Just for fun / Opinion

7 Columbo spin-off ideas better than ‘Mrs Columbo’

Columbo spin-offs

As TV shows go, the ill-conceived and ill-fated Mrs Columbo really takes the cake when it comes to alienating audiences.

As well as being derided by Peter Falk and original creators Dick Levinson and William Link, the show also failed to win the hearts and minds of the viewing public – most of whom were presumably livid at the cheap attempt to harness the success of Columbo.

Ratings started poorly and swiftly went south. As a result, the two-season show underwent three name changes between 1979-80 in a doomed bid to distance itself from Columbo, changing to Kate Columbo, then Kate the Detective and ultimately Kate Loves a Mystery. It’s amazing that 13 episodes of this TELEVISUAL FILTH got made given its troubled production.

Mrs Columbo
“I just can’t understand why the reviews are SO BAD,” mourned poor Kate

Still, I’ll cover that whole debacle in detail at a later date. Today I’m considering a far more entertaining idea – that of fanciful Columbo spin-offs that might have made sense and been accepted by viewers.

This isn’t meant to be taken too seriously but some of these definitely have legs, so once time travel is a thing you can bet I’ll be heading back to 1978 to pitch some of these to NBC execs. Now read on!

NB – I was desperate to include a Goldie spin-off suggestion in here because she’s such a great character, but I couldn’t think of anything that would do her justice. Maybe you can…?

1. Wilson

Columbo Sergeant Wilson Greenhouse Jungle
Wilson: heir apparent to the Columbo dynasty?

A wonderful support character, Bob Dishy’s keen but naive Sergeant Wilson proved to be a charming foil to Columbo in two 70s’ outings – Greenhouse Jungle in 1972, and Now You See Him four years later. He deserved a show of his own.

The way I see it, Wilson would essentially take the baton from Columbo (in televisual terms) and be one of the foremost LAPD officers investigating murders at the top end of town – some of which would be rather intimidating for the affable Wilson.

Drawing on lessons learned from Lieutenant Columbo (who he’d occasionally seek advice from on the phone), Wilson would become an increasingly competent and inspirational officer, who would first be surprised and delighted at his successes before growing into the role of top cop.

A natural comic actor, Dishy would regularly be paired with the bungling Sergeant Grover to help his Wilson become a better leader. His catchphrase would become ‘Step on it, Grover‘ in homage to the pair’s collaboration in Greenhouse Jungle.

Columbo Sergeant Wilson
Wilson and Grover reunited! Who could resist?

To further link the show to Columbo, Wilson would occasionally wear the hated raincoat Columbo rejected in Now You See Him, while the discrepancy between his differing first names in Greenhouse and Now You See Him (first Freddy then John J) would be explained. Wilson would also have taken to eating chilli at Barney’s Beanery and in one hilarious episode would be dog sitting for Columbo with the Lieutenant on a rare holiday.

Wilson would eventually be promoted to Lieutenant during the series, leading to a Columbo cameo in a touching, congratulatory scene that would ensure there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the WORLD.

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: A sure-fire hit, springboarding Dishy to mega-stardom. A wise and mature Captain Wilson would have subsequently appeared as a recurring character in the rebooted Columbo from 1989 onwards.

2. Comandante Sanchez

Columbo Comandante Sanchez

Introduced in season 5’s A Matter of Honor, Comandante Emilio Sanchez was anything but a stereotypical, crooked Mexican cop, being a dedicated officer and family man, who held a lot of values in common with Lieutenant Columbo.

This series would follow the post-Matter of Honor exploits of Sanchez – now the most famous cop in all of Meheeco – as he cracked down on crime in his home region, applying some lessons learned from Columbo along the way.

A bit grittier and darker than an average Columbo episode, Comandante Sanchez would nevertheless be cracking entertainment and provide a fine vehicle for the awesome Pedro Armendariz Jr to make a deserved name for himself after providing one of the great Columbo support roles.

To tie it to the original series, I envisage Columbo himself briefly appearing in the first episode delivering a lecture to Mexican police academy officers as a favour to Sanchez. Wronged matador Curro Rangel and Luis Montoya’s daughter Nina (now married to Curro) would also be recurring characters to further cement the link to A Matter of Honor.

