Probe is the story of an eccentric genius and his wacky secretary--together, THEY FIGHT CRIME!
Serendip CEO and founder Austin James (Parker Stevenson, from The Hardy Boys and North and South) is a genius. An eccentric multi-millionaire with enough patents in his name that he'd never have to work again, except that he enjoys the challenge of making things/figuring things out/breaking things. And he doesn't like people. He lives alone in a giant warehouse he calls the Batcave, and every time Serendip assigns him an assistant, he finds a way to get rid of them. Usually involving evil use of his genius. Until they send a new temp--Michelle "Mickey" Castle (Ashley Crowe, best known as Claire's mum on Heroes).
Mickey's not a genius like Austin, but she's clever, intuitive, and above all, persistent and Austin is shocked to discover they work well together. Not only that, but he genuinely enjoys her company--even when he is driving her up a wall with his antics. Here is Mickey and Austin's the meet-cute:
"It gives me a chance to play a crazy person, and I figured that wouldn't be boring if I had to do it for a couple of years," Stevenson told US Magazine back in 1988. "Most series - you know, I've done them before and I know the routine and the scripts quickly fall into a formula. That's difficult to keep interesting. But this guy I like - he's a combination between Mr. Wizard and Jimmy Stewart. And besides, I get to sleep naked in an isolation tank!"
The series was killed by the 1988 writer's strike, but still has a tiny loyal fandom--due in no small part to SFC recasting the series as part of its series collection back in the 1990s.
I LOVE THIS SERIES. The chemistry between the leads is fantastic, the mysteries are cracky fun, and everything I know about ball lightning and subliminal advertising I learnt from Austin James. No lie. Along with Max Headroom and Shell Game, it was my fave series of the 1980s that disappeared never to return again, for which I PINED like a thing that whimpers every week the TV Guide comes out with no mention of its fate.
(Also, I have decided inside my head that Mickey is related to Rick Castle.)
"Probe Part 1"
Aired: March 7, 1988
Debut: Isaac Asimov helped create this series about scientific wizard Austin James (Parker Stevenson), who works at a think tank and tackles mysterious crimes on the side. First up: James reluctantly accepts the assignment of batty secretary Mickey Castle (Ashley Crow), who unwittingly helps him solve a series of murders. Howard Millhouse: Jon Cypher. John Blaine: Andy Wood. William Stevens: Scott Feraco.
"Computer Logic Part 2"
Aired: March 7, 1988
Austin James (Parker Stevenson) reluctantly accepts the assignment of batty secretary Mickey Castle (Ashley Crow), who unwittingly helps him solve killings involving a humanlike supercomputer, a frozen corpse and a maintenance man. Howard Millhouse: John Cypher. John Blaine: Andy Wood. William Stevens: Scott Feraco.
"Untouched by Human Hands"
Aired: March 10, 1988
A nuclear explosion produces a radioactive corpse, whose $2.5 million life-insurance policy names his maid---not his wife---as beneficiary. Val Kennedy: Emily Ragsdale. Harold Putnam: Christopher Thomas. Austin: Parker Stevenson. Rebecca: Eileen Barnett.
"Black Cats Don't Walk Under Ladders (Do They?)"
Aired: March 17, 1988
When a witch casts a killer spell on a talk-show host, a skeptical Austin suspects there's more than the power of suggestion in her sorcery. Sabrina Stillwater: Lena Raymond. Roman Dracovitch: Eric Christmas. Ben Nichols: Larry Soller. Austin: Parker Stevenson.
"Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You"
Aired: March 24, 1988
Seeking a $10 million grant, Serendip asks Austin to evaluate a superintelligent monkey. Meanwhile, a graduate student (Tara Windsor) is found murdered in Austin's lab. Graham McKinley: Clive Revill. Walt: Michael McNab. Dr. Dina Hardwick: Kathryn Leigh Scott.
"Now You See It..."
Aired: March 31, 1988
Austin's computerized brainchild goes haywire and kills several people, and the only lead is a series of illusions. John Bolt: Severn Darden. Meachem: Clive Revill. Rendolf: Nicholas Hormann. Austin: Parker Stevenson. Mickey: Ashley Crow.
"Plan 10 from Outer Space"
Aired: April 7, 1988
A sci-fi writer (Michael Constantine) claims to be haunted by a vengeful extraterrestrial, and calls on a skeptical Austin James to help him trap the alien. Tish Smith: Sondra Currie. Helga: May Britt. Austin: Parker Stevenson.
Aired: April 14, 1988
Austin and Mickey detect something wrong in a seemingly perfect neighborhood: the presence of antismoking pills. Karen Strawn: Eileen Seeley. Ted Strawn: Jim McMullan. Lou McNally: Phillip Richard Allen. Abby Strawn: Deborah Slaboda. Austin: Parker Stevenson.
Previous small fandoms pimped: The Man from Atlantis and Shell Game