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Series / Probe

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Mickey: "What the hell kind of place is this?"

Probe was a short-lived television series that aired on ABC Television in 1988. Co-created by famed sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov, it starred Parker Stevenson as Austin James, a misanthropic genius who ran his own high-tech consulting firm. With the help of his wide-eyed secretary Mickey Castle (Ashley Crow), Austin would use his scientific expertise to solve baffling crimes as a modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes. As expected, the show featured heavy doses of scientific knowledge and logical reasoning, and may have contributed to the series' demise.


The show originally premiered as a two-hour pilot, with six one-hour episodes afterward, before a writer's strike came along and ended the series.

Not to be confused with direct-to-video Doctor Who spinoff P.R.O.B.E.

Probe featured the following tropes:

  • Bat Deduction: In the pilot Austin deduces a number of things about Mickey that he fails to provide his reasoning behind, such as how he knows about her allergy to chocolate.
  • Brutal Honesty: One of Austin's quirks.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Austin comes across like this fairly frequently.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Mickey's voice may have also contributed to the show's short run.
  • '80s Hair: Both leads have this going on. Austin's designer mullet and Mickey's post-dryer frizz with bangs.
  • Elevator Failure: in episode "Now You See It...", two businessmen fall to their deaths in elevator shafts. It turns out the culprit tampered the elevators to stop the cabs in the wrong floor, and used holographic projectors to make his victims believe the cabs were there.
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  • Eureka Moment: Usually triggered by a seemingly innocuous comment from Mickey.
  • For Science!: Austin's primary motive.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: A category 3, by an orangutan — an extremely smart orangutan that has been taught to communicate via sign language, and educated itself by watching TV. When it kills someone, it plants evidence that points to itself as the guilty party, because in the TV shows it watched, the obvious suspect that everyone thinks did it at first, is always found innocent.
  • The Gadfly: One of Austin's ways of amusing himself, such as tricking Mickey into believing that he had a lie-detecting plant.
  • Genius Cripple: John Blane, Austin's only friend and creator of Crossover.
  • I Have My Ways: In one episode, the Big Bad has Austin isolated from his friends, taunting him through a radio implant. Suddenly, the friends break in on the frequency:
    Villain: Who is this?!
    Mickey: Probe Control.
    Villain: How did you find me?
    Mickey: We have our ways.
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  • Infrared Xray Camera: Done in one episode with a piece of Applied Phlebotinum which could, among other things, see a lock mechanism inside its metal casing.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: The pilot episode, "Computer Logic", had a classic "newly-sentient computer goes on rampage" episode that ended with Austin demolishing said machine with a sledgehammer while shouting "Sing 'Daisy'!"
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Read misanthropic.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: Austin James sleeps in a cupboard; he explains this because he wanted a sensory deprivation tank when he was young, but couldn't afford one. By the time the series starts, he can afford as many as he likes, but he's gotten used to cupboards.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Austin's job as it is.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Played with in the pilot episode. The door of Austin's private workspace is secured by an electronic lock which issues a challenge that appears to be testing the visitor's intelligence but is actually designed to be impossible to solve; although there is a response that will unlock the door, its exact form can't be arrived at by logic or any other systematic process. Mickey gets through by sheer luck; confronted with a puzzle she barely understands and has no idea how to solve, she mutters a dejected remark—which happens to be the required pass phrase.
    Austin James: There once was a poet named Gunderson, whose rhymes were exceedingly cumbersome. With each botched refrain, his complaint was the same, Blah, blah... blah, blah... blah, blah, blah! You have ten seconds to give me the last line to get in. Otherwise, go away.
    Michelle Castle: ...How do I get into these situations?
    (door opens)
    Austin James: How did you get in here?
    Michelle Castle: Me? I... uh, I finished the limerick at the door...
    Austin James: That's impossible! Nobody can finish it. It's too idiosyncratic. It doesn't even rhyme! I made it to keep people out!
  • Photographic Memory
  • Sassy Secretary / Girl Friday: Mickey's job.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: A regular staple of the series, wherein someone approaches Austin with apparently supernatural events, only to have them debunked by Austin in the climax.
  • Smart People Play Chess: One of Austin's childhood photos shown in the title sequence depicts him taking part in a chess competition against several much older players. At the same time.
  • Spy Cam: Austin had various surveillance bugs concealed on his person, including a camera on one of his shirt buttons.
  • Stalker with a Crush: In one episode, Austin is pursued by a stalker who murders one woman and tries to murder another she sees as an obstacle to her obsession with Austin. The twist? The stalker is a mentally enhanced orangutan.
  • The Watson: Mickey's true role in the narrative. She asks questions. More questions than Hamlet.


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