Television. As a left-leaning academic feminist, I abhor television. As a working woman who likes to relax in the evening with a little knitting and a little noise, however, I adore tv. Sometimes I’ll knit or cook or give the cats and the bird the loving adoration that is only their due to a program that is somewhat educational, such as a documentary or National Geographic special, or to something that has pretensions to art or elegance or was at least originally produced by the BBC.
But that’s only if there are no Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns on.
Given my tv tastes* and my deep and abiding love for both Darren McGavin in general and his fabulous character, Carl Kolchak (the grandaddy of tv’s supernatural sleuths), I had to watch ABC’s new version of The Nightstalker, which aired this past week.
Lovers of the original Nightstalker will remember that Carl Kolchak was always a disheveled mess in his white suit and straw fedora, a ink-daubed, cynical (but not really) newspaper man with a good dose of huckster. He worked alone but had lots of contacts. In true early-’70s fashion, Kolchak often butted heads with his boss because The Man was always out to get the working stiff. You get the idea.
Now, we wouldn’t want a new Carl Kolchak to be a simple mimic of the old. But what the hell? The new Kolchak is pretty boy Stuart Townsend, who wears the name "Carl" about as well as Queen Elizabeth** would wear a gold velour Sean John tracksuit. Monsters killed his wife but one bad-ass investigator is sure that Kolchak did it despite a complete lack of evidence, and thus Townsend-Kolchak is deep and dark and disturbed and has a reason to investigate paranormal crimes. He wears untucked shirts*** because he’s so deep and disturbed and hasn’t combed his hair since high school. He has a partner who is a smart woman who doesn’t believe any supernatural crap because, well, that worked so well on the X-files, but she needs to be more overtly sexy than Scully because she certainly can’t act so we’ll skip the classy suits. And whenever she doubts Townsend-Kolchak’s theories, he just gets more deep and dark and disturbed. Oh, and don’t forget eager young news photographer Jimmy Olsen, who tags along providing comic relief because Townsend-Kolchak is much too deep and dark and disturbed and un-hair-combed to crack his own jokes and yeah, the kid’s name isn’t really Jimmy Olsen but it might just as damn well be. And Townsend-Kolchak is a journalist, like in the old show, but he’s never shown actually composing or typing or editing anything or even talking about doing those things because writing is really for nerds who tuck in their shirts and comb their hair and who aren’t deep and dark and disturbed because some Vegas investigator thinks they killed their wives and in the pilot, by the way, the Vegas investigator, or maybe he’s FBI, which makes even less sense, travels across the county in violation of every procedural and jurisdictional law I can think of to pin the old murder and several new murders**** on Townsend-Kolchak (despite another complete lack of evidence) because that’s just how rotten and dark and disturbed Townsend-Kolchak’s life is and no wonder he never gets around to combing his hair.
I won’t be watching next week. And now I need to go comb my hair.
*I don’t ask for much in a tv show — give me some witty banter and a plot that hangs together on cursory inspection and I’m happy. If monsters or aliens are involved, or the hero is a kick-ass female, or Bruce Campbell makes a guest appearance to get beat up now and then, I’m in heaven.
**Either one. Can you imagine?
***Untucked shirts and jeans and expensive suede jackets. He looks about as disheveled as a Eddie Bauer catalog model.
****Murders committed by rabid supernatural hedgehogs or something. I’d lost interest by that time and can you blame me?