TV

Who Should Play Columbo In The Reboot Someone Is Probably Going To Make?


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It is 2018 and reboots are hot hot hot. Actually, they’ve been hot for a while now. And a lot of them aren’t really “reboots” — in the strictest sense of the word — as they are continuations and reimaginings and other such words that are shorthand for “we got the stars to come back after 20 years and we’re gonna roll with it.” But still. I stand by my statement. Reboots are hot hot hot.

What other takeaway could you possibly have after a week that saw announcements of Murphy Brown, Magnum P.I., and Cagney and Lacey coming back to the small screen, joining shows like Will & Grace, Full(er) House, and MacGuyver? The question now is less “What popular show from days gone by will come back next?” than it is “What popular show from days gone by won’t come back next?” Which means, in all likelihood, someone, somewhere, right now, is working on a reboot/reimagining of Columbo.

And this is where I come in. I am going to reveal to you, Hollywood, the perfect actor to play Columbo in the hip, modern-day version of the classic 1970-80s detective series. It’s so good. You won’t even believe it.

But first: Just so we’re clear on this part… you know you don’t have to do this, right? You don’t have to make a new version of Columbo. Or any show, for that matter. I know times are tough right now, what with roughly 700 shows on 80 different channels and streaming services out there, all of them peeling eyeballs away from your particular programming lineup. And I know the name recognition of a beloved classic will at least get you a foothold to start scaling the face of that mountain. I get all that. It’s a business and people need to eat. But before I tell you the perfect lead for your new Columbo series — which, again, you don’t have to make, and can even instead replace with a “Columbo-inspired” series about a bumbling detective named, for example, Vernon Pepper — I want to ask you something, and I want you to really think about your answer: Where does this end?

Because, hoo boy, you guys. Murphy Brown? That’s where we are now? I say this not to defame the original version of the show or its star, Candice Bergen, in any way. Candice Bergen is great. I hope she lives to be 100 and stars in many more shows, or at least as many as she would like to. And a show about women working in media sure is timely given, like… [gestures toward the whole entire world]. But even in conversations where people get really, really excited about reboots, I truly do not think anyone exclaimed, “Why don’t they bring back Murphy Brown?!” Magnum, P.I.? Yeah, I can see that, I guess. Same with Cagney and Lacey, even. But how deep into this well are we going here? One of you needs to draw me a line. Because otherwise we’re gonna wake up one day with a prime-time lineup of Mr. Ed, My Three Sons, Family Ties, and, like, Edgy Matlock or something, and that’s just not gonna work.

(Quick note: Please consider scrapping the separate reboots and making one big show called Magnum P.I. & Cagney & Lacey. All three of them cruising around Hawaii in convertibles, solving crimes and so on and so forth. Put the edgy Matlock in there too for all I care. I mean, if we insist on bringing shows back, let’s at least have some fun with it all.)

In fact, given all of the old properties that are back or coming back, it’s a little crazy that there hasn’t been a Columbo reboot already, right? Columbo was a good show. I still watch reruns of it. It’s not like it’s a hard formula to re-create, either. Every episode was basically the same: Someone (usually a famous author) murders someone else (usually a person who is about to expose the author as a fraud) using an elaborate, meticulous scheme, and then Columbo shows up (usually not until halfway through the episode, which is wild for a show that was literally called Columbo) and gets the killer to trip over himself by playing dumb. That’s extremely doable, if you find the right actor to replace Peter Falk, which I give to you in a second, I swear.

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It’s just… why? Why keep doing this? New shows are scary, sure, and some reboots and spinoffs have worked out. Fuller House allegedly gets huge ratings for Netflix. Better Call Saul is awesome. I legitimately enjoy the new Lethal Weapon, if we’re counting movie-to-TV reboots. It can be done, but the bar for success on these is really high. If they’re not done well they just come off as a very lazy cash grab, and yes, I think I would prefer a reality show titled Lazy Cash Grab to another full slate of reboots.

(Lazy Cash Grab pitch: Put 20 contestants on innertubes in a lazy river and drop $100 bills into the water. Whoever has the most money at the end wins. Then you do Celebrity Lazy Cash Grab. This is a free idea.)

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being unreasonable here. Maybe this is just the way things are going to be now. Maybe we’re going to be rebooting our favorite shows over and over for eternity, like how every high school drama department puts on a new production of Annie or West Side Story every decade or so, or how Spider-Man gets rebooted every few years with a slightly younger and more British lead actor. I’m just saying, you don’t have to do this. You can make new shows. Try things, break stuff, etc. I think that’s a better and more satisfying solution than just trotting out a version of Murder, She Wrote set in the present day, which was a real thing people tried to do a few years ago until Angela Lansbury, bless her, took the verbal equivalent of a shoulder-mounted ground-to-air rocket launcher and shot it out of the sky, and yes, I would also watch a show where Angela Lansbury plays a warlord who has a shoulder-mounted ground-to-air rocket launcher. See? Ideas are all around us, man. You just gotta look for them.

Anyway, the perfect actor for a Columbo reboot is Jake Johnson from New Girl. Although I would kind of rather see him as the second lead in that Lansbury warlord show now. But whatever. Up to you.

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