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Luke-warm reception due to Mexican setting, but class prevails making it a hit in the longer term.

3. The Sigma Society

Columbo Sigma Society

Part crime-busting mystery show, part human drama, the motley crew of bona fide geniuses we meet at The Sigma Society in The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case have great spin-off potential.

The strength of the ensemble cast, including Kenneth Mars, would be the making of the show and it would also allow several women to shine in expanded roles, not least Carol Jones as young Caroline and Dorrie Thomson as Miss Eisenbach. There’d even be an on-going gig for beloved Columbo regular Mike Lally.

I envisage the backbone of The Sigma Society being the collective intelligentsia assisting the police in cracking perfect murders (perhaps featuring Bye-Bye‘s gruff Sergeant Burke as the chief point of liaison). However, given the intriguing mix of characters, from misunderstood teen genius Caroline, the surly Mr Wagner, excitable Society President Jason Danziger and fragile flower Miss Eisenbach, there’s great scope for comedy as well as pathos, as we see these highly intelligent folk struggle just like the rest of us to live happy lives.

Columbo would have accepted honorary membership of the society after busting Oliver Brandt, but he’d never appear in the show despite numerous references. Shame…

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Loved by intelligent viewers but underappreciated by the masses, The Sigma Society would burn brightly for 2-3 seasons before quietly fading away.

4. The Middle Man

Columbo Hassan Salah
Salah’s camel milk-curdling glare would be put to great use in his spin-off series

If you’ve read my article about 10 Columbo killers who’ll never go to jail, you may remember that I predicted Hassan Salah would be recruited as a US Government operative, who would use his knowledge of Middle Eastern power-plays to further national interests, rather than let such a trump card rot in jail.

Set some years after the events of A Case of Immunity, the spin-off would follow Salah (now sporting western garb) in his shadowy new career of international espionage and political derring-do. A softly-spoken but dangerous man who would stop at nothing to achieve his aims, the show would be dark and potentially violent with Salah not hesitating to slay foes galore to achieve his goals.

As a result it might be an acquired taste and far less family friendly than Columbo, but it would have quality written all over it.

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Themes too sophisticated for common viewers. Cancelled after two seasons despite critical success.

5. MM7, Robocop

Columbo MM7
“My friends call me MM7. You call me… Robocop!”

Years before Metal Murphy hit the streets of Detroit, the LAPD would boast a robocop of their own in the form of Mind Over Mayhem‘s MM7.

After being impressed by Lieutenant Columbo’s report detailing the abilities of the hand-made droid, the LAPD would take MM7 on long-term loan from the Cybernetics Institute to assess its true value in solving difficult crimes. Cue many scenes of bemused police detectives and assorted boffins initially casting scorn on the robot before being amazed by its deductive skillz, which lead to a string of high-profile collars.

Featuring regular slots from Mayhem‘s ‘boy genius’ Steve Spelberg and killer Marshall Cahill’s wobble-headed son, Neil, the show’s first (and only) season would end with MM7 earning an official commendation for his efforts at a snazzy police shin-dig. Here, the robot would make an emotional speech to his new colleagues to become TV’s first sentient machine. Not surprisingly, Peter Falk wouldn’t go near this tosh with a barge poll.

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Absolute flop. Cancelled after one season, but achieved post-Bladerunner cult status amongst VHS viewers in the 1980s for its sympathetic treatment of artificial intelligence.

6. The Tribulations of Carsini

Columbo Adrian Carsini

Too fully realised a character to only appear in a single TV episode, Adrian Carsini was simply begging for a show of his own and The Tribulations of Carsini would follow the wine connoisseur’s fish-out-of-water attempts to make the most of life in a minimum security penal institution.

It would quite simply have to be a comedy (canned laughter and all), with Adrian being paired with a low-brow simpleton as his cell-mate to guarantee maximum levels of eye-rolling and intelligent put-downs.

The show would feature Columbo alumnus Dexter Paris, who would help make Carsini’s prison life bearable with his creative cookery and sympathetic ear, as well as occasional musical cameos from Tommy Brown – whose biblical hits were not popular with Carsini.

