Midnight Caller

Midnight Caller is an American drama television series created by Richard DiLello, which aired on NBC from October 25, 1988, to May 17, 1991. It was one of the first television series to address the dramatic possibilities of the then-growing phenomenon of talk radio.[1][2]

Midnight Caller
Midnight Caller.jpg
Created byRichard DiLello
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes61
Executive producersRobert Singer
Robert Butler (season 1)
Production locationSan Francisco
Running time60 minutes
Production companies
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkNBC
Picture formatColor (Metrocolor)
Audio formatMono
Original releaseOctober 25, 1988 (1988-10-25) –
May 17, 1991 (1991-05-17)


Midnight Caller starred Gary Cole as Jack Killian, a former San Francisco police detective who had quit the force after he accidentally shot his partner to death in a confrontation with armed criminals. After lapsing into alcoholism, Killian receives an offer from Devon King (Wendy Kilbourne), the beautiful and wealthy owner-operator of KJCM-FM, to become "The Nighthawk", host of an overnight talk show, taking calls from listeners and acting as a detective solving their problems during the day (the title of Killian's show would later be adopted in real life by talk-show host George Noory on KTRS in St. Louis from 1996 until 2003, when Noory took over from the retiring Art Bell as host of the nationally syndicated Coast to Coast AM). Even though Killian snapped that he doesn't listen to FM radio, he accepted the offer.[3]

Killian's adventures took him frequently back into the realm of police work, where several of his former colleagues were less than happy to see him again. He faced myriad problems, both personal and professional, and was at various points required to come to grips with the nature of his relationship with both his absentee father and his troubled siblings. What he never seemed to come to grips with, however, was his relationship, or lack of one, with Devon. Devon eventually became pregnant in a relationship with another man and sold the station (Kilbourne was undergoing a simultaneous real-life pregnancy). Despite hard-hitting topical episodes dealing with AIDS, capital punishment, and child abuse, among other topics, the show lost its audience when it was moved from its original time slot and was cancelled after three seasons.

Killian's radio show sign-off comment was « Good night, America, wherever you are ».[4]

Midnight Caller's strength was in combination of well-created stories shaped by realistic and topical characters. The stories also rotated around the main cast, and its well-developed characters allowed the viewers to relate to them. The show's jazz music soundtrack also added to its popularity.

In October 1990, Wendy Kilbourne (Devon King) left the show for pregnancy reasons. Lisa Eilbacher (Nicky Molloy) became the new female lead role.[5]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
117November 25, 1988 (1988-11-25)May 9, 1989 (1989-05-09)
221September 19, 1989 (1989-09-19)May 22, 1990 (1990-05-22)
323September 28, 1990 (1990-09-28)May 17, 1991 (1991-05-17)

Cast and charactersEdit



Series creator Richard DiLello took the title of the series from a song written by Pete Ham for the band Badfinger. DiLello had previously authored The Longest Cocktail Party, a history of the rise and fall of The Beatles' corporation, Apple Corps, and their record label, Apple Records, where Badfinger had originally been signed. The song itself had no relation to the series' subject matter; it had been written by Ham in tribute to a friend of the band who had resorted to working as a high-priced prostitute to pay her bills.

"After It Happened" controversyEdit

In the 1988 episode "After It Happened", a bisexual man is depicted as an AIDS carrier who deliberately infects heterosexual women. As originally conceived, the man is gunned down in a vigilantism murder by one of the women that he infects, and a medical team in full Hazmat suit comes to take his body away as Jack Killian comforts the distraught shooter. In the broadcast version, the victim is stopped before she can kill the carrier. Coming in the early years of the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in the US at a time when public understanding of the disease was quite low,[7] the proposed episode was immediately criticized as sensationalistic, biphobia and pseudoscience. Protests were launched by GLAAD, BiNet USA and bialogue, among others.[8] Additionally ACT UP pickets disrupted the show's filming.[9][10] Then-NBC affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco ran a disclaimer before the show with an AIDS hotline number and aired a half-hour live special, Midnight Caller: The Response, during which activists and public health officials aired their grievances.[11]

Awards and nominationsEdit

In 1989, Kay Lenz and Joe Spano won Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for their performances in the episodes "After It Happened" and "The Execution of John Saringo", respectively.[12][13]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1989 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Peter Boyle Nominated
Joe Spano Won
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Kay Lenz Won
Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Thomas Carter, "Pilot" Nominated
1990 Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Bruce Weitz Nominated
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Kay Lenz Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Series Bradley B. Six Nominated
Outstanding Editing - Single Camera Roger Bondelli Nominated


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (November 14, 1989). "Review/Television; 'Midnight Caller' Continues Its AIDS Story". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  2. ^ Cerone, Daniel (November 11, 1989). "Activists Hail 'Midnight Caller' Sequel Episode". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  3. ^ Terry Clifford (October 25, 1988). "'Midnight Caller' Should Hang It Up". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  4. ^ John J. O'Connor (November 14, 1989). "Review/Television; 'Midnight Caller' Continues Its AIDS Story". Nytimes.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  5. ^ Michael Hill (October 26, 1990). "'Midnight Caller' loses a star but stays strong". Baltimoresun.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  6. ^ Bobbin, Jay (January 2, 1989). "Gary Cole In 'Midnight Caller' Hot Seat". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 21, 2017.
  7. ^ Easton, Nina J. (December 3, 1988). "'Caller' Clash Reflects TV's Challenge on AIDS". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  8. ^ Easton, Nina J. (October 25, 1988). "Gays Protest 'Midnight Caller' Episode". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  9. ^ Ewtn.com
  10. ^ "The State". The Los Angeles Times. October 23, 1988. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  11. ^ Tropiano, p. 103
  12. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 1439. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  13. ^ "Awards and nominations". Emmys.com. Retrieved April 20, 2020.

External linksEdit