Night Stalker was my attempt to fuse the lessons I had learned thus far in my career, combining Chris Carter’s writerly discipline with Michael Mann’s cutting-edge cinematic approach.
Our main set was on the 16th floor of a skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles with a never-ending view of the traffic lights flowing on the freeway below. At my insistence, we were the first to use a new generation of digital cameras known as Genesis, which gave the series a sleek, gorgeous look.
The network had rejected my attempts to reboot the series in a spirit close to the original, beloved Darren McGavin TV movies. (I loved Darren so much that John Shiban and I had written him into The X-Files as FBI Agent Arthur Dales, who originally discovered the bureau’s X-Files back in the 1950s.) Understandably, the show’s lack of fidelity to the original Night Stalker triggered a backlash from a lot of critics and fans.
But it didn’t matter. Despite a brilliant cast headed by Stuart Townsend, Gabrielle Union, Eric Jungmann and Cotter Smith, the network gave us the worst time slot on its schedule – Thursday nights at 9 p.m., opposite ratings juggernauts Survivor on CBS and The Apprentice on NBC. We worked our hearts out, but an early cancellation was inevitable.
Nonetheless, we got to make what I consider some truly terrifying hours of television – most notably Thomas Schnauz’s The Five People You Meet in Hell and Vince Gilligan’s What’s the Frequency, Kolchak? – and I got the chance to work with one of my childhood television heroes, the late great Dan Curtis, who was responsible for landmark television including not just the original The Night Stalker but Dark Shadows and The Winds of War.