Karen Fielding would also make rare appearances to deliver Adrian small comforts such as contraband wine , although Adrian would be unenthusiastic in his appreciation of her efforts. Indeed, the show’s on-running gag would be Carsini referring to Karen as ‘quite the Iron Maiden’ to his prison cronies after her every visit. How we’d laugh…

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Comedy gold! The show would still be spoken about in the most glowing terms today.

7. The Clandestine Adventures of Artie Jessup

Columbo Artie Jessup
Artie and Thelma – a love story for the ages?

Times would be tough for ace burglar Artie Jessup in the fall-out from the events of A Friend in Deed. Tainted by his being implicated in the Bel Air Burglar case, Artie would find that his old contacts would give him a wide berth making it nigh impossible to make a living from his light-fingered abilities.

The Clandestine Adventures of Artie Jessup would explore the grim reality of Artie’s new life, his failed attempts to earn a dishonest crust and his anguish at having to essentially begin his life again from the bottom-up. Many scenes would be filmed at the dive bar Artie frequented in A Friend in Deed, allowing frequent cameos for Mike Lally as the barkeep.

Artie would be hit up by John Finnegan’s Lieutenant Duffy from the LAPD’s robbery division to assist with his enquiries from time to time (further connecting the show to Friend in Deed), showing him that unofficial police work can be both a boost for the bank account and the soul, starting him on a complicated and conflicting path to the right side of the tracks. During meetings with Duffy, there would be references to Columbo, who Jessup would refer to as a ‘stand-up guy’.

The real wonder of the show, though, would be in those rare moments when Artie actually showed some warmth and affection for long-suffering lover Thelma, showing that somewhere, lurking well below the surface, was the hint of a good man. There’d even be scenes of Artie and Thelma at the roller derby, which Artie would come to grudgingly enjoy.

SUCCESS PREDICTOR: Emmy Award-winning stuff for Val Avery in what would become one of the most acclaimed series of the late 70s / early 80s.

Well gang, those are my best ideas for Columbo spin-offs. I’d love to hear your suggestions – both serious and nonsensical – for follow-ups to the greatest detective drama of all time. Which characters could have been revived for series of their own? Could there even have been crossovers into other popular shows of the era? The floor is yours…

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Columbo Boodle Boy
A pitch for Boodle Boy Miller – the journey of a wimpy cadet to a great army leader – was deemed too far-fetched to be considered
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77 thoughts on “7 Columbo spin-off ideas better than ‘Mrs Columbo’

  1. This is awesome! I can think of one more- Williams and Williams- for the people! In an alternative universe, in the Ransom episode, suppose Leslie did make peace with Mr Williams, you know, they went to a marriage counselor and they reconciled. Margaret finishes her studies in Switzerland and returns home, goes to law school and becomes a lawyer (all in the family!) And she is the new “lady lawyer.” 👩🏻‍🦰 She joins the firm and they work together for many years, becoming one of the more successful and profitable law buffets of California and the nation.

    Those are my 2 cents…… by the way, have you noticed how Caroline Treynor- played by Carol Jones, 21 years old then-1977, from The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case -episode sort of looks like Margaret Williams, played by the late Patricia Mattick? Both were 5’2” and wore glasses- similarities end there.
    RIP Patricia Mattick….. Thank you for reading my ramblings……

  2. Anything, and I mean anything, is better than the rubbish that was titled “Mrs. Columbo”. Positively the worst spin-off, ever. Columbo would have never ever married, or even dated that dreadful “Kate” she-monster. No wonder she was never seen during Columbo episodes. Ecccchhhhh. Nowadays, it would have to be called Ms. or non-binary-gender Columbo.

    Here’s a few spin-off ideas from my twisted imagination, all just from season 1:

    “Milo Janus Gym Stories” starring Gretchen Corbett (always wearing a bikini…..and I mean ALWAYS….) with Pat Harrington, Jr. as Schneider, the maintenance man of the gym/spa chain (“One Day at a Time” sitcom reference), with a pack of Marlboros in his right shoulder t-shirt, and his rugged, loaded “tool belt” to use in the locker rooms at the health spas.

    “Citizen Kennicutt”, starring Ray Milland in a “re-imagining” of Citizen Kane, based on a modern day publishing magnate’s eccentricities, with a bevy of young, nubile lasses he meets online, who are then subsequently murdered, then replaced with new models each episode.

