Q & A: Exo-Man

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

There is a movie that I saw on TV as a kid and I can’t find the name of it. It was about a scientist working on a project and someone broke into has lab while working and people beat the stuffing out of him and left him for dead. He survived but was paralyzed, he developed a suit that allowed him to walk and stalked the individuals that hurt him.

I initially thought Sean was remembering a one-season wonder called M.A.N.T.I.S., broadcast by FOX during the 1994-1995 season. Carl Lumbly starred as a scientist who, after being shot and paralyzed, built himself a Mechanically Automated NeuroTransmitter Interactive System (M.A.N.T.I.S.) that allowed him to not only walk again but fight crime as a superhero. A made-for-TV movie that served as pilot for the series aired on January 24th, 1994 and the series proper premiered on August 26th, 1994. But Sean replied with the following:

You’re right that is very similar. But unless I was super drunk, which is entirely possible it was definitely late seventies early eighties. The big difference between them is the suit in the old movie is like a deep diver suit. Like danger Will Robinson. Why can’t anyone help me? Please. Thanks again brother.

Eventually, I identified the telefilm Sean recalled watching as NBC’s Exo-Man, broadcast on Saturday, June 18th, 1977. David Ackroyd starred as Nicholas Conrad, a brilliant physics professor paralyzed from the waist down after being attacked by mobsters. Conrad was going to testify against the mob, so they tried to silence him. Instead, they just made him mad. Using his expertise, Conrad devised an “exo-suit” that did look something like a diving suit, and then had his revenge on the mobsters, crashing through walls and otherwise proving invulnerable. Jose Ferrer played the head mobster and Anne Schedeen played Conrad’s girlfriend.

Exo-Man was written by Martin Caidin, whose 1972 novel Cyborg was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin-off The Bionic Woman. His script was later rewritten by another writer and then producer Lionel E. Siegel turned out three additional drafts [1]. Siegel told the Associated Press why he spent so much time reworking the script:

I personally like to write about people who are vulnerable, to show and dramatize those scenes. What I did was work with the characters until I liked them and understood them, and put them into situations that exposed their anxieties, their fears and their strengths. [2]

Exo-Man was produced as a pilot for NBC’s upcoming 1977-1978 schedule but failed to make the cut; Siegel hoped that it would make the network’s mid-season schedule (it didn’t) [3]. Executive producer Richard Irving also directed the telefilm, which was broadcast as an installment of NBC Saturday Night at the Movies. It aired from 8-10PM opposite repeats on ABC and CBS.

Works Cited:
1 Buck, Jerry. “‘Exo-Man’ tries for spot.” Associated Press. Lawrence Journal-World TV Scene. 18 Jun. 1977: 2.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.