The movies were huge hits, but the television series (developed as an afterthought when a third television movie stalled).
My personal bias is obvious: while the two movies were set in Las Vegas and Seattle respectively, the television show relocated Kolchak and Vincenzo to Chicago. Although the entire series was not filmed on location, the budget permitted several days of background footage to be shot in Chicago. It was sort of fun seeing some Chicago stock footage cross cut with some definite Hollywood locations. McGavin drove around Chicago in several sequences.
What I liked about the show is that it captures a lost City of Chicago. The elevated trains pass the notorious Cabrini-Green public housing projects (long since demolished in the wake of gentrification). The program tried to mock up Chicago police cars and the elevated trains are from an older series of train cars that were discontinued by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1976. The oft repeated window shot of the INS (Independent News Service) office is across from a Ravenswood elevated train station.
There is a world weariness about the program. "Chicago -- The City That Works," according to Mayor Richard J. Daley, is shown to be an ineffective bureaucracy. Carl Kolchak bribes corrupt city employees for news tips and leads. The cops simply want to close investigations and suppress the truth.
The series had numerous guest stars from Hollywood's Golden Years, including Milton Parsons, Virginia Gregg, Marvin Miller, Nina Foch, Keenan Wynn, John Dehner, and so many more. A young David Chase (of "The Sopranos") was a script editor and story consultant.
The program never had a firm time slot and was often rescheduled. It was a minor miracle that it lasted for twenty episodes. It was a grind for Darren McGavin, who also took on some production duties, and how long could a "Monster of the Week" show continue?
One of the interesting things about the Kolchak cycle is that the movies and television shows admitted the existence of the demimonde. A world in which people drank, smoked, used drugs, and engaged in illicit sex.