If you want to follow a relentless reporter with a knack for discovering dangerous conspiracies and deadly monsters, then binge-watch "Kolchak: The Night Stalker." A key inspiration for "The X-Files," "Kolchak" offers eerie, exciting and campy entertainment.
Title: "Kolchak: The Night Stalker"
Year it began: 1972
Where it can be seen: WBBZ-TV, Netflix, DVD
Who’s in it: Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage, Ruth McDevitt
Typical episode length: 51 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 22
Brief plot description: Reporter Carl Kolchak of Chicago’s Independent News Service doggedly pursues news stories wherever they lead. While infuriating local police, interested parties and his editor, Kolchak investigates such bizarre subjects as monsters, demonic killers, and corporate conspiracies.
Why it’s worth watching: Following the weird adventures of a tireless reporter with an uncanny ability to find conspiracies in the most unassuming stories, "Kolchak" offers highly inventive mystery programming.
Wearing his signature rumpled seersucker suit, straw hat, and sneakers, McGavin’s Kolchak is an iconic reporter—the indefatigable investigator with a nose for conspiracies who pursues leads anywhere, no matter the cost to his safety or his reputation.
Two television movies, "The Night Stalker" (1972) and "The Night Strangler" (1973), established the show’s basic framework: daring to believe in such implausible things as vampires and occult elixirs, Kolchak defies skeptical colleagues and police while pursuing incredible stories—though hard evidence is either covered up or destroyed.
After being run out of Las Vegas and Seattle by authorities who dislike his dangerous curiosity, Kolchak finds a home—and a setting for "Kolchak"—in Chicago. With a riveting, jazz-laced soundtrack, cutting-edge directing, and excellent writing, "Kolchak" creates an off-beat world for its ever-active protagonist, who is played to nervy perfection by McGavin.
Whether he is frenetically racing to crime scenes, determinedly interviewing hostile witnesses, or heroically preparing to encounter grisly creatures of the night, McGavin creates a memorable reporter who is equal-parts conspiracy theorist and street-wise cynic. Oakland is fantastic as Kolchak’s long-suffering editor Tony Vincenzo, whose nerves are constantly tested by the reporter he nevertheless admires.
The show is especially successful in using various guest stars to populate its mysterious worlds: talented character actors such as Jamie Farr, John Fiedler, Cathy Lee Crosby and Erik Estrada play parts in the wonderfully strange stories of demons, killers, and cover-ups that become subjects for Kolchak’s typewriter.