What started with an unpublished novel led to a pair of ABC Movie of the Week entries and a short-lived series that became a cult classic and the inspiration for another cult favorite 20 years later.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker, though, almost didn't make it to series, as creator Jeff Rice had sued Universal over using his central character, reporter Carl Kolchak (Darrin McGavin), without his permission. After 20 of 26 scheduled episodes had aired, the series ended, as McGavin, who doubled as a producer, had cited burnout.
Night Stalker started with a 1972 TV-movie by that name, based on Rice's initial story in the heretofore unpublished Kolchak Papers, which would later be adapted into comic book form, more than 30 years later. The tone of the series was set, Kolchak in pursuit of a modern day vampire (Barry Atwater). A year later, Kolchak returned in "The Night Strangler", produced and directed by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows fame. The series, initially entitled simply The Night Stalker after the first film, launched in September 1974, but quickly went on hiatus and returned with Kolchak's name added to the title. ABC went so far as to move it from its 10 pm (ET) berth on Fridays to an earlier time on the same night, but it didn't work.
X-Files creator Chris Carter cited Night Stalker as the inspiration for his seminal series, which launched 20 years after Night Stalker, and, of course, lasted far, far longer. However, Kolchak's story wasn't over yet. 30 years after the initial series' ended, ABC brought back Night Stalker, with Stuart Townsend as Kolchak, but its lifespan was even shorter than the original. Then again, it was on a different night (Thursday) and against stiffer competition (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).
Here's the intro that I'm sure you remember: