[[caption-width-right:350:IntrepidReporter Carl Kolchak and Mr. R.I.N.G.]]

->''"If you want a job done right, you just have to foul it up yourself."''
-->-- '''Carl Kolchak'''

1974 Creator/{{ABC}} series starring Darren [=McGavin=] as IntrepidReporter turned OccultDetective Carl Kolchak. Preceded by two {{Made for TV Movie}}s, ''The Night Stalker'' (1972) and ''The Night Strangler'' (1973).

The character of Carl Kolchak was the protagonist in an unpublished novel by Jeffrey Grant Rice, ''The Kolchak Papers'', a thriller in which Las Vegas newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak tracks down a serial killer, only to discover that the serial killer is really a vampire. ABC optioned the unpublished novel for production into a MadeForTVMovie, and the resulting adaptation (''The Night Stalker'') scripted by Creator/RichardMatheson (''The Incredible Shrinking Man'', ''I Am Legend'') became a surprise hit, earning the highest ratings of any TV movie up until its January, 1972 airing (reportedly a 33.2 rating/54 share.) It was so well-received that some of the producers later said that they wish they had taken the movie and gone with a theatrical release instead. The production also earned the 1973 Edgar Award for Best TV Feature/Miniseries Teleplay.

Impressed by this success, ABC arranged for Matheson to write the screenplay for a followup TV movie, ''The Night Strangler'', which aired about a year later, about a century-plus old serial killer who [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin strangled his victims]] and then used their blood to prolong his life through alchemy. ''The Night Strangler'' carried over the star and several of the supporting cast from the earlier TV movie, while transferring the venue from Las Vegas to UsefulNotes/{{Seattle}} (the better to use the scenic beauty of the Seattle Underground as locations). This sequel did well enough in the ratings that Pocket Books proceeded to publish ''The Kolchak Papers'' as a "Night Stalker" tie-in, changing the title of the novel to ''The Night Stalker'' and featuring a picture of star Darren [=McGavin=] on the cover. Reasoning that nothing succeeds like success, Pocket Books then commissioned Rice to write a novelization of Richard Matheson's script of the second movie, which Pocket Books published as ''The Night Strangler''.

[[caption-width-right:230:Behind every successful IntrepidReporter is DaEditor. Kolchak's is Tony Vincenzo]]

The success of ''The Night Stalker'' and ''The Night Strangler'' caused ABC to reconsider plans for a third movie installment (early plans included the possibility of marketing the three movies in syndication as "The Trilogy of Terror") and the network decided to produce a weekly "Kolchak" series instead. Darren [=McGavin=] and co-star Simon Oakland (playing DaEditor, Tony Vincenzo) signed on to reprise their roles from the two movies, while the venue changed again to UsefulNotes/{{Chicago}}, where Kolchak and Vincenzo were employees of a wire service, the Independent News Service (INS). The series also featured a set of memorable office denizens (INS became something of the office version of a QuirkyHousehold), and several other [[RecurringCharacter recurring characters]] (including a wacky morgue attendant and the statutorily required contact in the Chicago Police Department, a police captain ultimately driven into group therapy in order to deal with anger issues arising from his frustrations in dealing with Kolchak).

The series failed to garner the success of the two movies, and Darren [=McGavin=], who was not only the star but also acted as executive producer (credited as such for at least 4 episodes), began to become disappointed in the series, which had started to degenerate into a MonsterOfTheWeek show. [=McGavin=] therefore began to negotiate with ABC to be released from his contract. ABC, having noticed the series's dwindling ratings, decided to cancel it with two of the planned 22 episodes unproduced, and granted [=McGavin's=] request. While ratings for the series were disappointing (especially in the light of the success of the predecessor movies), the series's quirky blend of horror and black comedy struck enough of a chord with enough fans that it became something of a [[CultClassic cult hit]], retaining enough drawing power to warrant the production of two [[CompilationMovie compilation movies]], to earn substantial airtime in syndication, to inspire the publication of [[ExpandedUniverse a series of novels featuring the characters]], and eventually to earn a complete series DVD release ''and'' a less-than-successful remake series - ''Night Stalker'' (2005).

It may not have hurt the series' reputation that subsequent credits for the show's writers included ''Series/TheSopranos'' (David Chase was the ''de facto'' story editor), ''Series/HillStreetBlues'' and... ''Film/BackToTheFuture'' ("Chopper" has story credit for Creator/RobertZemeckis and Bob Gale)!

