When you think about weird TV shows, a show like Manimal comes to mind. Part crime drama part science-fiction the show revolved around a man who could shape-shift into animals. The American action-adventure series sadly did not manage to have a healthy run on the idiot box.
In fact it only managed an eight episode run that started in September 1983 on NBC before being unceremoniously culled in December the same year. That said, for a kid growing up in the early 80s, Manimal was indeed a strange-yet-intriguing watch.
The premise of the show revolved around Dr. Jonathan Chase played by British actor Simon MacCorkindale who had mastered the abilities of transforming himself into animals. The background of the story (as narrated before each episode) claims that Chase spent time with his father in Africa and Tibet with his father, and holds many dark secrets.
Strangely though, despite his mysterious past, Chase would eventually wind up in the United States where he did what most 80s TV heroes would do, which is fight crime. In each episode of Manimal, the good doctor would help out the police with cases. Only two people were privy of Chase’s secret which was his closest friend, Ty Earl and Police Detective Brooke Mackenzie.
Despite having shape-shifting powers, the hero would mostly transform into either a hawk or panther in each episode. On rare episodes he would turn into a shark or a snake. The transformation sequences were created by Stan Winston, the renowned SFX artist who worked on Terminator, Jurassic Park, Aliens and Predator.
Unfortunately Manimal failed to garner an audience and NBC rather swiftly pulled the plug on the show early on during production. However several years later the character would resurface in a special episode of superhero series, Night Man, based on the Malibu comic book.
Series creator, Glen A. Larson was responsible for this unique crossover with MacCorkindale reprising the role of Chase. The team-up saw the two lead heroes team-up to stop Jack the Ripper who had travelled through time to continue his killing spree in modern America.
But that would essentially be the last we would ever hear of Manimal as the series and the character would eventually be resigned to a life of reruns and special collector DVDs. That is until Hollywood decides to revive the property once again….