Manimal is an oddity – not in that it’s a show from 1983, cancelled after eight episodes and featuring a man who can transform into any animal he chooses through means that are never actually explained, but in that it’s a Glen A Larson show that can’t be said to have taken its cues from elsewhere (see: Battlestar Galactica, BJ And The Bear, Automan and more). It’s also quite possibly one of the worst television shows ever made.
Be it the plotlines that make absolutely no sense, the constant contrivances that place Dr Chase, our shape-shifting lead, into dark areas (by the way, his powers only work when he’s in dark places – just like the show, we forgot to mention that), the transformation sequences by a younger Stan Winston that show he was at one point not very good, or the curious decisions Chase makes as to which animal he will turn into (a snake to rescue someone from quicksand, because snakes are like a living rope, see?).
There’s nothing good about Manimal.
And that’s what makes it such an entertaining show. It is, to put it rather crassly, absolute crap. It’s TV made by people who seemingly don’t know how to make shows that make any sense. But because of that – because of its status as an absolute curio – it’s fantastic fun to watch. It may be unintentional, but you will laugh every time Dr Chase’s panther form causes someone to faint (clue: it’s often). You will chuckle heartily at his hawk mask donned during the bird transformation sequence. You will wonder aloud why and how his bull form is able to barge through the solid brick wall of a building. You will mimic his transformation breathing patterns. You will predict 95 per cent of all spoken dialogue. You will sigh with dispirited acceptance when the obligatory martial arts dojo episode pops up (it was the Eighties, after all).
Even though it’s utterly terrible, when it’s all said and done – and when you’ve seen that snake transformation – you will have had fun watching Manimal.