    “The Crazy World of Helen Stewart”, starring Suzanne Pleshette as a gorgeous dingbat who witnesses murders every episode, with a drunken mother who thinks she’s nuts, then tries to set her up with, and marry her off to the murderers.

    “The Plant”, starring William Windom, Ida Lupino and Anne Francis, based on stories at the chemical plant used in “Short Fuse”, post Roger Stanford’s departure…..just because William Windom is one of the best character actors ever, Ida Lupino is one of the greatest actresses and directors on film, and Anne Francis, because she was one truly beautiful human being (one of my first crushes).

    “WilliamsonLand”, with John Finnegan as the Construction Foreman overseeing huge never-ending projects for Goldie and Jennifer Williamson’s inheritance left by Bo. If someone isn’t murdered every episode, then a worker or two is killed on the jobsites, for not wearing hardhats, safety boots, or shirts (pre OSHA regulations).

    There could be a whole slew of spin-offs from one of my top 3, “Negative Reaction” from Season 4:

    1) Larry Storch as a nervous driver’s ed teacher, in cars with insane drivers who speak every language other than English, whose crazy driving habits put him in the hospital each episode.
    2) Sister of Mercy Joyce Van Patten, with wild stories from the homeless mission. New versions could include zombies escaping California wildfires, and the once cured, but now returning diseases (TB, plague, etc.) that the homeless and “others” are currently spreading throughout downtown, and all of the rest of modern day Caleefornee-a.
    3) John Ashton as Calvin MacGruder, real estate agent who sells 1-room, 400 square foot shacks for $1M to families of 20+ in Cali’s current real estate market.

    The ideas are limitless, indeed…….

    • Oh, and any character Vito Scotti did, either the obnoxious waiter, the obnoxious tailor, the persistent, orbit funeral director, and especially Thomas Dolan, the drunk from “Negative Reaction”. He could live in his van at the junkyard and wake up to murders and kidnappings each week, tell his story, then forget it after he sleeps it off. Vito Scotti was magic in a bottle.

  3. I’m loving this thread.

    I’m gonna throw a sitcom into the mix. Based in a high class very busy hair salon. Lead character being Darrell from Old Fashioned Murder. I think would have been a 70s classic.
    ‘Don’t sue, wear a hat and don’t let him cut it again’

    I’m chuckling just thinking about it

  4. So, Abigail Mitchell conducts a writing class for would-be criminal writers in the prison lunchroom. Each episode could cover a different student’s manuscript.

    • me too! wish I had time to respond to each one, it’s just wonderful reading everyone’s ideas and loving them!

  5. “Mission Improbable”: Good-hearted Joyce Van Patten and erudite Vito Scotti operate a downtown soup kitchen, dispensing beef stew, coats and cribbage lessons to all.

  6. “On the Road,'” a workplace comedy that takes place in a DMV office, starring Larry Storch as the curmudgeonly but lovable Mr. Weekly. Co-starring Jim Belushi and Richard Karn. I give it two seasons. It’s often spoke of in the same breath as “CPO Sharkey.”

  7. Great idea for a post. I think Carsini’s one would totally work. I also like the idea of him going to failing wineries and tearing them to shreds before making them better a la Cellar Nightmares.

  8. My suggestion: “The second life of Edmund Hiedeman”
    It’s a hospital series staged in the L.A. Metropolitan Emergency Hospital, starring Will Geer as Dr. Hiedeman, showing how his career as a doctor emerges after he has been provided with a new heart valve that works perfectly fine, after his life had been attacked twice by Dr. Mayfield who would have to be taken down into jail and there be put away with a deadly injection.
    Regularly supporting guest star would be Nita Talbot as Marsha Dalton, trying to win the hearts of each of the other surgeons she works with.
    Might run for at least three seasons and be cherished by elderly widows who wish to have a partner like Dr. Hiedeman.

  9. Following on from other posts, I too think that a prequel look at the life of the young Columbo and how he started would be the only welcome return to the genre rather than just a standard reboot. It’s worked in the UK with Endeavour (for Inspector Morse) and Prime Suspect so there would be plenty to play with.

    My idea for this though would actually not be centred on his early police career but rather that in the military. I have always been fascinated by the comment when Tommy Brown in Swansong guesses that Columbo was in the Military Police during his Korean War service. Although he does add shyly that it was “mostly KP” which is either truthful or perhaps his usual distraction technique at work!

