Thursday, June 26, 2014

80's TV Thursday: Manimal

Image © Watchr Media 2014
Yep, there was actually a very short-lived series back in the 1980's called "Manimal" which was ranked #15 on TV Guide's "50 Worst TV Shows of All Time."

Of course, this was 1983 so I was just barely 13, and I thought it was really cool. Anyone else remember this one?

Similarly to another show from 1983 that I've talked about before, Wizards & Warriors, Manimal also only ran for 8 episodes (including the 90-minute pilot), albeit on NBC (W&W was on CBS).

Manimal is about..., well, the title pretty much says it all. It's guy who is part man and part animal. Neverind the fact that humans are "animals."

More specifically, the show is about Dr. Jonathan Chase, played by Simon MacCorkindale (a character on a variety of TV shows, including Counterstrike and the British series Casualty). Dr. Chase is a wealthy and handsome young doctor who spent his youth in African with his missionary father, where he learned the secrets that "divide man from animal... animal from man."

The good doctor is accompanied by his friend Ty Earl (played by Michael D. Roberts, best known as Rooster on "Baretta"), and together the two of them help solve criminal cases for Police Detective Brooke MacKenzie (Melody Anderson, best known as Dale Arden from the movie "Flash Gordon"). Only these two companions know Dr. Chase's secret of how he can transform into animals, which he does frequently when it's useful to help Brooke close her cases.

Animal Transformations
While Dr. Chase has the ability to transform into any animal, he transforms into a hawk or a "black panther" (which, again, my buddy Cal would point out is a mythical creature, since black panthers not a separate species but just a melanistic color variant of either a leopard or a jaguar) in pretty much every episode. At points throughout the series, he also turned into a horse, a snake, a dolphin, a bear, and a bull. A source of ridicule for the show, Dr. Chase's clothes would rip off of him during transformation and yet not be shown anywhere on the ground, and when he transformed back to human form, his clothes were miraculously back, completely intact.

We Really Hate Those Scary Communists
Bad guys on the show were often just the average every-day criminal element (hijackers and pseudo-mob types), but there were some more exotic criminals such as a guy who stole a race horse and then entered it into a race.

We also get a completely realistic Chinese guy who masquerades as the legendary "Dragon" in Chinatown, as well as a Bulgarian diplomat and some Russian "agents."

The Writing on the Wall
The show ended after only eight episodes, on December 17th, 1983, but the character of Dr. Jonathan Chase was resurrected briefly for a guest-spot on another show in 1998 called "Nightman."

Anything Good Here for my Role-Playing Games?
There's probably some stuff you could dig out of the whole "I learned how to divide man from animal from rituals I was taught in African as a young boy" but it's probably more appropriate to a pulp-style 1930's type game than it was to the 1980's when the show aired.

Is It Good for Kids?
This is just pure campy 1980's fun. I wouldn't think it's all that harmful but as a modern pseudo-police procedural, there are guns, shoot-outs, criminals who steal and hurt people, etc. As always, you should watch it for yourself first before sharing it with your kids.

  • Format: Eight episodes (one 90-minute pilot and seven 60-minute episodes)
  • Where to Buy: This is another series that doesn't seem to be available here in the U.S., but a DVD version was put out in England and later in France about 12 years ago or so. I'm sure you could probably find it streaming online somewhere. 
  • Price: N/A
  • Rated: Not rated
  • More Information: The Manimal page on IMBD

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Stone Sprocketbier (a black rye K├Âlsch-style ale)
Listening: "Mambo Craze" by De-Phazz


  1. Yeah I watched it when it was first on. The SciFi channel used to run week day marathons of it back in the 90s. I remember my roommate at the time being very excited about it and wanted to skip classes to watch it.

    1. I'm not sure that I'd skip school to watch "Manimal." Your roommate really must not have wanted to go to class!

  2. Haha, Manimal! I vaguely remember hearing about the show, when I was a kid (I was 8 when the show was originally aired). Over the years since then I've heard people reference it, some with disgust and some with reverence. I guess you either loved or hated Manimal!

    1. Honestly it's actually almost forgettable other than the really cheesy effects and it did have a different concept that hadn't really been done up until that point.


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