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?


James Gregory (coach Rizzo) had previously appeared on Columbo as the victim in season 1, episode 6 titled, "Short Fuse" starring Roddy McDowell. 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 »


Lt. Columbo: You know, when I'm listening to a game and my wife interrupts - I can't help myself - I want to hear that game, and I don't care how important the interruption.
Paul Hanlon: [trying to hear a game himself] Your wife has my sympathy.
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Edited from A Gathering of Eagles (1963) See more »


Eine kleine Nachtmusik
composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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User Reviews

Murder Making No Sense But Subtle
29 December 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It is interesting that the writer of Bonanza episodes (Dugan) got tapped to write a Columbo episode. There is plenty of humor present from the Ding-A-Ling brand of Ice Cream to Rhoda (Valerie Harper) performing a call girl routine on Columbo.

The cast here is quite strong as Robert Culp is at his prime here. It is amazing but it appears that if Culp didn't need to hose off the pool deck, he would get off on this one. Susan Howard's role as the widow is really very limited, like her role on Dallas as Ray Krebs wife often seemed. She only has 3 scenes here.

What hits the formula here is how Columbo trips up Culp though I am at a total loss how Culp benefits from murdering a boss who he was in complete command of when he is alive. The performances are good enough that you don't mind.

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