Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Columbo Wife Question Answered

If you look over in the left hand column, you will see that I am currently watching the Third Season of Columbo. I am a huge fan of the show and enjoy its formula immensely. The show doesn't try to outsmart you or fool the viewer, rather it shows the viewer the murder and the audience gets to watch as the famous detective unravels the mystery. It is an ingenious procedural format which plays wonderful games with the standard three act formula of screenwriting. It still follows the formula, you can set your clock to the "acts," but by shifting the murderer into the "hero" role the formula is altered enough to make it truly original.

Now to the main point. I remember playing a game of Trivial Pursuit, or hearing from a friend of a friend, that there is a question about Columbo's wife and what her first name is. I always thought this was an urban myth. In fact, I imagined that since one of the ways trivia game producers protect their IP is to put erroneous questions into the mix that the Mrs. Columbo question was one of these cases. In fact, upon checking I find that it is Columbo's suposed first name of Philip that is the urban myth (scroll down to Columbo).

The Season 3 Columbo DVD includes with it an episode of a show entitled Mrs. Columbo which has the wife of the famous detective solve a murder. The show should not be confused with the episode of Columbo entitled Rest in Peace Mrs. Columbo, rather it was an attempt to expand upon the Columbo universe though eventually Mrs. Columbo somehow became Mrs. Callahan and the show's title changed to Kate Loves a Mystery. So what is Columbo's wife's name? As the title change above indicates...Kate, played by Kathryn Janeway (I mean Kate Mulgrew).

I have viewed the Mrs. Columbo episode included on Season 3, and let me tell you...it nowhere near compares to the magic of a good Columbo episode. It doesn't even rank among the bad Columbo episodes for quality, not that there were many of those. Without the threat presented by Columbo's position as a Detective the investigation/interrogation techniques used by Kate (which bear remarkable similarity to those of Mr. Columbo) don't produce the narrative tension necessary. I found myself as irritated with Mrs. Columbo's questions as the murderer did, not to mention the mother/daughter solving the mystery together scene. It just didn't work for me. I guess I'll have to resolve myself to watching Murder She Wrote and Scarecrow and Remington Steele.
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