Columbo: Season 2, Episode 3

The Most Crucial Game (5 Nov. 1972)

TV Episode  |  Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,054 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 5 critic

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?


Los Angeles Coliseum stadium shots from the beginning of the show are from Super Bowl I, 15 January 1967. (You can see the Kansas City Chiefs graphics painted on the end zone field, as well as some of the Chiefs' cheerleaders.) See more »


As Hanlon's secretary greets lawyer Cunnell, she holds a telephone receiver in her left hand. In the following scene Columbo enters the room and suddenly the receiver is on-hook again, while the phone starts ringing. 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
See more »

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User Reviews

Watch for Culp's performance
28 January 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Let me get the negative out of the way first, mainly the lack of what I would consider a true motive for such a high-profile murder, carried out by a GM of a professional football team. That GM was superbly portrayed by Robert Culp, who's angrier than ever and is the 2nd best Columbo villain, behind only the great Jack Cassidy. I've seen this fine episode many times, and I'm still slightly baffled what was the motive; was it because the young owner, played smugly by Dean Stockwell, didn't want to buy a hockey franchise, or was Paul Hanlon(Culp)simply power hungry? This never jived with me. That being said, this is an entertaining episode revolving around football and there are notable actors performing, such as Dean Jagger, Val Avery, and Valerie Harper; there's even a special appearance by none other than Pat Riley of the LA Lakers. There's no need to repeat the plot again, but most of the scenes, including what appears to be a stray dog on set with Avery's character, are quite effective and fun. Peter Falk is in fine form, and his chemistry with Culp is superb. The conclusion may be a bit too tidy for my taste, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the segment.

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