A [[TheFilmOfTheSeries theatrical film update]], starring Creator/JohnnyDepp as Kolchak, has been [[http://www.aintitcool.com/node/50337 planned]].

!!This show provides examples of:

* AbsurdlySpaciousSewer: "The Spanish Moss Murders."
* AgentMulder: Carl Kolchak
* AgentScully: Tony Vincenzo
** To say nothing of the police.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Updyke.
* AnimatedArmor: In the episode "The Knightly Murders." The ghost of an evil knight animates his old suit of armor to kill everyone responsible for the desecration of his burial site.
* AssholeVictim: The mobsters in "The Zombie".
* {{Badass}}: He may be more of an ActionSurvivor than anything else, but you know what? Kolchak definitely qualifies. [[Series/{{Supernatural}} His mother wasn't killed by a demon]]. [[Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer He wasn't Chosen by the Powers That Be]]. [[Series/TheXFiles Heck, he doesn't even work for the FBI]]. Yet time and again he throws himself into danger to get the truth and help people, armed with little more than a few old legends, and comes up victorious every time.
* CaliforniaDoubling: For Chicago. Sometimes this is more obvious than others.
* CannotDream: A scientific test subject is denied the ability to dream in "The Spanish Moss Murders", and the same energy is diverted into creating a homicidal PlantPerson.
* CarCushion: "The Trevi Collection"
* CatsAreMean: A cat claws a fashion model's face in "The Trevi Collection."
* ClassicalMovieVampire: the eponymous Night Stalker in the original TV movie.
* CompilationMovie: ''Crackle of Death'' and ''The Demon and the Mummy''
* CoolCar: Kolchak's yellow '65 Mustang convertible.
* CraniumChase: Episode "Chopper". The skull and body of a dead man are separated. The man's ghost animates his dead body as a HeadlessHorseman and goes on a search for his head, killing the people who murdered him along the way.
* CreepyMortician: "Gordy the Ghoul" Spangler, who isn't so much creepy (although he does run a gambling pool based on the corpses' statistics) as preternaturally cheerful. Did we mention he's played by John Fiedler, [[Franchise/WinnieThePooh the voice of Piglet?]]
* DaEditor: Tony Vincenzo.
* DarkerAndEdgier: The remake was this, as a) it lacked a lot of the humor, and b) Kolchak was motivated in his investigations by the death of his wife at the hands of something unknown. As Creator/WarrenEllis put it, "It's like ''Series/{{Ironside 1967}}'', only he loses the use of his legs in a PrisonRape incident."
* DealWithTheDevil: "The Devil's Platform"
* DownerEnding: The first movie. [[spoiler:The vampire serial-killer is defeated, but Kolchak's story gets heavily altered by the corrupt city government, he loses his girlfriend and nearly gets arrested for murder, and an episode of the series would reveal that one of the victims became a vampire herself and continued killing. After being told to leave Las Vegas, he ends up expanding his original story into a novel.]]
* DugTooDeep: In "The Sentry", subterranean workers discover a clutch of eggs underground which they steal. This causes the [[MonsterIsAMommy eggs' mother]] to hunt them down and kill them.
* EvilElevator: "The Devil's Platform"
* EvilTwin: A homicidal spirit takes on the form of a symphony conductor it adulates in "Firefall." Disturbingly, the Rakshasa in "Horror in the Heights" takes on the form of Kolchak himself to kill one victim.
* ExpandedUniverse: The series has inspired a number of novels featuring Carl Kolchak, Tony Vincenzo, and other series characters, the latest being published as late as 2007! There is also a series of comic books by Moonstone Comics with new adventures, including crossovers with Sherlock Holmes, Honey West, and Cthulhu.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Or not, in the case of "Primal Scream."
* FailureIsTheOnlyOption: No matter how many monsters and paranormal happenings Kolchak gets involved with, he never has enough evidence left at the end of an episode to prove it, although in one episode he and Vincenzo actually get the story onto the wire before their management kills it.
* FinaglesLaw. Whatever Kolchak needs to destroy the monster, he often drops, breaks, or loses the item required. "The Vampire," "The Devil's Platform," "Bad Medicine," "The Spanish Moss Murders," and "The Trevi Collection."
* FollowTheLeader: ''Series/TheXFiles'' creator ChrisCarter admits to being a ''Kolchak'' fan, and [[WordOfGod explicitly named]] ''Series/KolchakTheNightStalker'' as an inspiration in his creating ''Series/TheXFiles''.
