The Worst Sci-Fi & Fantasy shows: MANIMAL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Worst Sci-Fi & Fantasy shows: MANIMAL

Rob McCarthy takes a look back at the short lived 1983 show Manimal. 
Hint - he didn't enjoy it!

Manimal is one of those shows that could only have ever been produced in 1983. It stars the very British Simon MacCorkindale, with Melody Anderson (Dale Arden from the "Gordon's Alive" version of Flash Gordon) and Michael D. Roberts as the obligatory black character that all early 1980's shows had to have. Every episode began with a narrator explaining:
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!
You see what they did there, the clever conjoining of words, man, animal, Manimal. Amazing.

Unfortunately that nifty portmanteau was amongst the best things about Manimal, because the show basically sucked. Dr Chase (MacCorkindale) may have been able to transform into any creature he pleased, but he always seemed to choose either a hawk or a black panther. Largely because the producers had paid the Stan Winston’s Creature Workshop a sizable fee for effects of those two transformations to use in the pilot episode, so they used them again, and again. Plus it seems that there was some stock footage of a flying hawk available, so they used it again, and again. Occasionally Dr Chase would transform into other creatures, like a horse or a dolphin, but that conveniently always happened off camera.

Dr Chase assisted Police Detective Brooke Mackenzie (Anderson) with solving crimes. Because all police departments need a hawk to catch criminals, don't they? It wasn't only a ludicrous idea for a show, it also had no consistency in style. Manimal wavered between weak fantasy, poor procedural and laugh free slapstick comedy. I mean, are we supposed to take this man seriously or not?...

I don't know if this is how he is in real life, but MacCorkindale played Dr Chase as an over the top upper class British Toff, whereas Anderson played Det. MacKenzie as an inept police officer who needed a hawk to assist her. They were made for each other.

The writing was terrible. In one episode Chase delivers these three lines, "The stakes seem high", "These are some high stakes... almost too high." and "How about those stakes back there? Pretty high, huh?". The episode was called 'High Stakes'. D'oh!

Basically, Manimal was bad. A bad bad show. I never saw it on first broadcast because I was just 3, I discovered it many years later (2008ish, I believe) on one of the SKY channels (Bravo, I think), and like the TV fool I am, even though I realised it sucked very early on in the pilot episode, I carried on and watched the whole series. Even DVR'ing a couple because I was going out. I hate that about myself, and I wonder if anyone reading is the same? No matter how bad a show is once I've started I always find myself sticking with it until the end, yet they never get better, never ever. I'm still watching True Blood, and I've thought that was laughably rubbish since season 3.

Manimal doesn't have the cheese factor of something like Automan, and could never win over an audience like The A-Team did because it's just so out there. It's a ridiculous idea, that was taken to the vets and put to sleep after 8 episodes.

So imagine my surprise to read on this very website that they are making a big screen version of Manimal! THEY ARE MAKING A BIG SCREEN VERSION OF MANIMAL?????

Why this is happening is beyond me. Sure, there might be some comedy in it but stretching the idea to 90 minutes seems way too much. And surely the time for this kind of retro movie has passed, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels, even The A-Team have all been there and done that, often not very successfully, and if the producers are hoping to emulate the success of the recent 21 Jump Street revival, then I'm afraid to say that they've really picked the wrong source material.

Manimal is available on DVD (although don't buy it, just don't). You can also watch full episodes on YouTube.

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