A television classic many consider to be a precursor to the X-Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a more amusing cousin to that series.
I remember being delighted as a kid, at the arrival of this series on tv. It promised stories of the mysterious, supernatural, and unexplained. I was already a genre fan at that early age, and this series looked like it was right up my alley. It featured Darren McGavin as the stalwart Carl Kolchak a scruffy looking journalist with a nose for the unusual and spooky. He drove around Chicago in his yellow Ford Mustang in search of information gathered with a portable recorder, and once he caught the scent he was relentless in pursuit of the story, which often were hard to validate due to the unusual nature of the cases.
The series also featured Simon Oakland as Tony Vincenzo, Kolchak’s bellicose boss and the editor of the rag he wrote for. The two often disagreed, and scenes they shared were delightfully amusing to witness as the two yelled dialogue at each other as they argued on a weekly basis.
The series had a somewhat noir flavor contributed to by McGavins’s voice-over narrations during episodes. Kolchak himself was not popular with the police he often encountered while investigating the grisly crimes he investigated and was usually treated as a nuisance by them. He seldom had the cooperation of the authorities. He often employed guerrilla tactics in attempting to get his story and was not above breaking and entering to get the answers he pursued.
Kolchak: The Night Stalker is an American television series that aired on ABC during the 1974–1975 season. It featured a fictional Chicago newspaper reporter—Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin—who investigated mysterious crimes with unlikely causes, particularly those that law enforcement authorities would not follow up. These often involved the supernatural or science fiction, including fantastic creatures.
Creator of the X-Files, Chris Carter has acknowledged that this series had a huge influence on his creation. Carter paid tribute to Kolchak in a number of ways in the show.
The series was preceded by two television movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973). Although the series only lasted a single season, it remains popular in syndication. It is often cited as the inspiration for the popular series The X-Files Following the success of The X-Files, the franchise was resurrected in 2005 in rebooted form with a new cast and characters, as well as subsequent novels and comic books. This second series lasted less than an entire season.
The series often featured guest roles for some of the most famous and popular tv veterans of the time, but behind the scenes, problems led to the show’s cancellation along with poor ratings.
Although short-lived this series had a lot of impact on genre TV. Forty years later the series enjoys cult classic status, and is still popular in syndication. The figure of Carl Kolchak in his often wrinkled attire and well worn hat has become an iconic figure of American genre pop culture.