Rembert Explains the ’80s: Manimal

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our series, Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 24-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by our editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons: the first episode of Manimal If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s, e-mail us at

Simmons seemed extra excited about this one. It’s either going to ruin my holidays or be the best thing ever.

0:02: A black panther (feline, not Huey Newton) just jumped through a stained glass window.

0:25: Things are blowing up. There are lots of loud noises and animals are screaming everywhere. What show is this? I think this may have been Michael Bay’s first big break.

0:31: The show: Manimal. Yes, I love a good portmanteau show. Portmansheau. Yes, I just did that.

0:36: Please tell me this dude can shape-shift. If so, this will definitely be my favorite show ever.

0:46: Main guy: Simon MacCorkindale. Sounds like a shape-shifter.

0:50: Lady: Melody Anderson. Looks very un-famous.

0:52: GLYNN TURMAN. Yes, it’s official, this will be my no. 1 show of all time. The “Glynn” factor does it again. You know, Preach from Cooley High/Colonel Taylor from A Different World/Mayor Royce from The Wire. Can’t wait.

1:06: This intro music is bananas. I’m going wild in this coffee shop right now.

1:45: Guys are carrying guns. I’m guessing they are criminals.

1:59: Enter black panther. It sneaks in and is listening intently.

2:31: Criminals leave, but they are followed by … a man. Shape-shifting confirmed. MANIMAL. (Side note: He cleans up quick.)

2:46: Following criminals in cab. More facts about the man side of Manimal: 1. He’s a police consultant. 2. He looks like Harvey Dent. 3. He has a British accent.

3:10: Six-second creepy shot of a hand. What’s the deal?

3:23: Three-second creepy shot of his face. And he’s breathing hard. Wait, is he about to manimalize in the backseat?

3:36: Ewww. Hand is bubbling. His shape-shifting water just broke. It’s about to go down in this cab.

3:52: Yep. The cab driver has a black panther in his backseat. This transaction is going to be so awkward.

4:08: Never mind. Panther just hopped out of the window and is gone. Rude.

4:40: Panther is at the warehouse with the bad guys. Moves very quietly. Impressively graceful.

5:08: Panther is right behind bad guy, reading the inventory of what’s being loaded up: 10 pistols, 20 handguns, 25 grenades, and 50 machine guns. Sounds violent.

5:35: Bad guy conversation:

    Guy 1: What’s wrong with you?
    Guy 2: I dunno, something. I’ve had the weirdest feeling all night.
    Guy 1: Like what?
    Guy 2: Like, someone’s watching us. Spooky.

Yeah, a MANIMAL, son.

5:59: Panther is about to attack, but then slips and knocks over some boxes. Cover blown. Guns drawn.

6:20: Criminals leave. Manimal hops in the back of the truck.

6:59: Guys can’t stop talking about how spooked they are, which is awkward, considering there’s a black panther in the middle seat.

7:07: In addition to the panther, the police just started following this truck. This can’t be good for our criminals.

7:18: I’ve never felt suspense like this. Can’t wait to see how many Emmys this episode won.

7:32: Guy 1: “Just stay cool”

7:33: MANIMAL GROWL. Truck instantly crashes.

8:01: One criminal makes a break for it, and is followed by panther and lady cop.

8:10: Manimal hops in a tree above a bad guy and growls. The guy shoots, narrowly missing the panther.

8:22: Oh no. Manimal shot. Does that mean the guy is shot, too? What are the rules of shape-shifting? I need answers.

8:38: The first criminal, continuing to make a break for it, runs into street and is hit by cab. Other criminal has shot another cop and is on the loose.

9:00: Lady cop spots panther, decides to follow it by way of trail of Manimal blood.

9:32: She follows it into a dark dead-end alley.

9:37: Surprise, there’s no panther. It’s a man. How on earth is he going to explain this to the cop?

No no no, don’t cut off, video. I have so many questions. And where is GLYNN? Part 2/7, here I come.

0:14: He gets out of the jam by talking all British-like to her. Unfair.

