Manimal is one of several So Bad, It's Good series on NBC that seemed to rule the television schedule back in The '80s. Each of them had an aggressively silly science fiction / fantasy premise as the setup for its story arc. In this case, there's this man named Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale) who is implicitly (according to the opening credits; it doesn't look like they ever elaborated on this) the latest in a long line of people able to turn into animals. He teams up with two average detectives as They Fight Crime!.
Today, the series is mostly remembered for being the most notorious of NBC's infamous "No-Hitter" year of 1983 (none of the shows that premiered on the Peacock Network that year lasted a full season), for frequently appearing in the form of all-day marathons on the Sci Fi Channel some years ago, and for — of course — that hilarious title. On the other hand, it was also an early job for special make-up effects guru Rick Baker and the transformation sequences were done by Stan Winston.
Manimal provides examples of the following tropes:
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: A rare live-action example of the All Animal Abilities type.
- Animorphism: Into whatever the trainers happened to have handy that could also be fit into the plot.
- Crossover: A strange one-scene one with fellow Larson-made '80s series Automan, as well as a full-episode one over a decade later with Night Man.
- '80s Hair
- Faux Action Girl: Brooke. She's supposed to be a cop, but acts like a Satellite Love Interest most of the time.
- Fully Absorbed Finale: Dr. Chase would appear again in a crossover episode of Night Man, almost 15 years after his show's cancellation. In the years since the end of the series, Chase married his old partner Brooke, who later died after giving birth to Chase's daughter.
- Hot Teacher: Jonathan himself.
- Magic Pants: Used to an enormous degree — Dr. Chase's transformation sequences clearly show him ripping out of his clothes, only for him to be wearing a fully-intact suit the instant he turns back.
- Mysterious Animal Senses
- Not Wearing Tights
- Pet the Dog: Chase uniquely manages to weaponize this; one of the villains in the series premiere nearly catches Dr. Chase listening in on a conversation with the Big Bad. Chase escapes by transforming into a cat—which said villain assumes is someone's lost pet and proceeds to shower with affection while she continues the conversation.
- Portmantitle: Man + Animal
- Power Trio: Dr. Chase, Brooke Mackenzie and Ty.
- Short Runner: Lasted only seven episodes.
- Transformation Sequence: There were only two of these (hawk and black panther) shown with any regularity and a third (snake) that was used only once.
- Two Guys and a Girl
- Rawr! Manimal!