** Also, the revival was overseen by ''Series/TheXFiles'' writer-producer Frank Spotnitz.
* GlamourFailure: The Rakshasa in one episode.
* HeadlessHorseman: "Chopper."
* HighVoltageDeath: In the episode "The Ripper". Kolchak manages to destroy the spirit of Jack the Ripper by electrocuting him.
* HollywoodDarkness: Averted. In ''Kolchak: The Night Stalker'' dark scenes are really dark, so much so that all one can see are highlights, reflections, and the occasional flashlight blotting out the entire screen.
* HumanSacrifice: In the episode titled "Legacy of Terror," an ancient Aztec cult is performing HumanSacrifice to bring back their deity.
* IconicOutfit: He really wouldn't be Kolchak without the blue seersucker suit and straw [[NiceHat porkpie hat]].
* IgnoredExpert: Carl Kolchak, who in both movies and the series is usually the only person who notices the unusual happenings which drive the episode.
* ImperfectRitual: Episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy (yes, the one from GreekMythology) has retained her youth down to the present day through the HumanSacrifice of perfect physical specimens to the goddess Hecate. Kolchak points out to Hecate that one of Helen's recent sacrifices had a glass eye, causing Hecate to withdraw Helen's stolen youth and RapidAging her to death.
* ImplacableMan: Lots of the monsters, but the zombie in "[[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin The Zombie]]" is the most obvious, and the most frightening.
* IntrepidReporter: Carl Kolchak
* InvisibleMonsters: Several. One an Alien, the other an EldritchAbomination.
* UsefulNotes/JackTheRipper: In the episode titled (appropriately) "The Ripper." The Ripper also picked up some qualities of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_Heeled_Jack Spring-heeled Jack]] along the way, including the ability to make unusual (if not outright impossible) leaps and walk away from very high falls, and the ability to avoid or ignore gunshots.
* JurisdictionFriction: Played straight in ''The Night Stalker'' where Kolchak is able to leverage the differences between the Las Vegas FBI office and the local law enforcement to gain access to the case, but {{Averted}} in every single story afterwards, with all levels of local, state and federal government and law enforcement working in flawless cooperation with the sole purpose of screwing over Kolchak.
* LargeHam: Quite a few of the guest stars, Keenan Wynn as Chicago PD Captain "Mad Dog" Siska, plus Kolchak and Vincenzo themselves. It can verge on a WorldOfHam sometimes.
* LifeDrinker: In the episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy has survived to the present day by sacrificing perfect human victims to the goddess Hecate. The sacrifice is made by magically causing Rapid Aging in the victims, which in turn gives Helen eternal youth.
* LimitedWardrobe: Kolchak's seersucker suit and ratty old hat. Considering how much abuse it goes through during the series, Carl's dry cleaner must be very talented, and very rich.
* TheMafia: "The Zombie," written by none other than [[Series/TheSopranos David Chase]], features a Haitian ''mamaloi'' killing off the ''mafiosi'' who ordered a hit on her son.
* MagicalNativeAmerican: Subverted in one episode when Kolchak meets a "Shaman" who only has the old knowledge of the monster of the week. He's a construction foreman and ladies' man more than anything else. He's also one of the only helpful people Kolchak ever meets. Another episode plays this only slightly straighter, when an elderly Navajo relays some vital information to him, but isn't portrayed as anything other than someone who actually believes the monster exists.
* {{Mayincatec}}: "Legacy of Terror" centers on an Aztec cult, complete with bird masks and feathered headdresses. The cult is cutting out the hearts of sacrificial victims in service of their mummified god, Nanauatzin. Lacking a step pyramid, their final sacrifice is staged at the top of a long flight of stairs at the sports stadium.
* MissingTheGoodStuff: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be..." begins with Kolchak happily preparing to go see the Cubs play in the World Series. Not only doesn't he make it to the game, even his attempts to pick it up on his car radio are repeatedly foiled.
* MonsterIsAMommy: "The Sentry"
* MonsterMisogyny: Found in both TV movies. In the series, usually only when it's justified, such as in the obvious case of "The Ripper." Other times it's averted.
