Sherlock and Doctor Who writer reveals bid to bring back Columbo

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I’m as sceptical as Columbo looks here
UPDATE: Steven Moffat has been in touch to clarify his position on this topic, so please refer to this new article to read his comments.

Steven Moffat, creator and writer of hit UK television series Sherlock and Doctor Who, has revealed he failed in a bid to secure the rights to Columbo.

According to an interview in British magazine The Radio Times, Moffat’s hopes of rebooting the Lieutenant were thwarted by red tape. He said: “I really tried with Columbo. I did have a decent go at it, but the rights are really tied up.”

While some Columbo fans might be excited to learn of Moffat’s ambitions to bring TV’s greatest ever detective (take that, Sherlock) back to our screens, I ain’t one of them – especially after reading his further thoughts on the matter in The Radio Times.

“The idea of taking Columbo into ‘madly different’ directions is one that I’m sure would enrage most true fans of the show.”

“I think [Columbo] is a devastatingly brilliant format,” Moffat continued. “My plan was to put Peter Falk to the back of my mind and start again from the beginning. Maybe just go madly different.”

Let’s stop right there! The idea of taking Columbo into ‘madly different’ directions is one that I’m sure would enrage most true fans of the show. To me, that’s setting up the premise to fail because the great joy of Columbo has always been in how likeable the character was, despite a raft of eccentricities.

Madcap Columbo? Been there, seen that, and it was DREADFUL!

Interestingly, the one attempt to take the original series into madly different directions was Last Salute to the Commodore from 1975 – an episode largely detested by the fan base. Maybe Moffat’s a fan of that one, who knows?

The interview also reveals that Moffat doesn’t appear to even ‘get’ the Columbo character at all, saying: “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.”

I’ve been a Columbo fan for a long time and while I agree the ‘one more thing’ stuff isn’t absentmindedness (quite the opposite), I have never thought for even a second that Columbo is a sadist.

His obfuscating around the point is an act, sure, but it’s not done to amuse himself at other’s unease – it’s to ensure his suspects underestimate his mental prowess and to lull them into mistakes. Certainly, the viewer can enjoy seeing the killers squirm, but calling Columbo a sadist is quite wrong and seems a rather spectacular misread of the character.

“I have never thought for even a second that Columbo is a sadist.”

Adding things up, it seems that if Mr Moffat ever does get his hands on the rights to Columbo, fans can ‘look forward to’ a madcap, cruel and sadistic version of their beloved Lieutenant, probably set in the modern day rather than in the show’s spiritual home of the 70s.

That’s a reboot we can all live without…


What’s your opinion on this? Would Columbo be in safe hands with Steven Moffat, or is this the worst idea in the history of entertainment since Abraham Lincoln said: “I’m sick of kicking around the house all day, let’s go take in a show.”

Should Columbo ever be rebooted at all? And if so, who could possibly play him? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Carsini’s take on the idea of a Moffat Columbo reboot

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