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Moffat clarifies stance on Columbo following Radio Times interview

Columbo A Matter of Honor
If today has taught us anything it’s that the Columbo fan base is fiercely protective of their beloved Lieutenant

Sherlock and Dr Who writer/producer Steven Moffat has clarified his stance on Columbo following an interview in which he revealed he’d failed in a bid to bring the Lieutenant back to screens.

In the recent interview with The Radio Times, Moffat discussed his doomed attempt to secure the rights to Columbo, and was quoted as saying: “My plan was to put Peter Falk to the back of my mind and start again from the beginning. Maybe just go madly different.”

A further quote added: “The one thing Columbo has to be is the most unprepossessing, seemingly unimpressive sadist you’ll ever meet. All that ‘Oh, just one more thing’ stuff isn’t absent-mindedness. He’s such a sadist.”

This set alarm bells ringing across the Columbo community – including right here on this blog, where I published an article earlier today outlining my objections to the idea of ever taking Columbo in ‘madly different’ directions, and rebuffing the idea that the Lieutenant could ever be considered sadistic.

“Much of the writing on Columbo – especially the early stuff, but throughout – is inhumanly good.”

Steven Moffat

The article has since been the subject of much online discussion amongst the fan base, leading to Moffat himself making contact via the comments section of the blog to clarify his position.

Moffat wrote: “As a huge Columbo fan, I’ve always enjoyed this website, so I wanted to set the record straight here. First of all – most importantly – I’m NOT doing Columbo. I’ve got The Time Traveler’s Wife for HBO, Inside Man for the BBC, a play, and a possible movie. You’re quite safe, I promise.

“Second, the interview made my views sound rather odd. What I had advocated, during my one meeting about Columbo, was doing the show EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. No change required. Beyond finding a new lead (which, I accept, might be impossible) there’s nothing to alter. It’s perfect. Much of the writing – especially the early stuff, but throughout – is inhumanly good. Just matching that would be nigh on unachievable, let alone trying to improve on it.

Columbo Steven Moffat
Steven Moffat: a big Columbo fan

“My comments about the ‘sadism’ were episode specific. I mentioned in passing that I liked it in An Exercise In Fatality when Columbo’s dislike of the murderer boils to the surface, and his toying with him becomes quite merciless.

“I always enjoyed those moments when the ‘bumbling’ mask fell away. Like that wonderful moment when he menaces the golf pro in Death Lends A Hand. But those are occasional treats, not the spine of the character, I know that.

“Anyway hope that clarifies, and I can go back to reading your website without feeling like Public Enemy Number One. I’m not doing it, and what I’m not doing isn’t what you think I’m not doing.”

“So long as Columbo fans don’t think I was dead set destroying what I consider to be a genuine TV masterpiece.”

Steven Moffat

So any confusion and ire caused to fans by The Radio Times‘ choice of quotes needs to be put in perspective. As Moffat added: “The interviewer wasn’t being a dick, in fairness – he was grabbing the most radical thing I said on the subject and headlining it. Fair enough. I should watch my mouth better by now.

“So long as Columbo fans don’t think I was dead set destroying what I consider to be a genuine TV masterpiece.”

I’d like to put on record my thanks to Mr Moffat for taking the time to clarify his position and hope he won’t take my earlier article too much to heart. After all, it sounds like we’re both Columbo purists at our cores.

As a final word, I might suggest to The Radio Times writer to grab the Columbo box set and familiarise themself with the show to avoid any accidental controversy should the spiky subject of a Columbo reboot ever be raised again…

Columbo Publish or Perish
You just can’t trust ANYONE in publishing these days, can you?
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14 thoughts on “Moffat clarifies stance on Columbo following Radio Times interview

  1. As a teller of short tales, I think Mr. Moffat is brilliantly creative. I also think, though, that the pattern of his output with Dr. Who has led me to two observations: 1. he has no interest in continuity with the overall series outside his own disparate story arcs, and 2. he needlessly interjects his own moral politics as side-comments of his protagonists. I think these two would (not “could possibly”) ruin the franchise. There are other good writers out there, but let’s give ‘rebooting and rebooting the reboots’ a rest and take a blind leap toward something actually creative. Leave Columbo on hallowed ground and try something else.

  2. This may be blasphemy but I’d love to see a “Columbo” reboot if it were done well. Let HBO or Netflix make three movies a year. Find the right lead–folks were talking about Mark Ruffalo in the other thread–and, and this is very important, do *not* change the inverted mystery format. Columbo was a police procedural, after all, not a self-contained standalone work, and it wouldn’t be so wrong to try it again with the right people.

    PS–pretty amazing that Steven Moffat reads this blog and pitched in so quickly.

  3. Maybe he could make a spinoff or movie using one of the Columbophile’s suggestions. Of course, some of the original actors he suggested may not be available

  4. I’m a psychiatrist and I know a man driven by excellence when I see one ( portrayed ).
    Columbo was driven by his personal code, not sadism.
    He ended many episodes by leaning on a desk or door frame with a very sad, resigned look on his face!
    Like many of us, corruption or even murder for money or vengeance are totally puzzling.

    • I am generally against reboots but if anyone could do Columbo justice, it would be Stephan Moffitt.

  5. Why is it the took offthe air every week colbo at 10 am im a fanaric of columbo they take. Off good. Clean shows and leave on air shows , programs,ect that dont teach only violance cussing ext

  6. I’ve weirdly only just discovered the joy of Sherlock and must say it’s fantastically good so I’ve faith if Stephen did want to do it he’d do a great job. Lovely of him to clear up his stance.

    I still cling to the idea of Mark Ruffalo as Columbo. I know I know it’ll never happen but he’s such an excellent actor, good humoured like Peter and with the trench coat a good likeness.

  7. Good on Mr. Moffat for making contact, it’s heartening to know that producers and writers read fan sites and therefore take the temperature of the fan base. Sherlock is undoubtedly an excellent series and hats off to Mr Moffat for bringing us that. What I would dearly love to see is an entirely new detective show that can measure up to Columbo, Rockford, Kojak et al in being single lead driven without the need for forensic science (therefore probably set in a bygone time) so we have something entirely new to enjoy – there is a trend at the moment of re-booting old shows and re making old movies as well as dragging out TV show formats long after they should have been cancelled. As a designer myself, someone who is paid to be creative, I say to film makers everywhere, come on, give us new ideas, new formats, we can still enjoy the old ones but have something all new to anticipate.

  8. Pingback: Sherlock and Doctor Who writer reveals bid to bring back Columbo | THE COLUMBOPHILE

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