* MonsterOfTheWeek: Sufficiently so in its death spiral to cause series star Darren [=McGavin=] to ask for early release.
* MurderousMannequin: "The Trevi Collection"
* MyHorseIsAMotorbike: "Chopper" features a Hell's Angel riff on the classic Headless Horseman myth.
* NeverSleepAgain: In "The Spanish Moss Murders," Inverted when a walking-weed swamp monster turned out to be a psychic projection from a young man undergoing an experimental sleep-drug therapy. He had grown up hearing ghost stories about such a creature, and the drug gave him the ability to manifest his childhood fear.
* NonNaziSwastika: In the "Rakshasa" episode, Kolchak sought wisdom from an emigrant from India, who had swastikas. The man explained that in his culture they were holy symbols.
* NoSwastikas: Justified aversion; swastikas appeared in "Horror of the Heights" as protective talismans. Painted by a Hindu man in a Jewish neighborhood, so... yeah.
* NounVerber: The very title (or portion thereof) ''The Night Stalker''
* OccultDetective: Carl Kolchak
* OurMonstersAreDifferent: Lots and Lots
** EldritchAbomination: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" invokes this with explicitly alien visitors who use Earth as a trucker does a pit stop, completely ignoring humanity as anything other than a nuisance or a food source. Then there's Matchemonedo, the "Bear God" in "The Energy Eater" which only visible to the X-Ray Spectrum, [[CaptainObvious feeds on energy]] and likes it hot. When an X-Ray picture is taken of it, the being looks like a malevolent hurricane of energy.
*** It was stated in the episode that it was referred to as the Bear God not because of its appearance, but because of its habits: it fed in the summer and rested in the winter, as it could not function in the cold.
** LizardFolk: "The Sentry"
** OurDemonsAreDifferent: Featuring a FantasyKitchenSink of [[{{Hellhound}} Hellhounds]] ("The Devil's Platform"), Rakshashas ("Horror in the Heights") and...
*** HornyDevils: Ugly as Sin in its true form, the succubus from "Demon In Lace" kills people with its visage alone.
** OurGhostsAreDifferent: "Firefall," "Bad Medicine," "The Knightly Murders"; the headless head-chopper in "Chopper" updates "Literature/TheLegendOfSleepyHollow" by replacing the horse with a Motorcycle.
** OurWerewolvesAreDifferent: WolfMan variety.
** OurVampiresAreDifferent: Pretty much the Film/HammerHorror variety.
** OurZombiesAreDifferent: The eponymous beastie of "The Zombie" is the original Haitian variety. It's [[ImplacableMan far tougher]] than your average zombie, and requires an elaborate ritual to kill it.
** WitchSpecies: "The Trevi Collection"
* ParanormalInvestigation: Both the original series and the later remake.
* PoliceBrutality: While they never go as far as beating him up, the police have no trouble manhandling Kolchak all the time and often illegally confiscate and destroy his camera in order to destroy any evidence of the unexplained creatures they’re trying to cover up.
* PunBasedTitle: "Chopper" features an undead motorcyclist riding a chopper, chopping people's heads off. In "The Knightly Murders," the murders take place nightly.
* RippedFromThePhoneBook: Carl does this a lot. In one episode it comes back to bite him.
* RoomDisservice: Inversion in one episode, where a pimp substitutes another hooker for the vampiress call-girl Kolchak is hunting. Her reaction to Carl's wooden stake and crucifix is priceless.
* SequelEpisode: "The Vampire" is a sequel to the first TV movie, with an overlooked victim of the Vegas vampire resurfacing.
* ShoutOut: In episode 12, "Mr. R.I.N.G.", the company that was creating an android was casually mentioned as being the Tyrell Institute, in reference to the Philip K Dick novel Literature/DoAndroidsDreamOfElectricSheep. This was a few years ''before'' the release of ''Film/BladeRunner'', too.
* SilverBullet: "The Werewolf".
* [[SpiritualSuccessor Spiritual Predecessor]]: Of ''Series/TheXFiles''.
* UrbanFantasy
* VainSorceress: In "The Youth Killer", Helen of Troy returns to drain the youth out of unsuspecting perfect victims, sacrifices for the goddess Hecate, in her quest for immortality.
* WholePlotReference: The final episode of the series is a blatant copy of ''[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Star Trek's]]'' "Devil in the Dark".
* WhoYouGonnaCall: Carl Kolchak, who fits the "concerned but average citizen" variant.