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Hockey’s for Penguins


“The Most Crucial Game” has ace Columbo foe Robert Culp as the frustrated manager of a sports team empire. When he sees a chance to kill the heir to the family business, he dresses as an ice cream man and puts the party animal on ice. But, not for any real motive that we can actually determine. The episode has a lot of things going for it- beautiful direction, great performances, nice individual scenes, a good score, but the parts just don’t quite come together. Author Glen Erik Hamilton (Past CrimesHard Cold Winter) is on the program to pick out just why it all doesn’t seem to add up.


  1. Great episode. Great guest. You guys really nailed what was off about this one. I appreciated knowing the shoe prices in current $ amounts.

  2. After we taped the show, it occurred to me how this episode might have held together better if it had been a two-hour entry in the Columbo canon. Culp would have killed off Valerie Harper’s character as a loose end (ala Poor Miss LaSanka), and we would have had time to establish his possible-relationship-with-or-maybe-unrequited-lust-for the victim’s wife. Plus a mustache-grooming scene, as filler.

    • Jon Morris Jon Morris

      Another twenty minutes for a Tarantino-esque aside about the backstory for Stockwell’s Tiki medallion and we’re agreed.

  3. Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

    Echoing everyone’s comments so far. Culp is fun to watch, the interaction between him and Falk is good, the visuals are terrific (I especially liked Stockwell’s slow-motion fall back into the pool), and the Columbo-isms are good. But the episode’s plot just doesn’t gel. The other episode this reminds me of is “Old Fashioned Murder,” where one gets the feeling that major plot points either were left out of the script entirely, or ended up on the cutting room floor.

    Still, “The Most Crucial Game” is a must-see, if only for the spectacle of Culp driving to the murder in a Ding-a-Ling ice cream truck, dressed appropriately, and then driving back while eating a fudgecicle. I half expected him to turn on the truck’s jingle. You know, to make the disguise seem more realistic.

  4. Jason Brown Jason Brown

    Agree wholeheartedly with the pod and everyone’s comments. Motive? What motive? Without that, it’s simply not as good as usual. But lots to enjoy – far more than I remembered (watching through the prism of the podcast brings out so much more in these episodes ). Best throw-away scene for me? When Culp is getting ready (to MURDER!) in his office, dresses in the Ding-A-Ling outfit – then grins insanely at the mirror, like a concession-selling James Hetfield.

    The mention of Dirty Harry was interesting. Remember Magnum Force (which came out a year later), when the rogue cop goes over the bushes to kill at the mobsters pool party? Some of the scenery & action prior to the murder reminded me of that. Tenuous link : the director of the previous pod episode (A Matter Of Honor) was Ted Post, director of…Magnum Force.

    • Jim Jim

      Haha finally, someone besides myself who thought Culp looked like James Hetfield with that mustache.

  5. Lisa Stein Lisa Stein

    Great podcast and guest. Thanks everyone! Agree that Robert Culp was extra awnery in this one. By the way, spell check for Culp comes up as “culprit.” Coincidence? I think not!

  6. Col.Austin77 Col.Austin77

    Just notice that the Oceanside Cafe establishing shot was used on the Rockford Files. Showed Colombo’s car as well as Avery’s. Going to check on episode title and number. Great discussion. Looking forward to the next.

  7. Jim Jim

    Jon, I liked how you brought Kolchak into the mix making the comparison about the radio broadcast of the ballgame throughout. James Gregory is also in that same episode of Kolchak, “They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be” , which is one of my favorite Kolchak episodes as well. I think you should do a Kolchak podcast after you’re done with Columbo!

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