Sunday, January 1, 2017

Probe (1988)

Stars: Parker Stevenson, Ashley Crow
7 episodes

In Short: Smarty-pants guy with an attitude solves offbeat crimes.

Austin James has brains, a photographic memory, and Serendip, a corporation he founded to work on scientific development. He works and lives in a large space he calls the Batcave. But the one things he lacks is people skills. Several secretaries have been through the wringer already but the current one, Mickey Castle, is able to tolerate his brusque manner and serves more or less as his Watson, assisting him in solving crimes and figuring out mysteries that have technological and scientific leanings, with a touch of the Fortean thrown in for good measure.

One of the main selling points of Probe was that it was created by Isaac Asimov and William Link. Asimov, of course, was the fabulously prolific writer on 1,001 topics, including mysteries, but who was probably best known for his science fiction. Surprisingly, given the fact that he was so prolific he's not credited with writing any of the seven episodes of the show. Link had a stellar track record in the TV racket as the co-creator of various series, most notably Columbo, Mannix, Ellery Queen, and Murder, She Wrote. Also on board, Parker Stevenson, as James. Viewers of my generation would have known him best as Frank Hardy, who co-starred with Shaun Cassidy in a TV version of The Hardy Boys (1977-79).

Of Note:
Of the listed guest stars, the only name I recognized was that of Michael Constantine, who appeared in the episode I screened.
Aired Thursday nights at 8:00 on ABC, in the same time slot as The Cosby Show.
Original title - Isaac Asimov's Probe.
Asimov's participation was limited, in part, by the fact that he did not like to fly.
Here's a newspaper article about the show, from back in the day.

Observed: (1/6) Plan 10 From Outer Space
The focus here is on a popular science fiction writer, perhaps not totally coincidental, given the Asimov connection. Michael Constantine plays the role in a performance that could rightly be called over the top - and then some. Seems that an alien named Pretzel 14 actually dictates all of his books and manifests itself in electrical outbursts that make for colorful viewing, although the effects do come across as a bit cheesy.

I don't suppose I need to worry about spoiling things so I'll reveal that the events that lead up to Constantine's death don't actually have anything to do with aliens after all but have a lot to do with plain old human greed.

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