Why Elsbeth's Columbo Copycat Plan Was Doomed from the Start

Why Elsbeth's Columbo Copycat Plan Was Doomed from the Start
Image credit: Legion-Media, CBS

The old formula doesn’t seem to work anymore.


  • As a spin-off of The Good Wife and The Good Fight, Elsbeth is oddly nostalgic in the way it is set up.
  • The repetitive formula reveals the mystery of the crime to the viewer and then shows Elsbeth solving it.
  • Even though Columbo, the show similar in nature and format, has been running for 10 seasons, Elsbeth is unlikely to repeat its success.

While there are many fans of the procedural and mystery genre, not all of them were impressed when they first tuned in to Elsbeth. The show knows its niche and fits it perfectly: it has a quirky yet ingenious detective who struggles a bit with mundane tasks but solves the toughest cases brilliantly.

The show doesn't have to be realistic to be entertaining, that much is true. Viewers who have already fallen in love with the main character are willing to forgive some of the writing hiccups that the show undoubtedly has. However, in order to keep the audience intrigued and excited, Elsbeth will soon have to break the only formula she's been using.

Is Elsbeth Worth Watching?

The tricks taken straight into the 60s book don’t really seem to work when it comes to 2024 television. Though the viewers of Elsbeth are charmed by Carrie Preston’s magical portrayal of the titular character, the sheer acting talent isn’t enough to keep the fans watching, when the writing doesn’t match it.

Why Elsbeth's Columbo Copycat Plan Was Doomed from the Start - image 1

Many people make the mistake of comparing Elsbeth with some of the older TV shows, like Columbo – a lighthearted mystery series that has captured the hearts of so many people, it was just as beloved in 2003 as it was in the very beginning of its TV run in 1968. However, given the attention span of the younger audiences, the same premise simply won’t work.

And older audiences would rather tune in to the original shows they have watched and enjoyed before than to a copycat. No matter how good Elsbeth's character is.

The repetition issue may still be solved if the show goes for an unexpected twist in the finale. But if it doesn't, it might be a good idea to cut Elsbeth short and make it a miniseries instead of a long CBS procedural. Knowing how fans react to repetition, even in shows where it's not in the premise, it's safe to say that Elsbeth's run could be short either way.

If you are interested in seeing how Elsbeth can outsmart her predecessor and do something completely different, or if you enjoy the simplicity that the repetitive formula suggests, you can tune in to new Elsbeth episodes every Thursday on CBS.