The werewolf on TV is a much less annoying character than his big screen counterpart. In the person of Lon Chaney, Jr., especially, but in a much more general way as well, theatrical wolfman are a peculiarly dour sort of movie monster. Rather than enjoying the feral release of long-repressed animal instinct, big screen werewolves spend an inordinate amount of time chasing after a cure. Perhaps because the dream of every TV is 100 episodes and syndication bounty, that characteristic does dominate the story arc of TV lycanthropes.
The Lone Wolf
Airing for just one season in 1954, “The Lone Wolf” sounds like it might have been television’s first series about a werewolf, but in fact it was a detective show. One of its episodes did have its private dick traveling to the Balkans to investigate claims of werewolf attacks, however.
One of television’s first werewolf stories is one you won’t believe. “The Professor” has a plot that would fit right at home in any meeting of extreme right wing true believers in so-called “false flag” events. The werewolves in this little tale that manages to fit more strangeness in its short running time than you could possibly even hope for are really just tools in a grand conspiracy to bring communism to America. I think I once heard Glenn Beck use that very sentence when talking about the Obama administration.
Since werewolves did not work as McCarthyism tools of propaganda in the 1950s, it was only fitting that the first full time lycanthrope on TV would be in the inoffensive form of Eddie Munster. The eternal question lingers: how does a werewolf result from the mating of those parents?
An episode of “Barney Miller” is actually titled “Werewolf” and features one of many appearances by Kenneth Tigar as men who constantly seem to come face to face with the supernatural. “Werewolf” was Tigar’s finest moment as he anxiously awaits behind the cage of the precinct’s holding cell the full moon that will cause him to transform into a wolfman. Between Tigar’s extraordinary performance as a mentally unbalanced man fully committed to his delusion and the reaction of Jack Soo’s Det. Yemana who is himself so committed that he swears he saw hair growing on the man’s arm, this episode of “Barney Miller” represents the comic highlight of werewolves on TV to date.
The Wide World of Mystery
ABC offered a number of different types of programming intended to counter the powerhouse that Johnny Carson’s reign as the King of Late Night. One of them was “The Wide World of Mystery” which was an anthology show featuring stories about everything from Frankenstein to pacts with the devil. But perhaps it should have been retitled “The Weird World of Mystery” the episode of called “The Werewolf of Woodstock.” This may be possibly be the only occasion in television history in which the stimulation for a man becoming a werewolf was electrocution. Since the stimulus for that action was anti-anti-establishment rebellion, I guess you should say that this TV werewolf is also one of the few with a political dimension. But that would really be stretching the premise.
Another fascinating way that TV has circumvented the mythology of the creation of werewolves took place in the short-lived Saturday morning TV series “Monster Squad.” Between stints on “The Love Boat” and in Congress, Fred Grandy used the power of sound vibrations to bring to life wax statues of Frankenstein’s creature, Dracula and the Wolfman. Here’s another twist: these classic monsters wanted to use their second chance at life among the norms for the purposes of redemption by becoming crimefighters. This tweaking of the history of classic monsters makes perfect sense for Bruce W. Wolf since, as indicated, the psychological impetus of the movie werewolves is guilt.