Columbo (1971–2003)
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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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Release Date:

5 November 1972 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


The 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 »


The radio in Columbo's Peugeot appears to be a European model with a frequency band not compatible with American AM radio. Therefore, he would not be able to tune in to an American station to listen to the football game on his car radio. 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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I've seen all of these too many times now
9 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

...but I do love them.

"The Most Crucial Game" from season 2 of Columbo stars repeat offender Robert Culp as well as Dean Stockwell and Dean Jagger. Stockwell plays Eric, a young playboy who has inherited money and a football team from his late father and is basically interested in spending the money and fooling around when his wife is out of town.

Culp is Paul Hanlon, the manager of the football team and also in charge of building Eric's portfolio. He calls Eric after a wild party and orders him out of bed and into the pool, so that he's ready to fly that evening to look at a hockey team in Canada.

Paul goes to great lengths to get over to Eric's house and kill him during the game, and yet seem to be at the game while the murder takes place. And it's supposed to look like an accident, but Columbo finds a clue immediately the indicates that it may be otherwise.

This is a very good episode with a couple of holes that come from watching these shows until you practically have them memorized. Believe me, it doesn't take away from the entertainment value.

The big problem here is that there is never a motive given. There are two possible ones: interest in Eric's wife, or Paul has been stealing money of Eric's that he has access to, or has made some deals that benefit him more than Eric, is sick of him, and wants to get rid of him. He would still be manager of the team.

The thing is, it's up to you. People will point out problems in these shows; the viewer can sometimes explain them to his or her own satisfaction. And sometimes, it's a mistake, plain and simple.

These episodes were like feature films and I imagine were churned out fairly quickly, with the most attention paid to how the murder was committed and what clues Columbo would find. And the whole show is Peter Falk dragging some arrogant so and so off to prison anyway. In the end, as long as he does that, we're happy.

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