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Austin James was the Perfect Role for Parker's Intelligence and Sly Sense of Humor

Starring Parker Stevenson

Parker as Austin James

Probe was created by science fiction grandmaster Isaac Asimov, and it clearly reflected the high intelligence and creativity of its founder. Parker played Austin James, a reclusive genius who founded a thinktank called Serendip, then retired to his own warehouse/laboratory/apartment to work in peace. That peace is shattered - but his life is enriched - when one of Serendip's executives hires him a secretary named Mickey Castle and forces them to work together. Austrin tries to drive her away, but Mickey's stubbornness proves equal to his own, and he soon comes to appreciate her unique insights - and her loyal gumption.

Only seven episodes were filmed before the series was cut short by a writer's strike, and work never resumed. The episodes can sometimes be seen on the SciFi channel, and are worth looking for. Parker was perfectly cast as Austin, a role in which his intelligence and sense of humor - as well as his seldom-seen edginess - were allowed full play. Even though Austin and Mickey never made it over the threshold into actual romance, the chemistry between them was powerful. In some ways, Probe was a precursor to the X-Files. Both shows were structured around plots featuring unusual phenomena, and starred a heroic "couple" whose connection was all the more interesting because it skirted the territory between opposing worldviews, friendship and sexual tension.
 
 
 

Austin and Mickey Publicity Shot

 He's Got It Down to a Science
In the new "Probe," Parker Stevenson is a Hardy Adventurer

When Parker Stevenson ended his Hardy Boys run nearly a decade ago, he was more than a little burned out, fatigued by the weekly grind and worried that he was becoming stereotyped as an actor. "I swore I'd never go back and do another series," he says. "I'd done it, it's not a new challenge, so why do it again?" Famous last words, considering that Stevenson is now starring in Probe, as an eccentric genius who solves seemingly unsolvable crimes. So what changed his mind?

"It gives me a chance to play a crazy person, and I figured that wouldn't be boring if I had to do it for a couple of years," explains the still-boyish actor, who's in his mid-thirties. "Most series - you know, I've done them before and I know the routine and the scripts quickly fall into a formula. That's difficult to keep interesting. But this guy I like - he's a combination between Mr. Wizard and Jimmy Stewart. And besides, I get to sleep naked in an isolation tank!"

- by Leslie Van Buskirk
Us  April 18, 1988

Austin and Mickey on the Case

Before Mulder and Scully,
there was Austin and Mickey.
 
 
 
 

Austin and Ashley

Parker on "Probe"
 
 
I was real proud of Probe, and real proud of the work I did on that show. I felt lucky at having a shot at it because it wasn't a 'formula' show. But it was complex stuff. . . it wasn't the kind of show in which a viewer could get up during the middle of it, get a sandwich and think, "I'll catch up when I come back." Viewers had to work at watching the show, and perhaps that was a bit too much to ask. Maybe that's why they tuned into Cosby instead. But I do think ABC pulled the plug earlier than they should have. If the show was a hit, I would have enjoyed playing a brainy, eccentric character. But the work! I worked hard on Probe - five, six days a week; sixteen, eighteen hours a day.
 
- from "In the Swim"
  Playgirl, October 1989

Under the Trees

Probe Episodes
 
1 - Pilot Episode: Computer Logic
 
2 - Untouched by Human Hands
 
3 - Black Cats Don't Walk Under Ladders, Do They?
 
4 - Metamorphic Anthropoidic Prototype Over You
 
5 - Now You See It
 
6 - Plan 10 From Outer Space
 
7 - Quit It