Ray (Stingray)

Created by Stephen J. Cannell
(1941-2010)

“Someday I’ll return, and I’ll ask you to perform a favor, and you must do it”
— Ray’s terms-of-service

RAY (or whatever his name was), as played by Nick Mancuso in television’s short-lived Stingray (1985, NBC) was an enigmatic ex-Intelligence officer who helped people with their problems, and valued his privacy. As the shows credits reminded us each week, both his identity and his occupation were “unknown.” His reputation was apparently spread through word off mouth,  and an occasional newspaper ad:

Stingray.
For Barter Only.

Some dubbed it “The Equalizer on wheels,” although Ray was far more hip than McCall could ever be. He wore stylish clothes, and often rocked the black leather jacket and jeans look, and he drove a classic black 1965 Corvette Stingray. (Naturally, there was a model car kit available for sale, as well. Molded in black plastic, of course, presumably to match his jacket).

Hell, he was so cool he even wore his sunglasses at night because, you know, you don’t mess around with a man in shades. Oh, no.

He wasn’t kidding about bartering, either. His fee was simply “a favor”, which could be any thing, any time. Of course, it would only be called in to help Ray help someone else out of a jam (a gimmick, incidentally, that resurfaced years later on Vengeance Unlimited).

The short-lived series aimed for class and style. One of the nice touches was that whenever anyone attempted to run Ray’s fingerprints, the match would come back either as someone he clearly was not, or as “Classified” by the D.O.D. When his plate was run, it would come back as registered to the White House or the Governor of the State.

Ray was a competent investigator, adopting disguises that went far beyond mere make-up — he could assume a complete personna instantly, complete with dialect, accent and mannerisms ranging from an effete European hair stylist to a poor, illiterate laborer. He could apparently do almost anything — he was highly skilled in martial arts and most weapons and was computer savvy at a time when home computers were rare. There seemed to be little he couldn’t tackle, from skydiving to scuba-diving. He even had a photographic memory.

Mancuso made for a slick action/adventure hero and several of the episodes were pretty gripping — if at times far-fetched. The show ran for 25 episodes, and did okay in the ratings, but NBC cancelled it, supposedly to make room for a new series by Michael Mann who was riding high at the time, due to his success with Miami Vice and Crime Story.

But through it all, we never learned if “Ray” was his real name or not.

UNDER OATH

  • Stingray didn’t impress me. Even back then, I thought it was incredibly cheesy, although that might have been part of its charm for some of its devout fans. Or maybe I was already too old for it when it first aired. If I’d been twelve I might have loved it too: a bunch of James Bond-lite action scenes spritzed with Miami Vice sound’n’style, starring a smirky, too-cool-for-school stud as a one-man Mission Impossible. This from a guy, who only a few years earlier had given us The Rockford Files and City of Angels? definitely not Cannell’s best.”
    — Kevin Burton Smith.

THE EVIDENCE

  • Assistant DA (Robyn Douglass): “So, what do people call you? Stingray?”
    Ray: “God, I hope not.
    — from the pilot
  • Assistant DA: “What should I call you, then?”
    Ray, exasperated: “Just call me ‘Ray’.”
    Assistant DA: “Like, short for ‘Stingray’?”
    Ray, giving her a disgusted look: “No, it’s short for ‘Raymond.'”
    — later on in the pilot

TELEVISION

  • STINGRAY | Buy the complete series on DVD | Watch it now!
    (1985, NBC)
    2-hour pilot
    Original airdate: July 14, 1985
    Written by Stephen J. Cannell
    Directed by Richard Colla
    Starring Nick Mancuso as RAY
    Also starring Robyn Douglass, Gregory Sierra, John Aprea, Susan Blakely, Michael Fairman, Joe Penternia, Joey Pento, Lee Richardson, Dick Stewart, Wendell Wright
    I found this pilot incredibly hokey, with Barney Miller‘s Gregory Sierra embarrassing himself as a “South American” drug lord who kidnaps his rivals and has lobotomies performed on them. Still, the attractive Assistant DA (Robyn Douglass), whom he eventually beds, badgering Ray for his real name was hilarious, although perhaps unintentionally.
  • STINGRAY
    (1986-87, NBC)
    23 episodes
    Writers: Stephen J. Cannell, Herb Wright, Lawrence Hertzog, Tom Lazerus, Harold Apter, Carol Mendelsohn, Frank Lupo, Stephen L. Sears, Bert Perl, Randall Wallace, Tom Blomquist, Evan Lawrence, Judy Burns
    Directors: Charles Picerni, David Hemmings, Larry Shaw, Kim Manners, Michael Preece, Rob Stanton Bowman, Gary Winter, Don Chaffey, Les Sheldon, Larry Shaw, James Darren, Don Chaffey, Lyndon Chubbuck, Chuck Bowman, Larry Shaw
    Starring Nick Mancuso as RAY
    Guest stars: Rachel Ticotin, James Wainwright, Kathleen Lloyd, Tom Atkins, Robert Vaughn, Scott Paulin, James Handy, Robyn Douglass, John Walsh, Barbara Williams, David Hemmings, Marcia Strassman, Eugene Roche, Samantha Eggar, Bibi Osterwald, Jeff Conaway, Felton Perry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Blue Mankuma, Ray Wise

    • Season One
    • “Ancient Eyes” (March 11, 1986; AKA “Sea Grass”)
    • “Ether”(March 25, 1986)
    • “Below the Line” (April 1, 1986)
    • “Sometimes You Gotta Sing the Blues” (April 8, 1986)
    • “Abnormal Psyche” (April 15, 1986)
    • “Orange Blossom” (April 29, 1986)
    • “Less Than the Eye Can See” (May 6, 1986)
    • “That Terrible Swift Sword” (May 13, 1986)
    • Season Two
    • “The Greeter” (January 9, 1987)
    • “Gemini” (January 16, 1987)
    • “Playback” (January 23, 1987)
    • “Bring Me the Hand That Hit Me” (January 30, 1987)
    • “Echoes” (February 6, 1987)
    • “The First Time is Forever” (February 20, 1987)
    • “Autumn” (February 27, 1987)
    • “The Neniwa” (March 6, 1987)
    • “The Second Finest Man Who Ever Lived” (March 20, 1987)
    • “Night Maneuvers” (March 27, 1987)
    • “Cry Wolf” (April 3, 1987)
    • “Blood Money” (April 10, 1987)
    • “Anytime, Anywhere” (April 17, 1987)
    • “Caper” (May 1, 1987)
    • “One Way Ticket to the End of the Line”(May 8, 1987)

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Mike Harris, with additional info and snarky comments supplied by Kevin Burton Smith. And thanks to Nick Mancuso’s lawyer for not suing my ass off. Now he can go back to peddling dubious food supplements.

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