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Series / Mrs. Columbo

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Donald Pleasence says: "You're Mrs. Columbo? Sorry, not buying it."note 

The Spin-Off has a long and sometimes successful history. A character, usually minor, who has appeared in one show is upgraded to the central character of a new show.

But never before had a character who hadn't appeared on-camera been spun off.

After listening for about a decade to Lieutenant Columbo ramble on about his never-seen wife, someone decided it would be a good idea to do a spinoff starring her as an Amateur Sleuth in her own right.

But who could possibly play the famous detective's Ghost spouse? Fortunately, Lieutenant Columbo had told us quite a lot about her: she was his childhood sweetheart. She was shortish, stoutish, raven-haired, and extremely busty.

So they cast Kate Mulgrew (later of Star Trek: Voyager), who was middling-tall, slender in build, redheaded, and about twelve the first time Mrs. Columbo was mentioned by her husband.


When Mrs. Columbo failed to perform as hoped, the show was retooled under the new title Kate Columbo. Kate divorced her husband and carried out her amateur sleuthing under the auspices of her new job as a small-town newspaper reporter.

The series was eventually retitled Kate Loves A Mystery, and then was cancelled. In all, only about a dozen episodes were made, possibly giving Mrs. Columbo the highest titles-to-episodes ratio in TV history.

Levinson and Link (creators of Columbo) have emphatically maintained that Kate Columbo is not the unseen wife of their character, but the wife of some other detective of the same name (who happens to also have a beat up car and a bassett hound named "Dog"). During the filming of the first post-Mrs. Columbo episode of Columbo, they joked that they were considering having Columbo mention in passing that "some crazy girl" had been running around impersonating his wife.


Mrs. Columbo provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: In “Word Games”, Kate is faced with the fear of the murderer kidnapping her daughter and using her to lure Kate to the original murder location. Prior to Kate uncovering his identity, he eerily repeats “hickory dickory dock” over the intercom, causing her to rush to her daughter’s room to make sure Jenny is safe.
  • After Show
  • Asshole Victim: The episode "Caviar with Everything" manages to put the lid on this. In short, the only character in this episode to not be an asshole is Kate Columbo herself.
    • The murder victim, Patty, wooed her best friend Sybil's husband, Richard, away from her without her knowledge—at first. When we first hear Patty suggesting that Sybil cater her wedding, we first think it's a friendly offer. When we watch the entire episode a second time, it almost sounds like Patty is taunting her.
    • Richard, Sybil's husband who divorced her shortly before the events of the episode. He claimed to have left Sybil because he couldn't stand being given everything he wanted, finding it humiliating. In reality, he found it inconvenient that he was forced to sign an agreement that would keep him away from Sybil's money she made in the catering business. He then decided to court Patty, his wife's business partner and best friend, who presumably would share her money with him post-retirement, and is far younger and more beautiful. After Patty's death, he immediately returns to Sybil under the guise that he was too in love with her to leave her. However, he inadvertently makes it clear that he's definitely not over Patty.
    • The murderer Sybil, while we can certainly understand her fury upon discovering that her best friend took her husband away from her, there may have been a less lethal way of dealing with the issue. And it would've been better if she simply called out Richard for his obvious greed and kicked him to the curb once again instead of trying to bludgeon him with a fire poker, or throwing him off a balcony.
  • Deadly Bath: In the pilot episode, "Word Games", the murder victim (played by Edie Adams) is killed when an intruder in her house (the man hired to kill her, played by Frederic Forrest) forces her at gunpoint to take a plugged-in hair dryer while she's in the bathtub, causing her death by electrocution.
  • The Ghost: Humorously, Mr. Columbo is on the receiving end of this trope. Mrs. Columbo and their daughter talk to him on the phone and he is said to be in a scene, but is never physically shown.
  • Mystery of the Week
  • Plucky Girl
  • Retool
  • Wheel Program: A&E aired this show as one spoke in a Mystery Wheel package in the early 90s when they lost the rights to air episodes of its first Wheel's shows including McMillan & Wife, McCloud, Banacek, and ironically, Columbo.


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