What a lovely little show Stingray was. Troy Tempest and the World Aquanaut Security Patrol (WASP) fighting undersea terrors in a submarine called Stingray? Marvel…
What’s that Sooty? We’re not doing that one this week? What are we doing? Oh.
Stingray was a 1986 US TV show starring Nick Mancuso. Because obviously there might be a bit of confusion thanks to Gerry Anderson’s puppet show of the same name, it was retitled This Man is Dangerous in the UK. Whatever title it went by, it was dreadful, even though the late and much missed Stephen J Cannell created it and Mike Post wrote the theme tune. But here are its weird, old, cheesy titles for you to enjoy:
The basic premise is this (thanks Wikipedia!): “Ray”, who lives in Southern California, devotes his time to helping those who are in trouble. His background is shadowy – all that is known about him is that he advertises surreptitiously in newspapers, ostensibly offering a “’65 black Stingray, for Barter Only To Right Party” and including a telephone number (555-7687). Those wishing to enlist his services, presumably having learned the ad’s real meaning by word of mouth, can call him for help. It is not clear if “Ray” is even his real name, or if simply a nickname he has taken on based on the car he drives, the same one described in the advertisement.
Ray does not charge money for his help; instead, he extracts a promise from his client in advance that the client will repay Ray in the future by performing a favor, perhaps easy, perhaps difficult, upon Ray’s request. As the series begins, Ray has apparently extracted this promise from many previous clients; this allows him to call in a variety of favors during the series to help his current clients. In one episode, for instance, when he poses as a doctor and is called upon, as part of his cover, to perform surgery, he calls in a favour from a former client who is a physician; the former client secretly takes Ray’s place in the operating room and performs the surgery.
Ray is a skilled driver and accomplished martial artist, and is excellent at covering his tracks and hiding his real identity. On several occasions, clients and government authorities believe that they have discovered who he really is, but in the end they find that they are mistaken. Often it seems that Ray either is or was affiliated with a secret government agency, perhaps the CIA, but this is never conclusively proven. In Abnormal Psych an unnamed opponent with ties to the U.S. intelligence community claims to have “created” Ray, and in Anytime, Anywhere it’s clear he served in Vietnam in some capacity. When the license plate for his Stingray is run through a computer it lists many different addresses and owners. Two of the most notable were “1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC” (the address of the White House) and the motor pool for the Governor of California.
Ray’s other talents include a photographic memory, speed reading, the ability to slow down his heart to barely perceptible levels, and a knack for adopting personas including an arrogant surgeon, a tent-revival preacher, a crippled Vietnam veteran, and a grieving husband. He is a skilled computer hacker, capable of accessing and altering data systems and coordinating information retrieval.
Classy, huh? Nevertheless, such was the low-quality nature of mid-80s TV, the show managed to get guest stars including: Rachel Ticotin, Ray Wise, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Patricia Wettig, Tom Atkins, Kurtwood Smith, Robert Vaughn, Stuart Pankin, Steven Williams, Marcia Strassman, Eugene Roche, Gregg Henry, Lori Petty, Samantha Eggar, Jeff Altman, Shannon Tweed, Dennis Christopher, Doug Savant, Jeff Conaway, Joseph Ruskin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Amos, and Clyde Kusatsu. Which ain’t bad.
Here are a few clips. Erm, enjoy?