You want to know how long these hallways are? If Darren McGavin rides that golf cart any further down that incredibly long corridor, he’s probably going to end up in London and bump into Tom Baker and Louise Jameson filming “The Sun Makers” on the other end of it.
So “The Sentry” was the final episode of Kolchak. They were supposed to shoot two more installments, and lore has it that a few more story ideas were kicking around for a second season. Author Mark Dawidziak – whose essential The Columbo Phile is back in print for the first time in about twenty years – wrote a book on Kolchak for a couple of publishers. I have the Pomegranate Press edition (for a while there, that company was behind some absolutely excellent books about teevee), and was amazed to read that it was McGavin himself who orchestrated the early ax, phoning both the heads of Universal and ABC and yelling at them to talk to each other and shut this show down.
I wouldn’t argue that the show went out on a high note. The final monster of the week is a lizard creature that lives a couple of miles underground and starts rampaging through the endless corridors of a deep storage archive company after a geologist steals some of its eggs. The monster, sadly, moves nothing at all like an animal, but precisely like an underpaid actor wearing a hundred pound costume with a huge head. But was it effective for kids? You bet it was. Our son declared the creature to be “a scary monster, but a good monster, because it was just trying to be a good parent!” He also got a kick out of the police giving Kolchak’s convertible Mustang a great nickname: the yellow submarine.
Kolchak rarely made it out of the bottom ten shows on the weekly ratings reports while it was on, but it became one of the great cult shows in American TV history. Horror lovers who missed it in 1974-75 found it on The CBS Late Movie and kept tapes circulating where so many other bottom ten shows were just forgotten, and the show then influenced a new wave of supernatural conspiracy television twenty years later. There wouldn’t have been an X Files without Carl Kolchak, and while I thought it was a shame that Darren McGavin turned down the chance to reprise the role of Carl opposite David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in that series, the producers did find another part for him to play. It was the least they could do.