Saturday, November 21, 2009

TV Rebels: Rod Serling - Submitted For Your Approval

It's time another edition of TV Rebels. We originally had special permission to publish the first 6 essays on TV shows and actors that will be featured in the upcoming book TV Rebels: 100 People and Programs That Shaped the Medium by authors Lou Orfanella and Oscar De Los Santos...and then last year we got rights to 6 additional essays (for a total of 12!), so including today's essay, only two essays are left. We soon will give you the last one, which is TV Dinners. The book is in the works and will be released in 2010...so stay tuned for that and look for a review of the book right here before it comes out!

So without further adieu, we bring you the eleventh essay of TV Rebels:

Rod Serling: Submitted For Your Approval
by Lou Orfanella

In the early years of television, science fiction, terror, and horror all graced the small screen with various degrees of success. Boris Karloff's Thriller ran for two seasons in the early '60s. Science Fiction Theater was seen in syndication in the mid-1950s. Local stations around the country programmed A and B list horror movies with low budget wrap-arounds and creepy hosts, notably John Zacherley in Philadelphia and later in New York.

When the Rod Serling hosted Twilight Zone premiered on CBS in October of 1959 the science fiction anthology genre reached a new level. The Twilight Zone was a unique combination of terror, suspense, mystery, and irony that raised the sci-fi television bar to a new intellectual level. This likely surprised no one familiar with Serling's work. He was a well respected writer who had success in radio and with scripts for television anthology series like Playhouse 90 for which he wrote "Requiem for a Heavyweight," arguably his most famous piece. The scripts, many written by Serling, were often ironic slices of life and its often dark side and resonated in viewers' minds long after the final credits rolled. "Most of Serling's comrades had long since left television for other less censorious and more 'artistic' media, but Serling refused to abandon video: he believed in television. And-unquestionable-Serling liked the limelight" (Sander xix).

The combination of Serling's skills as a writer coupled with his desire to be in front of the camera is likely what helped The Twilight Zone achieve legendary status. His on camera introductions to each episode, delivered in a dry monotone, became as popular as the teleplays themselves. The content of the stories often shed light on cultural ills and human frailties. In "Escape Clause" a man granted immortality in exchange for his soul decides to challenge the death penalty only to be sentenced to life in prison instead. Aliens arrive on earth "To Serve Man" according to one of their books translated by earthlings, yet it turns out to be a cook book. In yet another of the series' most enduring episodes, "Time Enough at Last" the lone survivor of a nuclear attack believes he will finally achieve his dream of having ample time to read all he wants, only to break his glasses. Serling would return from the shadows at the end of each episode to offer a comment on mankind and society.

The Twilight Zone ran until 1964 with both the title and theme song becoming an indelible part of popular culture. To be "in The Twilight Zone" came to mean in a strange or inexplicable situation, and all one needs to do is vocalize a few notes of the show's spooky theme music to indicate danger on the horizon. Rod Serling, long a proponent of intelligent, literate television never replicated the success he had with The Twilight Zone. He returned as host and frequent writer of Night Gallery on NBC from 1970-1973 but audiences did not embrace it as they had his earlier program. The Twilight Zone was revived in the years after Serling's death (at age fifty in 1975) first on CBS, then in first run syndication and later on the UPN network, but never to the same popularity as the original.

When all is said and done, Rod Serling was The Twilight Zone. "As Stephen King wrote in Danse Macabre, a collection of his meditations on horror that was excerpted in TV Guide in 1982, The Twilight Zone 'generated a kind of existential weirdness that no other series has been able to match'" (Lasswell 150). Eulogized in TV Guide in 1975 Serling was called, "an angry crusader, pleading the cause of quality television...he was a charming man-involved, concerned, restless-and he made a great contribution to television. We are all in his debt" (Harris 231).

Works Cited
Harris, Jay S. TV Guide: The First 25 Years. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.
Lasswell, Mark. TV Guide: Fifty Years of Television. New York: Crown, 2002.
Sander, Gordon. Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man. New York: Plume, 1994.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (April/May/June)

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season Father Knows Best - Season Five The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season ALF - The Complete DVD Collection The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series

04/04 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Fifth Season
04/11 - Father Knows Best - Season Five
04/11 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Third Season
04/11 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/11 - Veep - The Complete Fifth Season
05/02 - Red, White and Blue Collar Sitcoms - Make TV Great Again
05/09 - ALF - The Complete DVD Collection
05/09 - Divorce - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
05/09 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Second Season
05/16 - The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Series
06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, July 23

Bob's Burgers - "Ex Mach Tina" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Tina hurts her ankle, she is left with no choice but to telecommute to school. After enrolling in a program that allows her to send a robot version of herself to class, Tina finds herself having an unexpected breakthrough with Jimmy Jr. Will technology be the thing that finally unites Tina with her biggest crush of all time.

Bob's Burgers - "Bob Actually" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With Valentine’s Day approaching, Tina, Gene and Louise each find themselves wrapped up in love-caused chaos. Meanwhile, Bob decides on a romantic gesture in order to impress Linda.

The Simpsons - "Friends and Family" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mr. Burns hires the Simpsons to play his live-in virtual reality family, but excludes Homer so that he may play dad. Now alone, Homer finds a new best friend in girl-next-door Julia, who eats, drinks and thinks like him.

Family Guy - "Cop and a Half-wit" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Peter helps Joe out with several crime cases, but when Joe tries to take all the credit, Peter gets extremely angry. Meanwhile, Brian convinces Stewie to join a football team and panics when he gets a concussion.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 17)

Friday, July 21

  • Kevin Bacon (I Love Dick) - Watch Kevin on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He talks about Lifetime's Story of a Girl on the AOL Build Show at 1pm.
  • Jada Pinkett Smith (A Different World), Queen Latifah (Living Single), Regina Hall (Grandfathered) and Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show) - Jada, Queen Latifah, Regina and Tiffany chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. Tiffany will also be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT. Jada will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Kate Walsh (Bad Judge/The Drew Carey Show) - Kate discusses her new movie Girls Trip on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Kaley appears on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Drake Bell (Drake & Josh) - Drake is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Dove Cameron (Liv and Maddie) - Dove appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Jake Johnson (New Girl) - Jake is a guest on a repeat of Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.