Retro T.V. Review: Midnight Caller (1988)

Show Name: Midnight Caller

Created by: Richard DiLello

Genre: Drama

Starring: Gary Cole, Wendy Kilbourne, Dennis Dun, Mykel T. Williamson, and Arthur Taxier

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 61

Original Release: October 25, 1988 to May 17, 1991

 

Introduction

 

This is a show that I believe has always flown under the radar. No one ever speaks of it and it was not a bad show. The show starred Gary Cole, which until this point was really not known for much. He had starred in episodes of The Twilight Zone and Miami Vice

 

In recent years, he has had a regular recurring role on Family Guy as many different characters. In terms of movies he is probably best known for The Brady Bunch Movie and Office Space

 

Let us look into this old show and see if it has aged horribly or if it still holds up. 

 

Brief History

 

The show aired on NBC from 1988 to 1991. Here in Montreal, it aired on NBC at 10 pm on Wednesday nights. I am going by memory here, so I may be slightly off but I think the time is correct. If you remember, please let us know. 

 

The show was created in the wake of popularity of Talk Radio. For those of you who are too young to remember, Talk Radio is the old school version of Podcasts. In addition to this, this was mixed in with the elements of a cop show. This was an interesting foundation for the show. 

 

The show was created by Richard DiLello who is best known for his book entitled, The Longest Cocktail Party. It is a book about the rise and fall of Apple Records, who were the record company of The Beatles. 

 

The show had strong ratings at first, but due to the sensitive nature of the topics and the time slot change, the show eventually got cancelled after 3 seasons. Although some of the topics such as AIDS and capital punishment were taboo back then, this would now be considered tame. 

 

The show did have its share of controversies. In fact, one of the episodes dealing with AIDS was deemed very controversial at the time. The name of the episode was called, After It Happened.  The premise was that there was a bisexual man with AIDS that would knowingly infect his victims. Since at the time, the topic of AIDS and its research was still in the early stages, many groups protested against the episode. As a result the show had to change the episode. 

 

Factoid of the Day: In the late 90's there was someone that did that exact same thing in Montreal dance clubs. So this was not as far fetched as people would have thought back then. 

 

Theme

 

Some of the best shows on television had great theme songs. This show is no different. Many considered the jazz style of the theme soothing and fit the feeling very well. 

 

The composers of the theme were Ross Levinson and Brad Fiedel. Brad Fiedel has worked on Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. He is known for his synthesizer-heavy style of music. Very little is found about Ross Levinson. 

 

Midnight Caller Theme

Story

 

Jack Killian (played by Gary Cole) was a detective for the San Francisco Police department. He left the force after he accidentally shot his partner during duty. He then went into a depression and started drinking to forget what he had done. 

 

He then gets an offer to be a host of a radio show called, The Nighthawk on of KJCM-FM. He would be on air during the night, fielding different questions from listeners. 

 

However, in every episode there seems to be a caller that needs some help. So during the day, he would go back to his detective roots and try to solve the mystery. 

 

At the end of the show, Jack would always close off  with a monologue with a moral. At the very end he would always say, "This is Jack Killian, "The Nighthawk" on KJCM, 98.3 on your FM dial, and good night America...wherever you are.". 

 

Jack Killian - Sign Off (Sorry for bad quality)

Bottomline

 

Does this show still hold up? I think it would depend who you would ask. I think it does. However, I can understand someone may not think the show is outdated. 

 

I have said this before. The theme song of the show is the equivalent to the first impressions when you meet someone. It will grab hold of the audience and keep their interest at least through one episode. This show had a very smooth jazz intro and it is still great to this day. 

 

I always loved Gary Cole as The Nighthawk. He played it cool and believable. This was cast perfectly. Although he was my favourite, it does not mean that the rest of the cast were not good. In fact, one of the strongest elements of the show was how the different characters melded together. So the character development was a strong aspect of the show. Too bad that it did not last longer than 3 seasons. 

 

I always found the premise of the show interesting. A radio talk show host at night but solves crime being the day. I guess it is not that much different from Knight Rider. However, this show was acted a lot better.  

 

The show does show its age though. It has that late 80's feel to it. However, you realize that no matter what decade that you are in, the same topics will always crop up. Yes some of these episodes were controversial at the time, but you could still talk about those same things today. 

 

I was actually thinking of this could be adapted to a podcaster. I would think that it would be more difficult but doable. Some podcasts are recorded live on various platforms. I just do not know if the creators of that show could capture the same vibe as Midnight Caller. They remake everything nowadays, so I assume it is a matter of time before this gets on a radar. 

 

All in all, yes this is a nostalgia trip to the Late 80's and early 90's. However, it is well worth the watch. Unfortunately, the DVD's are hard to find and it is not streaming on any service. I will keep a lookout and let you know if I find anything. 

 

Midnight Caller - Season 1, Episode 2: But Not for Me

 

 

Do you remember this show? Did you like it? Let us know your thoughts

 

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