geekery

SF OBSCURE: KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER

KolchaktheNightStalker

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER
and its reboot NIGHT STALKER
with a hat tip to its love child,  THE X-FILES (which is now an ‘old’ TV show too, but hardly obscure)

Aliens, zombies, vampires, conspiracies. A lone maverick on his own against the system willing to consider the paranormal and the extraterrestrial.

Not as dreamy as David Duchovny, but I love Darren McGavin aka Carl Kolchak in KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER.

and it has a theme song you can whistle!

(I guess you can whistle the X-FILES theme if you have really healthy lungs)

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER only lasted for one season of 20 broadcast episodes (more were commissioned.) It centered around a Chicago newspaper reporter named Carl Kolchak. He covers the unusual stories and then proposes odd explanations that turn out to be true: racketeers killed by zombies, witches running high fashion, a scientist who created a real android, monsters killing mine workers. Kolchak is never believed and goes through extraordinary lengths to solve the case/stop the monster. He is always on the brink of being fired; always told to reign in his single minded pursuit of the unusual. It is obvious that the Mulder character itself is in many ways modeled after Kolchak though both remain distinctive.  KOLCHAK has more of a gritty cop/urban reporter feel. There is a bit more humor and the focus is more on the weekly characters, the monsters they interact with and the story of the week aspect in contrast to the X-FILES.
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A reboot of KOLCHAK was made in 2005 NIGHT STALKER starring Stuart Townsend and Gabrielle Union. It only aired 10 episodes; the rest were available  later for download on iTunes. Created by Frank Spotnitz (of X-files) and Jeffrey Grant Rice. Due to rights issues, there were limitation on the characters that could be used. Townsend in Kolchak, Union is a reporter named ‘Perri Reed’. They do a fair enough job acting, and the episodes have some nice background tributes to the original Kolchak played by Darren McGavin-but it got fairly low ratings. I found the episodes to be okay, but not great and a little dull. I think part of the reason was that it borrowed from the shows that had borrowed from the original KOLCHAK.  A copy of a copy. A spoonful of X-FILES and a dose of MILLENIUM.

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I also think it part of the problem was the time in which KOLCHAK was made. It’s a great show, still in syndication, still well worth watching. I love it. But, it was made pre-internet and journalism has changed radically. In the early 1970’s information was not a keyboard away: no cell phones, typewriters, tape recorders, drones making Amazon deliveries. And print newspapers-a media that is fading fast.  Even the X-FILES is showing its age. These differences do play a part in the scripts as far as pacing and narrative structure; since a lot of what Kolchak does is focused on using the resources at his disposal to dig up the facts.  The reboot didn’t appear to adjust to that as far as characterization so often the new Stuart Townsend Kolchak doesn’t appear to have much to do except come up with a supernatural theory and fight a monster.

Anyway, definitely watch the original. Or at least the movies THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) and THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973). Even give a reboot episode a try. In any event for fans of the paranormal and conspiracy, it’s worth the time.

So SMART GIRLS question of the week: shows and their reboots…how do you feel about them? Good? Bad?Indifferent?

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12 thoughts on “SF OBSCURE: KOLCHAK:THE NIGHT STALKER

  1. LOVED the original Night Stalker! But you’re sure right about the time period it was set in being long gone…just have to watch it as classic vintage TV, I guess. Thanks for the memories!

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  2. I loved the original KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER! Scared the heck out of me as a kid probably because there was no internet, no “Paranormal Activity”-type series, that desensitized the audience to the scariness of monsters. Now, everyone and his faithful sidekick(s) hunt creatures of the night. There’s no mystery about supposedly mysterious creatures *sigh*

    I never saw the rebooted 2005 KOLCHAK series, and I think I’m glad for that. Reboots often don’t do well, especially with people who watched the original series. The only exception I can think of, for me, is BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The original was fun. The reboot was fantastic.

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    • BSG gets mentioned by a lot of people as a fave reboot; but it’s almost a complete re-imagining from the original. Whole different style-maybe that helped it along.

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  3. I never missed an episode of the original “Kolchak: Night Stalker.” Darren McGavin was wonderful as the news hound on the trail of the “one story” that could catapult him to fame. But each week he got more than he bargained for and his stories muzzled. His junk-yard dog tenacity faced down creatures that scared the beejeesus out of him each week but he kept coming back. The series’ take on horror was hilarious and scary. A Dan Curtis production, I think.Oh, Lord, I’m old.

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    • Darren McGavin really did create an iconic character. I wonder if Duchovny borrowed from that performance because there is a lot of Kolchak-ness in Fox Mulder.

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  4. I remember Kolchak: Night Stalker. Enjoyed watching it. Reboots? Not so much. It is rare that I like them. Exception being the Star Trek world, but that world was made for reboots. But others, not so much. I hated the reboot of of Battlestar Galactic and I did try to watch it. Most of the time I just think, what happened to original ideas? I get that even in original shows where the weekly plot gets recycled from show to show. At least reboots admit to being recycled. More often than not, you will find me on Netflix watching the original show, rather than on network TV watching a reboot. I get a kick out of the old hairstyles and clothes and ways of doing things back before technology. It was fun!

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    • Original ideas are generally the best way to go…sometimes it’s a money issue or a rights issue..or just wanted to cash in one something familiar.

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