    Either way, it would be fun to see how he got a nose for detective work starting with humble origins in the kitchens but ending up as an MP. Plus it would get around the challenge of answering that age old question: How many eyes does Lt Columbo have?

    In fact, if there happens to be anyone from a TV commissioning dept reading this, I do have a fully formed story idea but couldn’t possibly reveal it here. You have to properly wait for that gotcha ;))

    • I like the Jerry Parks idea. In each episode, an attempt is made on Parks’ life or he receives a death threat. Obviously, it’s because of some scandal Parks recently exposed — but not necessarily a direct result. Meaning, the threat or attempt isn’t necessarily from the celebrity Parks outed or his/her retinue. The connection between Parks’ investigation and the retaliatory act is far more obscure. The gossip column endangered someone’s interests in a way that we don’t understand until the end.

      As for Lloyd Harrington, he’s stopped performing and now gives tax advice to musicians on what receipts to save and what receipts to throw away.

  10. ” Columbo” spin off ideas. Bernard Fox as Inspector Dirk, Tyne Daly as the” Bird in the Hand” killer in a prison series., And Johnny” Swan Song” Cash as a killer who goes on the run with Billy Connolly,s composer killer.

  11. What was that one where at the end Columbo says “That cat’s out of the bag!” and then crosses the road and say the same to the lover…

  12. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Dennis Dugan “Mac” character from “Last Salute to the Commodore”, which when I watched it struck me as a blatant attempt to spin off a character to his own show. Not sure if they would have tied to to Columbo, but one hopes his shows would have been better than the episode that spawned him!

    • Mac was a mere SHADOW of the Wilson character and not deserving of a show of his own after the debacle of Last Salute. Perhaps he can have a cameo in the Wilson series?

    • In a sense, “Mac” Albinsky (Dennis Dugan) had his private eye spinoff — as Richie Brockelman, first in a 1976 TV movie, then in his own series (that lasted only 5 episodes), and finally as a recurring character on “The Rockford Files.” The TV movie and the series involved such Columbo alums as Steven Bochco, Stephen J. Connell (“Double Exposure”), and Peter S. Fischer.

  13. Seeing the long-suffering prosecutors trying to make a case out of Columbo’s, uh, ‘unique’ approach to crime-solving would certainly be good fun.

  14. I’d like to see a prequel type spin-off following the exploits of a young Columbo early in his cop career. Set around 1960 (give or take a year or two). The young beat cop would encounter a variety of crimes where his observational prowess catches crooks and the attention of his superiors, some of whom want to put him back in his place, and others who encourage him to pursue a career path as a detective. As the series progresses, it could reveal the origins of the raincoat and the infamous Columbo-mobile as well as his penchant for cigars, hard boiled eggs, chili and more.

    • Yes! That’s about the only Columbo ‘reboot’ that I could ever see working. Let’s see his early career in New York (though maybe as a newly-minted detective, rather than a beat cop). It could show us how he developed his trademark habits and mannerisms, and explain some of the small mysteries around his character (e.g. why he hates guns so much). Perhaps he would face prejudice from the other detectives due to his idiosyncratic approach, and gradually win them over as they come to realise how brilliant he is under the shabby exterior.

  15. “Nichols for Your Thoughts”: Ken Nichols has high-tailed it off Cathy Goodland’s yacht and straight into your heart as Marina del Rey’s favorite hustler/layabout/cad as he slithers from scam to scam across L.A., learning lessons along the way.

    • A quite magnificent idea, kudos to you sir! I insist that one episode would needlessly find Ken in fancy dress as a barbarian to adequately show off his Herculean physique!

  16. I would love to see a spin off “The Boys Down at the Lab” and how they deal with Columbo’s cases and ‘evidence’ 😂 it has to be a winner , better than Terrible Quincy!

  17. Nice article. Brought to mind Murder She Wrote, since I doubt any other television series in history has tried so hard to spawn spinoffs.

    The first three all seem plausible with Wilson being the one I’d watch. The Sigma Society is such a bizarre idea but, remembering seventies TV series as I do, not that outlandish in the big scheme of things.

