WEREWOLF. Fox. Pilot for subsequent series, two hours, 11 July 1987. John J. York, Lance LeGault, Chuck Connors. Guest cast: Raphael Sbarge, Michelle Johnson. Writers: Allan Cole, Frank Lupo. Director: David Hemmings.

   Revisiting TV shows from your childhood is always a precarious endeavor. Once you press play, you simply don’t know if your positive memories of a particular show, character or plot is going to hold up. I’ve watched some movies that I absolutely loved as a teenager that now make me cringe. Alternatively, I’ve recently had the chance to revisit some features from that era that, while largely forgotten, still hold up extraordinarily well.

   Case in point: the pilot for Fox’s TV series Werewolf. Aired originally on July 11, 1987, this one I specifically remember watching, commercial breaks and all. Conceived as a hybrid of a supernatural thriller and a fugitive-on-the-run crime drama, Werewolf was absolutely terrifying (in a good way) to me as a child. And it remains scary and suspenseful even today. The soundtrack is eerie. The special effects are top notch. And the writing by Frank Lupo is superb.

   The plot. Eric Cord (John J. York) is an all-American kid living what appears to be the Southern California dream. He’s handsome, rooms with his best friend, and has a beautiful girlfriend who just so happens to be his best friend’s sister. All is well in Eric’s world. Until one fateful night when his best friend/roommate makes a confession to him. That he’s a werewolf and responsible for a local series of grisly murders.

   Eric thinks his best friend is nuts and in need of psychiatric intervention. It doesn’t help matters that his friend asks him to kill him with a gun loaded with silver bullets. Eric, decent man that he is, refuses to partake in this perceived insanity. Until it’s too late. Until his friend turns into a werewolf and attacks him. The end result being that his friend is now dead, but not before he bites Eric and transforms him into a werewolf.

   The rest of the pilot follows Eric as he battles the legal system that holds him responsible for his friend’s death, as he navigates his relationship with his girlfriend, and as he begins his quest to find and to kill the head of the werewolf bloodline. Who is it? Well, it’s none other than a sneering, scenery chewing Chuck Connors who is playing this way over the top. He portrays Janos Skorzeny, the man who transformed Eric’s friend into a werewolf down in Baja California.

   The name Skorzeny will ring a bell for fans of supernatural television. It is the same name as the vampire in The Night Stalker (1972). This time, Skorzeny is cruder and hairier, but he’s still a monster. And what a monster! Look for the scene where he rips off his face and transforms into a gigantic werewolf. Hair raising stuff indeed.

    A discussion of Werewolf would not be complete without an analysis of the show’s third main character. A part Native American bounty hunter by the name of “Alamo,” Joe Rogan (Lance LeGault) who has been assigned to track down Eric once he skips his court date. He’s part Steve McQueen, part Charles Bronson. Equipped with a small arsenal, he’s on an obsessive quest to track down and to kill Eric with a silver bullet. Little does he know that Eric is a “good” werewolf and that the really “bad” werewolf is the one he should be after.

   Now I realize that this show might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea. Not everyone is into supernatural themes. But if you watch it as if it were a crime show, you will find a lot to like. The characters are well developed and there’s the occasional dose of light humor to break the rather bleak and downright tragic feeling that permeates the show.

   Fox had a great thing on its hands back in 1987. Too bad it only lasted one season. If any show deserves a reboot based on the concept alone, it’s this one. But I dare suspect that no one will ever quite be able to recreate the foreboding atmosphere that drenches this show like a Southern California fog.