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04 November 2009 @ 18:44
The third in my series of "tiny rare fandoms I hope to pimp the hell out of for yuletide" I give you everything you need to know about Probe.

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.)

Episode Guide

"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.

"Quit-It "
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.


Fan site
Creatively Maladjusted

Previous small fandoms pimped: The Man from Atlantis and Shell Game
drox: vogue!masterdrox on 5th November 2009 01:11 (UTC)
OMGOMGOMG!!! Someone else who has heard of this series!!!

I haven't seen this show since I watched it on Betamax!!!

I loved it back then... I wonder whether it's aged well.
ljc: shell gametaraljc on 5th November 2009 01:16 (UTC)
I am downright scary when it comes to blink-and-you-miss-it genre telly.
Neaneadods on 5th November 2009 02:15 (UTC)
I loved it back then... I wonder whether it's aged well.

So-so. The chemistry between the leads is still adorable, but in retrospect I'm surprised that they got away with a line like "Bring your secretary, I want to write something sexist on her cast."

And like any show of the era, the science is now painfully vintage, be it Remington Steele flailing around to find a public telephone or Austin James taking a telephone handset off its cradle and dropping it onto a modem the size of a breadbox.

But the mysteries - man, the ball lightening episode STILL rocks!
Cat: adorationevilprettykitty on 5th November 2009 01:14 (UTC)
I have every ep on tape. Love this show.
ljc: probetaraljc on 5th November 2009 01:15 (UTC)
ooooooooooooooooh, original broadcast, or SFC? I may have to borrow thsoe from you someday to convert to DVD, cos the copies I have are, erm... not the best.

Edited at 2009-11-05 01:16 (UTC)
Catevilprettykitty on 5th November 2009 01:24 (UTC)
Sci-fi sadly because we didn't have a VCR when it originally aired.
brainiacfivebrainiacfive on 5th November 2009 02:03 (UTC)
I have original broadcasts somewhere, but it's on beta. And none of my machines work any more...
Neaneadods on 5th November 2009 02:20 (UTC)
I've got a set of home-burn DVDs from tapes of original broadcast, (with one patched in from SciFi on account of something going wrong with that tape). Want me to bring you a set of copies at ChicagoTARDIS? I think that SciFi cut out a lot of what made the show sparkle, like all of the character bits from Metamorphic Anthropoidic.
celli on 5th November 2009 01:14 (UTC)

*makes grabby hands at links*
ljc: probetaraljc on 5th November 2009 01:15 (UTC)
Wanna come over and marathon some time?
Dave Van Domelendvandom on 5th November 2009 01:29 (UTC)
I remember the frozen jogger found on a park bench scene....
Jena Bartley: fandom-generaljenab on 5th November 2009 01:34 (UTC)
I was randomly surfing LJ when I saw your post. I loved Probe dearly when it was on.

Thank you for the links.
Alysealymid on 5th November 2009 02:15 (UTC)
I remember loving this show!! He might have been one of my first TV crushes.
Neaneadods on 5th November 2009 02:16 (UTC)
SQUEE! Thank you for the links - I've got home-burned DVDs, but they're from tapes of less than sub-stellar quality.
MechTurtlemechturtle on 5th November 2009 02:31 (UTC)
I... I just... I LOVED this show when it was on and remember "talking plants" from one ep. Thank you ^ bajillion for the links!
mcamason: Sexy Shoeless Belkarmcamason on 5th November 2009 03:25 (UTC)
*screams like little girl*
*Gloms on to download links singing your praises*

I wore out my tape of the three episodes I managed to tape: thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!
bentleybentleywg on 5th November 2009 04:18 (UTC)
Michelle "Mickey" Castle (Ashley Crowe, best known as Claire's mum on Heroes)

*blink* Wow. Totally didn't notice that. Damn, I wish I knew in which box my Probe tapes are.
Pouncerthepouncer on 5th November 2009 05:28 (UTC)
I loved this show! And I too learned everything I know about ball lightning from Austin James.
graycardinalgraycardinal on 5th November 2009 05:35 (UTC)
Hmmm. If Mickey Castle is related to Rick Castle, that implies that Rick's father was actually Martha's husband-of-the-moment back then -- which is somewhat contra-indicated by various bits in Castle proper.

That said, I don't doubt the existence of a connection of some kind. Come to that, Austin James might very well be related to Rick Castle. (The phrase "nine year old on a sugar rush" comes to mind....)
Rachel M Brownrachelmanija on 5th November 2009 07:18 (UTC)
My God, I thought I was the only one who remembered this (fondly, down to the theme melody.)

Did you also, at around the same time, watch a series called Wizard about a genius dwarf inventor? (A genius inventor who is a dwarf, I should clarify, not a genius who invents dwarfs.) He fights crime or something. It too was canceled nearly immediately.

Cheesehead in Paradise: Shiny!finabair on 5th November 2009 07:54 (UTC)
(Also, I have decided inside my head that Mickey is related to Rick Castle.)

My brain just made a funny squishy noise. *giggle*

This originally aired during my "outside world doesn't exist" period of college, so the ONLY versions I'd ever seen were the Sci Fi ones. If these YouTube vids are anything to go by, the original is even better. I would SO love to see all of those, now! (It's very telling that while watching the clip linked above, I realized it was from original broadcast because I have the Sci Fi versions basically memorized.)
nnwest: OMG;  Middlemannnwest on 5th November 2009 13:44 (UTC)
This post is full of ZOMG and awesome and squee!

I totally didn't realize it until just now! Mickey is Claire's mum!

(Also, I have decided inside my head that Mickey is related to Rick Castle.)
ZOMG yes!! This must happen!

Yay!! Loved Probe. I'm glad others remember it too. And I will be grabbing the DLs when I get home. Thanks!

madripoor_rosemadripoor_rose on 30th November 2009 14:55 (UTC)
Mickey Castle. Perfect for a crossover with Castle, huh?

I loved this show.