It wasn’t around for very long, but it loomed large in my child’s imagination. MANIMAL aired on NBC from September through December of 1983. The opening narration was provided by gravelly-voiced William Conrad: “Dr. Jonathan Chase…wealthy, young, handsome. A man with the brightest of futures. A man with the darkest of pasts. From Africa’s deepest recesses, to the rarefied peaks of Tibet, heir to his father’s legacy and the world’s darkest mysteries. Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divide man from animal, animal from man… Manimal!” It was an absolute delight to a geeky preteen boy who learned to read by reading comicbooks. It was…a big ol’ hot mess, looking back on it. But it was so much fun and I loved it.
The hero, Jonathan Chase, could transform himself into any animal, though almost always he picked a hawk or a black panther. MANIMAL is largely notable today, aside from its cheesy gloriousness that all of us who love it still celebrate, because Lara Parker of DARK SHADOWS appeared in the pilot made-for-television movie and because special FX legend Stan Winston provided the effects for the show. Also, the fourth episode of the series featured a feral child raised by wolves.
There were rumblings several years ago about a MANIMAL movie set to star Will Ferrell. Let’s hope that idea got scrapped. Seems like it did, since we haven’t heard a peep about it in a while. What MANIMAL needs is a big-budget *serious* movie adaptation. (Hey, I’d go see it.)