Despite the satisfaction that Columbo viewers feel when the detective catches a dangerous criminal, there are moments that will probably make one want to pull out some tissue, especially if it's a somber moment involving a grieving loved related to the murder victim (or to the murderer), or in the rare case that the murderer himself was a source of sympathy who was partly justified in doing what he did.
- In the second season 1 pilot "Ransom for a Dead Man", the victim's daughter is filled with grief over her father's disappearance, and then his death. Despite her bitchy attitude shown throughout, she was ultimately justified in her suspicion that her step-mother killed him.
- Margaret's revelation to Columbo of her father visiting her in Switzerland sometime before his murder. Her step mother was getting emotionally and psychologically abusive toward him, and demanding that he turn their law firm over to her, while he stays with nothing but part of the house. And as a thank you, she files for divorce. The idea that a man allowed his wife to bully him around like that may have seemed quite odd during the era that this episode took place, but it still conveyed to audiences that Domestic Abuse, emotional or physical, can go both ways.
- Perhaps the saddest scene in all the franchise is the one with Ned Diamond in "Forgotten Lady". He was dance partners with the once-famous musical artist Grace Wheeler, until age and a drunk driving accident put them both out of business for decades to come. That is, until they decide to put together another musical act that will make them known once again. In the end when Colombo reveals to Diamond that Grace killed her husband to obtain the money to fund her musical, and that she's slowly dying from a terminal illness that made her forget about the murder, the look of utter heartbreak on his face is shattering. At that moment he decides that he will confess to the murder in Grace's place, believing he can take the justice system's attention away from her so she can pass away in peace.
- It's not hard to know what's going on in his head at the moment. Despite the fact that being in trouble with the law will permanently ruin his career and image, he simply doesn't care anymore. The woman he loves will die very soon; he has nothing else to live for — except the knowledge that he gave her a peaceful death.