Manimal is an obscure TV show from 1983 about a man who could change into animals, hence the amazingly clever (not!) title. Â I remember watching this when I was about ten years old and thinking it was one of the coolest shows on TV. Â Imagine being able to transform into any animal you wanted, sounds pretty cool doesn’t it?
I think the reality is that the show may not have been as good as I remember it, which given that aside from the transformation sequences I don’t really remember much else about the series is probably likely to be the case. Â The show never even made it to a full season before it was cancelled after 13 episodes, so that’s another indicator that my childhood instincts were probably off the mark.
The show revolved around Dr Jonathan Chase (played by Simon MacCorkindale) who had the ability to transform into animals, a gift that ran in his family. Â He was a wealthy college professor (presumably an expert in animals) but his ability was discovered by Brooke Mackenzie, a young police woman, so he ends up helping her in solving various crimes.
Whilst supposedly able to change into any animal, Manimal generally changed into a black panther or a hawk most of the time, presumably to save costs during filming so they didn’t have to keep refilming transformation sequences. Â The transformations were a little grim to be honest, with Chase’s hands and face “bubbling” before growing fur or feathers. Â If it were real then it looked as though it would have been a bit on the painful side.
The show was created by Glen A. Larson (creator of Knight Rider) and it appears to be quite difficult to track down episodes of the series these days, with no DVD or video release as far as I’m aware. Â The character did make a one off appearance in the late 1990′s in an episode of another Larson show, Nightman, still played by McCorkindale, but also introduced his daughter who also had the shape changing ability of her father.
Update 4/3/09 – I’ve just found a clip of the black panther transformation sequence from the first episode. It’s quite long, but not bad given the era it was made in. No wonder they skipped it most of the time during the rest of the series.
Update 16/10/10 – Sadly Simon MacCorkindale passed away on 14th October 2010. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2006.