Back in 1987, the Fox television network put together a weekend broadcast package of nine different TV shows. Some of them lasted for years (Married … With Children, 21 Jump Street), others spawned shows that are still in production today (The Tracey Ullman Show helped spin off The Simpsons), while other programs died a quick, painless death (a sitcom version of Down and Out in Beverly Hills, f’rinstance).
And then there was Werewolf. Werewolf was Fox’s “horror drama half hour” series, in which the protagonist was bitten by a werewolf, now he becomes a werewolf, and to stop being a werewolf, he has to kill the head of the bloodline of werewolves. Um … yeah.
What you had here is the procedural known as the “Fugitive” syndrome (also known as the “Incredible Hulk” syndrome). Character is on the run (Dr. Richard Kimble, Dr. David Banner), pursued by a justice figure (Lt. Philip Gerard, investigative reporter Jack McGee) to capture the protagonist for (the murder of his wife, the death of a lab assistant), while the protagonist searches for the one-armed man, a cure for gamma radiation), and during the show, the main character helps people by (solving a crime, turning into the Hulk). Lather, rinse, repeat.
Well, in this case, our titular character – college student Eric Cord (played by John J. York) gets bitten by his college roommate, now Cord becomes a walking lycanthrope. At the light of the moon, his hand develops a bloody pentagram on the palm, and he turns into a blood-thirsty werewolf. Now Cord is trying to end the bloodline curse by killing the head of the bloodline, a seafaring werewolf by the name of Janos Skorzeny (Chuck Connors – yes, THAT Chuck Connors). And he’s also chased by a bounty hunter for the murder of Cord’s roommate. Oh yeah, and he turns into a werewolf at least once or twice in each half-hour episode.
There weren’t too many half-hour horror dramas out there – there were some syndicated ones like Friday the 13th: The Series and Freddy’s Nightmares, but those were hour-long programs.
This show aired on Sunday nights, right after 21 Jump Street and before Married … With Children. But despite the decent following for both of the shows that bookended Werewolf, Werewolf was a ratings drain. Eventually its 8:00 PM Sunday slot was given to a new experimental TV series, America’s Most Wanted, and Werewolf was relegated to a late Sunday 10:00 P.M. timeslot.
Oh, and then there was that thing with Chuck Connors. See, Chuck Connors thought that his character of Janos Skorzeny was supposed to be the title character of the series, that HE was the titular werewolf, not this newcomer named John J. York. After filming four episodes of the series, Connors quit the show. His episodes were interspersed throughout the series run, and body doubles and close camera work was used in what would have been a penultimate episode, where Eric Cord finally kills Skorzeny, he discovers that Skorzeny was actually NOT the head of the bloodline, the true head was another actor whose name completely escapes me at the moment.
The show lasted a season and a half before a network executive finally put a silver bullet into it. Plans to sell the show as a DVD were scuttled due to some performance rights issues, so episodes of the series are few and far between. However, here’s at least one episode of the series on YouTube, so you can at least see what’s going on.
I should also note that the show would have gotten cancelled earlier, but Fox was so desperate to put anything on the airwaves and to expand their broadcast footprint, that the show lasted into the 1988 season in a Saturday night death slot. Not even lead-ins like Women in Prison and The New Adventures of Beans Baxter could save this program.
I mean, it was a cult show to begin with.
So there’s that.