The series Mrs. Columbo followed a similar formula as Columbo, but it failed as a series and I can't figure out why. It seems like the same show. Was it her personality? Was it the writing? I have to admit one episode I watched had some pretty boring parts. I guess another possibility was the characterizations. Columbo was always the working class guy taking on rich snobs, and that element was absent in Mrs. Columbo.

Then again maybe it was just the writing. Levinson and Link actually plotted out the Columbos themselves and Peter Falk made contributions. In Mrs. Columbo it was just a bunch of routine contract writers. Maybe that was the difference.

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    Never heard of that show (here in Germany). Maybe fans considered it too similar (even the name!) to Columbo? – Mario Jun 28 '14 at 9:22
  • Well - it's rather impossible to say why audiences in general didn't like a show and got it cancelled. Seeing as the show changed name in its second season and as far as I know cut ties to "Columbo" and that didn't solve the viewing crisis, the main reason anybody can give is that it did not appeal to its audience. Writing, similarity and all those things might be the factor – Allan S. Hansen Jul 2 '14 at 19:23

I found a bit of information about the Nielsen ratings for the show at tvobscurities.com:

The pilot for Mrs. Columbo did well, ranking 18th [most watched show of the week], but when the series moved to its regular Thursday time slot it slipped to 45th

The source for this is apparently The TV Column by John Carmody in the 7th March 1979 issue of the Washington Post, though I can't find any archives of the paper to back this up.

In addition to changing timeslots, there were issues with the production, as documented on Kate Mulgrew's website:

The third episode was pulled and replaced with an old “Quincy” show when it was apparent that the show simply would not be finished. The cast and crew got a breather, but remained behind schedule.

So already it sounds like the show was being set up to fail. This information is backed up at the Episode Guide section of the website:

Monday February 26th, 1979: 2 Hour pilot "Word Games" broadcast
Thursday March 1st, 1979: "Murder Is A Parlor Game" broadcast
Thursday March 15th, 1979: "A Riddle For Puppets" broadcast

So instead of the episode on March 8th, they got an announcement from NBC:

On March 8, after “Mrs. Columbo” had been on the air for exactly one week, NBC announced in a carefully worded statement that the show was being “dropped” from the schedule. Dropped, not canceled. NBC promptly announced six new shows, also in “limited” runs—sort of replacements for the replacements.

Later on in the tvobscurities article they mention fallouts between the producers of the original Columbo and Mrs. Columbo, so it sounds like they had completely different staff because of it, which couldn't have helped:

In early 1979, Fred Silverman had the idea to feature “Lt. Columbo’s wife” (often talked about by Columbo, but never seen) in her own mystery series, but creator/producers Richard Levinson and William Link wanted no part it, as they’d previously made a pact with Peter Falk “never to show Mrs. Columbo”. Silverman bypassed them, and got another Universal producer, James McAdams, then David Levinson to film the series. In an effort to draw more attention to Kate Mulgrew’s character, the series was quickly retitled Kate Columbo. Yet the series continued to slip in the ratings. Silverman, however, renewed it for the fall, finally deciding to sever all ties to Columbo, altering Kate’s last name to “Callahan”, and again retitling it Kate Loves A Mystery It finally went off the air for good at the end of the year.

As shows such as Firefly have proven, even if a show is critically acclaimed, messing with the broadcast schedule can irreparably damage the show's potential, especially in 1979 when video recorders were rare and DVR was a dream.

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