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04 June 2006 @ 07:51 pm
Pan and Scan Interview: 'Night Stalker'  
Random note: All these interviews with Frank you'd think they have 1 or 2 done with Stuart and/or Gabby or an of the other stars.
Fair Warning this interview actually tells you what Carls ,mark on his wrist actually IS!


Pan and Scan Interview: 'Night Stalker'

How's this for network-on-fan cruelty? The short-lived 2005 series 'Night Stalker,' starring big name actors Gabrielle Union and Stuart Townsend, was canned by ABC between Parts One and Two of a two-part episode.

Fortunately 'Night Stalker - The Complete Series' has been released on DVD so fans can stop biting their nails and find out whether Jain survived the sawed-off shot gun blast to the stomach.

For the uninitiated, 'Night Stalker' is based on the 1972 television movie 'The Night Stalker' and the 1974 follow-up series 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker.' 2005's 'Stalker' retains lead character Carl Kolchak, his motive (finding his wife's murderer) and line of work (reporter), but little else. Kolchak is younger, lives in modern-day LA and has Gabrielle Union for a sidekick.

Pan and Scan was fortunate enough to speak with the show's executive producer Frank Spotnitz, a name you know from his stints as executive producer for 'The X Files,' 'The Lone Gunmen,' 'Robbery Homicide Division' and 'Millennium.'

After the jump, the talented Mr. S. discusses 'Night Stalker's' cancellation, Craftsman homes and the things that go bump in LA.


Because 'Night Stalker' was cancelled after only six episodes had been aired, did you feel alot of pressure to communicate the shows central themes in full, deal with the mythology, etc. on the DVD? Did you see it as a way to "complete" the series?
DVD is the only opportunity to answer questions people have about what they saw, to explain the mythology of the show, where it was going. I'm excited to have that chance. I've said as much as I can on the commentaries - what the mark on Kolchak's wrist means; whether the FBI agent was in on the conspiracy; who the person standing outside the house in the pilot episode is.

Why was the show cancelled so quickly -- between the airings of Parts I and II of a two-part episode?
It's pretty baffling for me. It's a very complicated chess board for all these networks - where they put shows. It was a big vote of confidence to get picked up. They gave us a really tough time slot - the toughest - against CSI. Then, they further handicapped us by not buying any advertising for our show what-so-ever. They'll put all their advertising into a couple of shows rather than dilute it. That season, all the advertising went to 'Invasion' and 'Commander in Chief.' We had a lead-in in 'Alias.' As you may now, 'Alias' had a really difficult season. I was well aware as these things were happening. I lobbied as hard as I could, "This is really high quality show. The obstacles you've put up are insurmountable. Repeat us after 'Lost.'" They may recognize what happened. It's such a competitive business - hungry for every dollar.

You mention on the DVD that ABC wanted you to steer away from the supernatural. Why?
Monsters. I still don't know. If you're familiar with the original 'Night Stalker,' it was nothing but monsters. It never occurred to me that they would not want monsters so we had to disguise it. It was tough. One of the things the research showed was that alot of people thought the show was too scary. Monsters really aren't scary.

The show is scary though. I think the horror was heightened by the fact that you didn't use "noir LA." The show is on location. It looks like the world we live in - there's daylight, contemporary office buildings, diversity that's not forced. It actually looks like the real world. We pushed away from anything stereotypically LA. We didn't want Craftsman homes. We wanted the show to have a modern look. Spaces that people live in.

If the series finds its audience on DVD, would you consider returning to 'Night Stalker'? I would be thrilled to return to it. You never know with direct-to-dvd, low budget features. The one thing I didn't say in the DVD commentary was how the series would end. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned from 'The X-Files.' Just an answer is going to disappoint. The best conclusion to any mythology is another series of questions.

As a writer, what attracts you to the horror genre?
I'm a huge movie fantanic. Many hours of unsupervised television viewing. It's not just that I like horror - thriller, suspense, mystery. It's the purest form of cinema. What I like about - supernatural storytelling - is that it tends to be about something. There's a reason why you've departed from reality. It's commercial, entertaining viewing that leaves you with something to think about when it's over.

Speaking of that quality - being about something else - did you have a religious upbringing? I had a split religious household - Jewish and Protestant - so, I grew up nothing. It made me very interested in the question of god. I'm not a person of faith, but a person intensely interested in religion, existential philosophies. Dante's Divine Comedy was something I was studying at the time I wrote 'Night Stalker.' It filtered through the show in many ways. You don't have to be religious to know there's a mystery to life.

Does the shape of the mark on Kolchak's wrist have any historical or literary significance? It is the "Mark of Cain." That mark is never described. It appears on the wrist or the head. We went with the wrist so Kolchak could hide it underneath his watch. The shape is ambiguous enough, but it's a snake.

You started your own career as a reporter. How did that affect your writing for characters who were reporters - instead of cops, FBI agents, doctors?
I felt very, very comfortable. It was a world I knew really well, and I know alot of people who are still reporters. However, it was a challenge dramatically. The first thing we had to figure out - why does it matter what Kolchak writes or doesn't write? Doctors, lawyers and cops - lives are clearly on the line. That's why we had to make them investigative reporters. Then as the show went on, we started to deal with the ethics of journalism, hierarchies at the paper. What gets in the paper, and what doesn't? Do you use anonymous sources? How does it feel to be the mouth piece for somebody else's agenda - which is what happens when you're listening to one side. An increasing part of the series was about "truth" - to be played out by Tony Vincenzo. Tony is an ambitious managing editor who would like to rise to editor-in-chief. He hired Carl out of loyalty because he helped his career, but as the show went on, Carl was a liability to Tony. What's more interesting - thwarting Kolchak or finding the truth?