  18. You’re forgetting the low budget ‘Dog’ animated series commissioned in a desperate attempt to spread Columbo’s appeal to the younger audience.

    *Verdict: Kids hated it but their parents ironically liked it. Ran for a couple seasons of about fifty ten minute short cartoons. Peter Falk lends his voice for the Columbo appearances but good luck getting him to admit it.

  19. I always thought Artie Jessup was one of the most fleshed-out characters in the Columbo franchise. I really got to root for Artie, being on the other side of your best; Val Avery really made the most of his screen time. I often thought that Artie may make that most dangerous of journeys to being a man who would either be an informant or a teacher at the Police Academy to train policeman on what to look for in burglary. Either way the role was memorable.

  20. How about a couple of ‘Prequels’ – for example:

    Lieutenant Lucerne Investigates – some of his greatest cases brought to life in which he narrowly cheats death each time.

    The Adventures of Geronimo – the CIA’s number one operative in his most daredevil outings.

    And finally, a serialisation of the Mrs Melville Mysteries – the one detective to give Columbo a run for his money.

  21. Great fun, thanks so much for making my day. Never thought of a Columbo spin-off as being a good idea because spin-offs are generally terrible. The only time I wished for a spin-off ever, was after watching the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple, hoping to see a hundred more movies featuring M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser. That is until now. I’d watch all of your suggested spin-offs, especially Wilson, terrific idea!
    By the way, I’d enjoy watching a ten episodes series of detective Lucerne as well, as long as the killers wouldn’t be caught just because they’d forget to wipe their finger prints off of the bullets…

  22. I thoroughly enjoyed joining you in this fantasy world imagining of spin offs. I actually laughed aloud.

  23. Three more suggestions:

    “Helen Looks for Love,” where Helen Stewart from “Dead Weight” finds romance, comes to suspect each beau of a serious crime, and then helps police nab her recent beloved.

    “Durk of the Yard,” where Scotland Yard’s Detective Chief Superintendent Durk from “Dagger of the Mind” is consistently outwitted by Britain’s cleverest criminals until he teams with George, the steward at his gentlemen’s club.

    “Karen,” in which Karen Fielding of “Any Old Port in a Storm” goes to work for the Marino Brothers with a mission to elevate the quality of its wines.

    • great ideas! I especially love the first, very clever! There might be a final scene where she commiserates with Columbo and he tells her that she’s a fantastic girl and is sure to find Mr. Right….someday.

    • Like the “Karen” idea. I could see her rolling her eyes at the Marino brothers as they try to come out with a competitor to Boone’s Farm and thinking longingly of trips to New York in first class on a 747.

    • “Helen Looks For Love” is great idea, as long as Susanne Pleshette is Helen. (Susanne Pleshette and Sigourney Weaver can do not wrong as far as I am concerned. Yes, that includes “Dead Weight,” “The Shaggy DA,” and “Alien Resurrection,”)

    • I wouldn’t watch an entire series built around DCI Durk, but perhaps a guest appearance by Bernard Fox as that character might have livened up a sketch on The Benny Hill Show. With Benny Hill as Columbo, Henry McGee as the suave murderer, Bob Todd as a ridiculously unhelpful witness, and Uncle Jackie Wright as the intended victim who makes fools of everyone by turning up alive at the end of the sketch.

  24. Oscar FINCH or patrick mcgoohan in a role as a smart arse lawyer in a Perry mason type series would be my suggestion , I would imagine would be very funny , he was such a talker in his episodes paticulary agenda for murder, ashes to ashes and Identity crisis . Mr mc goohan also played a role as a barrister in one episode of murder she wrote ( which i cant stand ) but he was typically cool , smart and funny .
    The stigma society would bore me personally, playing word games and crosswords its no wonder Oliver Brandt got fed up of them eccentric bores as he called them ,
    On that note is there any sign of the eagerly and long awaited review of the Bye – Bye sky high IQ murder anywhere on the horizon ? , its been a while since we have had a top episode reviewed Now you see him a while back was the last and we have got 2 of the very best coming up and in all fairness columbophile did vow to pick up the pace of the reviews ? Thank you .

    • But I dont´t think Finch would escape indictment after the “bite in the cheese” proof!

