Kolchak: The Night Stalker was a wonderful horror sci-fi program that aired on ABC from September 13, 1974 until March 28, 1975. Although only twenty episodes were made, the show has had an impact on the entertainment world even to this day. Chris Carter, the producer of the X Files was a huge fan and has always cited it as the inspiration for his cult favorite.
Created by Jeff Rice and starring veteran character actors, Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland respectively as beat reporter, Carl Kolchak and his harried editor, Tony Vincenzo.
Each week, Kolchak would be assigned to a story that involved some element of the paranormal. This formula became known as “Monster of the Week.”
The show also served as a launching pad for several of Hollywood’s elite. Robert Zemeckis and his writing partner, Bob Gale got their start on the show penning the iconic episode, “Chopper.” This is one of my favorites and features a headless motorcycle rider who goes on a killing spree to reclaim his head. Another alum of the show is David Chase who went on to create The Sopranos. Chase is credited for giving The Night Stalker it’s quirky, offbeat humor.
In addition to behind the scenes talent, the show attracted veteran sci-fi writers like Richard Matheson and producers such as Dark Shadows and Burnt Offerings‘ Dan Curtis. Many well-known celebrities also appeared as guest stars during the program’s run.
Unfortunately, the demise of the show was attributed to several factors. It aired on Friday nights at 10 p.m. which is not a good time slot to attract a younger audience. Another problem was that Darren McGavin was getting increasingly annoyed with having to act as a producer and writer without getting compensated. As a result, the show was cancelled.
In 2005, the show was rebooted and starred Stuart Townsend as Kolchak. It failed to garner any interest and was cancelled after a month. Season 10 of the X Files paid homage to Kolchak in the episode, “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster;” also McGavin himself appeared as Agent Arthur Dales in two episodes – Dales was the Agent who began The X-Files!