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Series / Mrs. Columbo

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Donald Pleasence with Kate Mulgrew as Mrs. Columbo.

This is the short-lived Spin-Off of Mystery of the Week series Columbo. It is unusual for spinning off a character who hadn't appeared on-camera on the parent series. It starred Kate Mulgrew (later of Star Trek: Voyager) as Kate Columbo, the heretofore unseen wife of Lieutenant Columbo and an Amateur Sleuth in her own right.

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

The series also changed its title three times during its run, from Mrs. Columbo to Kate Columbo and then to Kate the Detective and finally to Kate Loves a Mystery, before getting canceled. In all, only one season (1979–80) of about a dozen episodes aired on NBC, giving the show quite possibly the highest titles-to-episodes ratio in TV history.

Levinson and Link (the creators of Columbo) have emphatically maintained that Kate Columbo was not the unseen wife of their character, but the wife of some other detective of the same name (who just happens to also have a beat-up Peugeot convertible and a basset hound named "Dog").

Mrs. Columbo provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Mom: Working mom Kate gets into plenty of scrapes throughout the series, whether it's fighting with assassins or getting into car chases.
  • 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.
  • Friend on the Force: Sgt. Mike Varick, played by Don Stroud, who joined the cast in the second season.
  • 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. Gets dropped in the second season.
  • Relative Button: 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.