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An Evil-Smelling and Blinding Gas

Episode Card- Episode 70, Murder is a Parlor Game

Well, we’re back from our break with a Mrs. Columbo. Before you hit us, though, wait! “Murder is a Parlor Game” stars Donald Pleasance! That must mean it’s good, right? Right? Nope! Go ahead and hit away! In this episode, Pleasance plays a retired Scotland Yard detective who lives in the Wee Britain section of LA, an acclaimed true-crime author and sometime instructor in women’s self-defense. When a wrongly-accused suspect from a past case comes back to haunt him, there’s a struggle, a gunshot and one of the sorriest attempts of a crime scene coverup in recorded modern history. Will Mrs. Columbo piece it together, working the weekly penny saver beat? No, not really! She just sort of stumbles upon things while snooping around and… oh, just watch the thing or listen to us.

Back again are writers Jennifer Wright (Harper’s BazaarGet Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them) and Daniel Kibblesmith (Late Show with Stephen Colbert) with ideas to fix the show, a killer Owen Wilson impression, the “Mrs. Columbo is Dumb” theory, and a free name for your ska band. ALSO- Viewer Mail, with tech tips, analogues to The Wire and speculation about the future of this very podcast.


  1. Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

    It’s good to have you back.

    In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy’s sidekick is named Short Round. I remember this because the script repeatedly goes to great lengths to point this out. Even on a first viewing, this was strange and distracting. It doesn’t reveal anything about the character; it doesn’t advance the plot; it’s not funny or clever. Yet we are told, again and again, that he is named Short Round. It was a head-scratcher.

    And in “Murder Is a Parlor Game,” the murder victim is named Carmichael, but he also calls himself Saunders. But the name he uses to lure Donald Pleasence to his rented apartment is Carmichael, oddly enough. Why would he use his real name? Wouldn’t that tip off his intended target? Then the other characters repeatedly discuss the whole matter: is he actually named Carmichael? Is he actually named Saunders? How will Kate resolve this gripping matter? And who in the audience could possibly care? (And then there’s this episode of the podcast, where you call him Carlyle and Sanders, which adds another layer of mystery to the whole business.)

    As for the rest of “Parlor Game”: you covered most of the major points in the podcast, but I’d like to add that one of the things that makes the show virtually unwatchable is how it fawns over its main character. Kate is insufferably cheerful and upbeat. She’s written and filmed to make her the star of every situation she encounters: for example, did she really have to be pulled onstage at the magic show? Even the (intrusive, syrupy) soundtrack is used to pound you over the head with how gosh-darned adorable she is. This all suggests that the producers had no faith in Mulgrew’s or the writers’ ability to get the audience to care about Kate, so they resorted to all this cheap prompting.

    Well, just a few episodes left to go. I am looking forward to them.

    • Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

      By the way, “paint the lily” is a quote from Shakespeare. King John, Act 4, Scene 2. The character Salisbury says:

      Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,To guard a title that was rich before,To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,To throw a perfume on the violet,To smooth the ice, or add another hueUnto the rainbow, or with taper-lightTo seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

      The phrase “gild the lily” shows up in the late nineteenth century, apparently as a poorly remembered quotation. Succeeding generations of British schoolchildren were taught to treat “gild the lily” as a failed attempt to quote Shakespeare, though frankly it sounds better than “paint the lily.”

      • Jon Morris Jon Morris

        You wanna start writing our show notes (for the next three episodes)? Because you’re doing a bang-up job!

        • Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

          Aw, shucks.

  2. Robert Robert

    Just watched “Any Old Port In A Storm”, and liked Donald Pleasance’s performance in that, but jee.. he’s so over-the-top in this Mrs. Columbo episode. I really missed your podcast, it was a joy listening to, and the story of the alleged cat burglary was hilarious!

  3. Lisa Stein Lisa Stein

    So glad to hear you all again! Missed you both and loved the repeat guests. I have to say I enjoyed the show – in addition to the podcast. I just turned on YouTube, put my feet up, and had an Adrian Carsini port with a Viking Dagger hor d’oeuvre. It was fabulous! You should try it if you do anymore Mrs. Columbo episodes. Thanks! Lisa

    • Rich Weill Rich Weill

      What doomed Mrs. Columbo for me from the start was the casting of Kate Mulgrew. Kate Mulgrew had nothing in common with the picture of Mrs. Columbo I had in my head, from her husband’s various references in the original Columbo series. She was too young, insufficiently ethnic, no large extended family, etc., etc. Someone like Linda Lavin (who unfortunately was in the middle of “Alice” at the time) would have been much, much better.

  4. Jason Brown Jason Brown

    Great episode as ever. Be interestibgbto look at a later one that doesn’t lean on the Columbo nods so much (or at all).

    For the follow up podcast? Well, the Bilko idea would be superb. A personal suggestion? Touches on crime, but also comics, but set far enough back to have social discussions?

    The Incredible Hulk – the Bill Bixby one. Five seasons, plus TV movies…

  5. TJ Meier TJ Meier

    I think you guys hit the nail on the head with the murderer just not having the noblesse or even the arrogance of the typical Columbo villain. Morley was just such a bumbling baffoon who was hand-wringing and literally frightened by Mrs. Columbo from moment one (the script never bothers to answer why in any rational way) that the usual slick and cool hallmark of the murderer isn’t there. And it compromises the character. Pleasance did Pleasance (and a Columbo murderer) right in the Wine Episode. This only logically works as farce—and even then it still stinks.

    And if Jon’s antibody theory is to work here, Columbo killed the Morley show in its PILOT. Him puttering around in his garden and writing books doesn’t stretch into a second episode. This thing was mercifully innoculated in pilot status.

  6. Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

    Did you intend to delete the previous post, the one that announced “Murder Is a Parlor Game”?

    • RJ RJ

      No, that was accidental. It’s back.

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