Columbo (1971–2003)
29 user 6 critic

The Most Crucial Game 

The manager of a football team murders its callow owner, making it look as if the young man had had an accident in his swimming pool. Lt. Columbo is on the case.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Paul Hanlon
Walter Cunnell
Coach Rizzo
Eve Babcock
Shirley Wagner
Eric Wagner
Ralph Dobbs
Kathryn Kelly Wiget ...
Miss Johnson
Richard Stahl ...
Mr. Fremont
Deputy Coroner
Cliff Carnell ...
Joe Renteria ...
Box Attendant Jimmy
Ivan Naranjo ...
Sgt. Hernandez, L.A.P.D.


The owner of a football team is found dead in his swimming pool. It looks like an accident, a slip and fall; however, Columbo doesn't really believe in this being an accident and investigates as if it was a murder case - but the person he suspects has a powerful alibi. Written by Maarten Hofman <>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 November 1972 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Dean Stockwell later shows up as an accused murderer rather than a murder victim in Troubled Waters (1975). Robert Vaughn's character frames him. See more »


At the start of the game after the kickoff, it is 1st and 10 at the 38 yard line. The quarterback is sacked for a 5 yard loss and the radio announcer states that it is now 2nd and 15 but the ball is on the 30 yard line. That would make it 2nd and 18. See more »


Paul Hanlon: Columbo, are you in charge of this mess or not?
Lt. Columbo: Sir...
Paul Hanlon: This is...!
Lt. Columbo: Sir, I'm only trying to solve a murder...
See more »


Edited from A Gathering of Eagles (1963) See more »


Eine kleine Nachtmusik
composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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User Reviews

A good episode, albeit with a disappointing ending
13 March 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I am a big fan of Columbo. The Most Crucial Game is a good episode if somewhat middling without being the best or the worst of the set. Susan Howard's role is disappointingly limited and she unfortunately doesn't do as much with it as she had the potential to do and the build up to the ending could have been steadied a bit which perhaps would have helped in making it better. I agree the ending was the most disappointing asset of The Most Crucial Game, the idea of the explanation I had no problem with, but it was the way it was executed and tied together that felt rather awkward, particularly with the flaw in the alibi which didn't convince.

However, the production values as are the case with all Columbo episodes are top notch, and the music adds a lot to the atmosphere. The script is excellent on the whole, with some great interaction between Falk and Culp and some thoughtful moments, and the story is well told with a splendid means of murder and premise. The direction and cast are generally on the money too. Peter Falk enjoys himself as Columbo, Robert Culp plays an interesting character and does very well with it and Dean Stockwell is good too.

Overall, the ending was a disappointment but the episode was good. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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