  25. The Sigma Society idea calls to mind Isaac Asimov’s “Black Widowers,” and I suspect such a series would be a smash hit!

    • This is awesome. I like the idea of watching Commandante Sanchez deal with corruption among his own fellow officers as well as fighting the criminal element. While I don’t see “The Middle Man” being a great show, Hector Elizondo would make it worth a look-see.

      • An honest portrayal of a righteous Commandante Sanchez would show him tolerating petty, and even moderate, corruption but standing firm when activity crosses a certain line. Otherwise, he could not keep his job in that environment. Even Sanchez doesn’t always know exactly where that line is, and a major element would involve Sanchez’ self-struggle in defining that threshold–sort of A Commandante For All Seasons.

    • Brilliant suggestions I’d watch them all.

      I’d also like to add a one off special where Columbo and Dirty Harry team up, Harry gets injured and Columbo has to use his Magnum 44 and say the immortal lines “go ahead make my day”, this would be directed by Quentin Tarantino a veritable orgy of wanton violence. Columbo as you’ve never seen him before taking down the punk underbelly of California

  26. “There´s a Life after Columbo” could explore the shenanigans (or return to a sanctimonious life) of some of the star mega-baddies who predictably got off the hook of some of Columbo´s flimsiest accusations. Robert Culp would hardly make it after Death Lends a Hand or “Double Exposure”, but the ridiculous indictment after “The most crucial game” would see Paul Hanlon walk out of the courtroom with the same nonchalance you exhibit after an evening in the movies. What he would do next might be a source of continued interest, with the persistent threat of the no-surrender Columbo always biting his heels (A sort of Gerard-Kimble thing, with the exception that this time the prey is indeed guilty).

    Similarly, I can´t see that ultimate crook Hauptmann Müller dodging the slammer, but Ken Franklin (and, perhaps, even Riley Greenleaf) certainly would. If Robert Culp might have some claims to being a born-again virtuous citizen after Columbo´s slap in the ears, bad-as-hell Cassidy could be nothing but a recurring sinner, made all he wiser by the shocking revelation that cops as cunning as himself do exist after all!

    Dick van Dyke´s evolution after almost certain acquittal from “Negative Reaction” is everybody´s guess, but the actor was so good that even a good boy after the harsh experience would make for an entertaining character.

    I think that, in every case, there´s potential in the idea of the baddies living in constant anxiety of Columbo finally finding the last piece of damning evidence which would force them to bid farewell to their lives of riches and pleasure. In the case of photographer Galesko, possible conscience issues might rear their ugly heads as well….

    • You mention the likely acquittal of Dick Van Dyke’s Paul Galesko character from Negative Reaction. While reading this clever article, all I could think of was a Perry Mason-style show, “The Trials of Columbo”. A typical episode would begin with a montage from the original Columbo episode with some new, contemporary scenes and dialog to fill in plot points, including a discussion among the prosecutors about how to handle holes in the case. (Would that they had us to advise them!) Falk would appear only in the montage sequence, though he would be compensated. (Heck, make him an executive producer, if that’s what it takes to get it on the air.)

      Columbo’s testimony at the trial would never be shown. Instead, we would drop in on the proceedings at a later stage, with one of the supporting characters from the original episode on the stand. The prosecutor would open with. “You heard Lt. Columbo testify…”. This story-telling technique was used in later seasons of Perry Mason to cut down on supporting cast, like medical examiners and other technical experts. In some episodes, the opening montage would be dispensed with entirely. Instead, mini flashbacks would be interwoven with trial testimony.

      In order to make this work, a decent fraction of cases (25-30%?) would have to end with acquittals or (rarely) hung juries. To keep the series fresh, some episodes would involve retrials, the original conviction having been overturned because of Columbo’s somewhat cavalier adherence to proper police procedure. Things get complicated because of compromised or missing evidence. These too would have to end with a mix of outcomes. Some would require additional police work to develop additional evidence. Calling Lenny Briscoe! Or Freddy-John Wilson.

      My prediction: A total flop, but the thirteen 48-minute episodes* that actually get made would become a beloved “extra” in the eventual Columbo DVD sets and would generate as much or more argument among us as the originals.

      *In 1978, commercials consumed a much smaller fraction of the total airtime of a show than they do today. However, the opening themes and closing credits were longer.


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