Fans of one of the original ghostbusters and his most recent TV incarnation would be wise to scare up a copy of the new Night Stalker DVD boxed set hitting stores today, as it offers up not only four episodes never broadcast during the series' fall 2005 ABC run, but also revealing commentary from creator Frank Spotnitz. TVGuide.com seized this opportunity to ask Spotnitz about his Stalker's unfortunate fate, the frightfully fun show he's working on now and the next X-Files film.
TVGuide.com: First, I want to thank you for blogging for our Insider column last fall.
Frank Spotnitz: Oh, it was fun!
TVGuide.com: Night Stalker is certainly the type of program that benefits from such added insight.
Spotnitz: Yeah, that was good.
TVGuide.com: In retrospect, did the series accomplish creatively what you set out to accomplish?
Spotnitz: Yeah, I feel really proud of the work that we were able to do. I had so much more in mind and mapped out that I wanted to do. I talk about that a lot on the DVD commentaries, about what seeds we were planning for the mythology, and I answer a lot of the questions about what the mark was on Kolchak's hand and whether he killed his wife and so on.
TVGuide.com: Is there anything you could have done different to extend its longevity?
Spotnitz: The truth is I fought every battle I knew how to fight at the time to keep the show on the air. I was aware we were struggling from Day 1, because we were given such a tough time slot. And then over the summer [of 2005] I saw we weren't going to be getting any paid advertising. [Laughs] When we debuted, our one source of hope was that we had this lead-in of Alias, but their numbers were so disappointing. The research showed that their audience was not compatible with ours. We had a number of tough breaks, so I was making the case that this was a really good show and [the problem] wasn't the show but the time slot, the lack of promotion and an incompatible lead-in. I had a lot of supporters, at the studio and the network, who agreed with me, so I was really optimistic until the day we got canceled that we would find a way to prevail.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel that Supernatural, which also debuted last fall, or all the guys watching CSI were liabilities?
Spotnitz: I don't think Supernatural was; there's room for more than one like that, and their audience is slightly different than ours. But the same research showing that Alias' audience was completely different from ours showed that CSI's audience was exactly our audience. It was the worst possible place to be! [Laughs] A brand-new show up against the No. 1 show, going for the exact same audience.
TVGuide.com: What would have been a better ABC companion show for Night Stalker?
Spotnitz: I don't know their programming well enough. But it was telling to me that what they replaced us with in January was Dancing with the Stars. That is what you do to counterprogram CSI.
TVGuide.com: What was series star Stuart Townsend's reaction to the cancellation?
Spotnitz: Everybody was really shocked. Even though you know you're struggling in the ratings, when you feel the work is as good as we all felt it was, you can't believe somebody is going to cancel it. "How could they?"
TVGuide.com: Kolchak was the sort of rich character an actor like Stuart could really get immersed in.
Spotnitz: Yes. Being a feature actor, in the beginning he was a little taken aback by how heavy the workload was, but by Episodes 8 and 10, he was really enjoying the challenge. Especially Episode 10, which you can see for the first time on the DVD. It's all Stuart. It's a tour de force for him.
TVGuide.com: Then again, he goes home to Charlize Theron, which puts this setback in perspective.
Spotnitz: [Laughs] Right. How bad can it be?
TVGuide.com: This DVD set has four episodes that have never been seen?
Spotnitz: They will be seen on Sci Fi Channel this summer, but they have never been broadcast. I have to say, we shot the show using this new Genesis camera, which is state-of-the-art, high-definition video camera, and it looks gorgeous, especially on DVD. I'm really excited for people to see it this way.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like Night Stalker is begging for an HD-DVD/Blu-ray release as well.
Spotnitz: It's meant for it. The quality is spectacular. The first time our director of photography looked through the viewfinder of this camera, he came away with tears in his eyes. It was so beautiful.
TVGuide.com: What can you say about your and Vince Gilligan's new TV series, Amped?
Spotnitz: Amped is a scary, funny show, with a large ensemble cast, set in a police precinct. The idea is you follow these cops as they go out into the field every day, but the world around them has "changed."
TVGuide.com: What, dare I ask, has changed it?
Spotnitz: A few years prior, a virus swept through the entire planet everybody got sick, then everybody recovered, and now what's beginning to happen is a certain percentage of the population is starting to mutate, in all different ways. So when these cops go out, they literally might be encountering monsters. We're shooting the pilot this summer for Spike TV.
TVGuide.com: A lot of fans feel you do some of your best work with Vince.
Spotnitz: I love working with Vince. I had to twist his arm to get him to go back to TV. That last episode [of Night Stalker]? He wrote it.
TVGuide.com: What's your involvement in the remake of The Star Chamber?
Spotnitz: I'm producing it. It's one of those movies that had a great idea but really wasn't as good as it should have been, so to me it's the perfect movie to remake.
TVGuide.com: Michael Douglas starred in the original. Is there any casting news yet?
Spotnitz: Not yet.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, is there anything new and exciting going on in the X-Files-verse? Any rumors or truths to discuss?
Spotnitz: The truth is always out there. [Laughs] It's sort of the status quo. We all have our deals but there are legal issues between Chris Carter and 20th Century Fox that are still unresolved. I'm hoping they can be resolved soon and we can still get to work on another feature.
TVGuide.com: But David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are still on board if it happens?
Spotnitz: Yeah, everybody wants to do it. The studio wants to do it, too, but there's this other issue that has to get taken off the table first.
Frank Spotnitz, Stuart Townsend and Gabrielle Union will be signing Night Stalker DVD sets tonight at 7 pm/PST, at the Best Buy in West Hollywood, California.
Additional reporting by Daniel Manu