does she jiggle.

 According to Kate, Mrs. Columbo reacts to peril as might any typical American female. She uses her wits and her voice to see her through.

 Viewers credulity will be strained to the limit every week in the new series when Mrs. Columbo stumbles on major crimes and solves them. How many viewers, even those who love “Laverne & Shirley,” can go along with such a premise?

 “It’s artistic license,” said Kate, flashing a bright and confident smile.

 “Mrs. Columbo faces violence but it’s handled differently than most shows. She never gets hysterical and doesn’t grovel. She doesn’t karate chop the villain into oblivion.

 “If the villain puts a knife to her throat, she’s concerned with the safety of her daughter and herself, a primitive composure coming out of genuine terror.

 “I’m selling something every woman in America can understand – authenticity. Kate Columbo is every bit a human being. The only unreal element of the show is that she keeps solving major crimes. But again, that’s TV license.”

 Like it or not, Kate Mulgrew is also selling beauty and sex appeal, and a distinctly different and interesting personality.

 With a bit of luck and a few good scripts, “Mrs. Columbo” may prove to be more appealing than her old man. She’s sure a lot better to look at.

Many THANKS! to a TOTALLY KATE! contributor for this article. 
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