Sunday, June 7, 2015

Creepy TV: Manimal (1983)

Glen A. Larson's 1st sale to NBC since moving his production company to 20th Century Fox was perhaps his worst.

Manimal told the story of Dr. Jonathan Chase, who possessed the ability to transform into any animal he wished, although most of the time he seemed to limit himself to panthers and birds. To be frank, Manimal lost viewers on Fridays, airing as it did in back of another Larson entry, Knight Rider (his last for Universal at NBC), and ended up cancelled after a little more than 2 months on the air.

Simon MacCorkindale toplined as Chase, a pleasant enough fellow without his powers. Viewers felt shape changers belonged on weekends, though technically that was the case since it was airing on Fridays. William Conrad, who had occupied the Friday 9 pm (ET) slot himself for a time with Nero Wolfe, narrates the cursory origin video that makes up half of the intro:

Chase's drawback was the same as that of Maya (Catherine Schell) on Space: 1999 a few years earlier. In his animal form, he can't talk. Had this been a cartoon, it might've been more successful.

Rating: C.


magicdog said...

I remember this one! Boy howdy!

Is it just me or does the theme song sound like a ripoff of The Equalizer theme?

I think you're correct in assuming the concept would have fared better in animation. Sure we have CGI now which may have made the transformations a bit easier and more varied, but the problem ultimately is the same. The animal wranglers only had so many trained animals to fall back on and a lot of footage ended up recycled.

I remember also the subject being brought up of Jonathan becoming human again - but fully dressed! Animals don't wear clothes and he should have returned to form naked - although censors wouldn't allow it!

I was never satisfied with the strange explanation given as to how Jonathan obtained his powers. Plus - why did his father "die" by vanishing out of his clothes? Weird.

hobbyfan said...

Had they been able to continue, maybe that last question is answered.

As it happened, they copied the shape-changing gimmick, complete with returning clothes, with Sheena nearly 20 years later. Like Chase, Sheena (Gena Lee Nolin) couldn't talk in her animal forms. The fact that Chase would shift back, clothes and all, made me think this worked better as a cartoon.