0:20: He leaves, but she looks suspicious. Is her first guess that he is a Manimal? If so, she’s either the greatest cop ever, or she’s a huge fan of the show Manimal.

1:08: Man cop to lady cop: “There’s a guy. He does consulting for us. He’s a prof at the NYU Police Science Department. He specializes in the use of animals in police work.”

That’s awesome that Manimal is a professor. Now I can’t help but wonder if any of my teachers were shape-shifters. What if a PhD actually just gives you the ability to manimalize? I’m sure it’s a gift and a curse.

2:04: Lady cop crashes Manimal’s lecture and sits next to a female student. This exchange happens:

    Prof/Manimal: ” … or you will simply spend a semester listening to me be very dull.
    Student: (in a whisper) He can be dull at my place anytime.
    Prof/Manimal: Thank you, Ms. Fletcher.
    Student: (to lady cop) Watch out, he’s got ears like a bull elephant. I hope everything else is equally sensitive.
    Prof/Manimal: And I heard that, too.

2:17: The moment. Manimal spots lady cop from alley. Lady cop realizes prof is from the alley and could potentially be a panther in his spare time.

2:32: The two chat after class and the professor denies ever being in the alley. (Side note: Why did it take me so long to realize this is just Batman?)

3:31: He gives her his card, but suddenly has a shooting pain and grabs arm. I guess the gun shot carried through to the human stage. Noted.

3:40: He gets into his car. Someone else is driving. What kind of professor has a driver?

3:42: GLYNN!

3:52: Talking about the incident in the alley. Of course Glynn knows about his manimalizing ways. I wonder if Glynn is a shape-shifter. If so, I bet he turns into Mufasa.

4:30: Glynn and Manimal (Glynnimal from here on out) park car and go to the club. They are being followed by the lady cop.

5:00: The club is playing the treble-heavy, Kidz Bop version of “Beat It.” I want to go to there.

5:31: At this moment, Glynnimal, lady cop, and bad guy are all in the club. Some tomfoolery is about to go down.

6:00: One of the best exchanges in TV history takes place (“Beat It” is still on).

As Manimal grabs lady cop and brings her to dance floor:

    Lady: What are you doing?
    Manimal: Dance with me. And I do mean dance.
    Lady: (sternly) This is not a slow dance.
    Manimal: It is now. Why were you following me?
    Lady: You know why (grabs his arm where he was shot, then caresses arm). I do feel a bandage.
    Manimal: I sprained my shoulder playing racquetball.
    Lady: You got shot chasing a panther!

6:25: Oh, for real, lady? You’re going to just pull out a gun in the middle of a club? This is America, not Downtown Atlanta.

7:53: Back at police station, cop and shape-shifter are flirting like whoa.

8:10: Manimal, spitting game: “You know, of course, an animal cornered in his lair is doubly dangerous”.

8:39: Manimal tells cop to call him JC. Wow. Not subtle at all.

9:04: JC Shape-shifter is attempting to invite himself to a stakeout, but lady cop is having nothing of it. This seems like the perfect time to transform into a black panther (Huey Newton, not the feline).

9:20: JC wins and is allowed on the stakeout.

9:57: Sketchy truck spotted. Lady cop and Jesus Christ Super Shifter are on their tail.

I can’t watch anymore, I’m exhausted. Manimal is like The Wire and Friday Night Lights in the sense that if you get too far sucked in, all other social and professional obligations fall by the wayside. If I started watching Part 3 of the pilot, I’d never make it out. Sure I want to figure out what happens to Manimal‘s clothes when he manimalizes from panther to human. And yes, I was excited to watch the cop and the professor fall in love, but then be shunned by society for their human-shape shifter romance. So many unanswered questions will have to remain unanswered for the time being.

I also saw that the show got canceled after eight episodes and don’t want to remember it for its latter failures, but for its early triumphs (the first 19 minutes).

Previously: Rembert Explains the ’80s: ALF
Rembert Explains the ’80s: Lionel Richie’s “Hello” Video
Rembert Tries to Explain the ’80s: Too Close for Comfort’s Very Special Episode

Filed Under: Rembert Tries to Explain the Eighties, TV

Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ rembert