Here's a pretty long account of how I've come to feel about "Night Stalker"...
I happen to be a huge fan of genre. I will give any science-fiction or fantasy series a chance. So, naturually, when all the networks announced their lineups and I saw that there were six new genre shows premiering, I was thrilled. I was already watching "Lost" and "Medium". "Point Pleasant" and "Revelations" were canceled. I had plenty of room for everything.
I was most excited for The WB's "Supernatural", which has many similarities with a show called "So Weird", which was one of the first "monster of the week" shows I really loved. I was also excited about ABC's "Night Stalker", which I knew was getting a lot of heat from the critics who were so offended that this show dare call itself a "reimagining" of the short-lived 70's series. This worried me for a little while, but the series still sounded really good, and the story arc that ABC talked about in the press releases grabbed my attention.
Over the summer, I got the oppurtunity to see all six genre pilots. I thought all of them showed a lot of potential, but the weakest one, in my opinion, was "Surface". I was impressed with "Invasion" and thought that it seemed very different from the typical alien invasion series somehow. "Threshold" was great for the action and thrills, and provided a new spin on the usual sci-fi government conspiracy story - only we see the conspiracy from the INSIDE. I was pleasantly surprised with "Ghost Whisperer" and didn't think it was bad at all, and sure enough, I now like it better than "Medium". And then came "Supernatural". The pilot absolutely blew me away. I wasn't expecting all THAT much, I figured it would be more light-hearted and try to be quirky like the other shows on The WB, like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", or the awful "Charmed". With the high budget and writing skills, and the great acting on "Supernatural", I was instantly in love and didn't think "Night Stalker" would impress me.
I finally got my hands on the "Night Stalker" pilot and found it to be enjoyable, but nothing too special. It was good enough for me to watch the series. A few weeks later, I decided to watch the pilot again. The second time around was better and I enjoyed it more, although it still had its issues. Then I heard that there were going to be reshoots to make the pilot better, and I was intrigued.
On the night of the premiere I watched the pilot. Again. And found it to be even better, and it DID benifet from the rewrites and new scenes.
I won't lie. This show could've been better. It seemed like it was struggling to establish itself, yet it relied too much on "The X-Files", hoping to grab the audience of that show. Still, something about it makes me like it a lot anyway.
I think the cast is great. Stuart Townsend is an underrated actor, and his "pretty boy" looks didn't really phase me at all, and I don't understand why so many people have a problem against him. He plays tortured soul very well. And he brought unique feel to the new Carl Kolchak that made him different from Fox Mulder, and I personally liked this Kolchak better than Mulder.
Gabrielle Union was also enjoyable. She's a very attractive woman and cinched the role. However, the character itself seems quite underdeveloped and needs to DO more. But I found myself enjoying Perri Reed much more than Dana Scully. Perri can accept the supernatural when she has proof. She is much more realistic than the skeptics we saw on "The X-Files". In real life, most people will question otherworldy interference, but if you get chased by supernatural wolf beings, you'll start to accept it.
I don't have much to say for McManus and Vincenzo, since they're roles were so small, although McManus is an enjoyable, albeit minor, character, and his light-heartedness was welcome and balanced out Kolchak and Reed.
As for the story, the pilot was a bit confusing. It sets up the entire arc for the series. ABC wanted Frank Spotnitz to raise all questions in the pilot and only have those arcs throughout the series, so it wouldn't turn into the endless guessing game that was "The X-Files". We don't get an answer as to what the wolf-things are exactly, or how they pick their victims. We don't know why some victims have the snake-like marks on their wrist and others don't. We learn that Carl has the mark. He's hunting for supernatural deaths to understand the connection.
Despite the confusion the pilot provides, it's well-written and creepy. The show's purpose is to disturb us and freak us out, and it probably did scare a lot of people. As for me, there were scenes that made me tense, but it wasn't terrifying. Unfortantely I've become somewhat immune to that after all of the horror movies and shows I've watched. Disturbing, the show achieves more. Women being brutally mutilated and having fetuses ripped out their body is fairly disturbing. And the visuals that we see when Carl is telling Perri about other supernatural cases he's encountered are freaky and violent as well.
But disturbing and violent isn't necessarily bad. "Night Stalker" has guts and shows more than "The X-Files" did in its early years, and think had "Night Stalker" gone on it would've gotten even better and scaring us.
I'd also like to comment on the look of the show. It's REALLY great. The show uses a new type of camera that doesn't use film. The show looks so clear it's almost real and everything looks really sharp and clear. The show is a visual feast, basically. Also, there are some very realistic bodies in the show, too, which makes it all the more convincing.
So, all in all, while "Night Stalker" was by no means perfect, in some ways it was better than the other genre offerings out there, and deserved a long life. I'll miss it.