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 (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

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
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, September 25

The Big Bang Theory - "The Proposal Proposal" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Amy gives Sheldon an answer to his proposal while Howard and Bernadette struggle with some unexpected news. Laurie Metcalf returns as Sheldon’s mother, Mary; Riki Lindhome returns as Ramona; and Stephen Hawking returns as himself.

Young Sheldon - "Pilot" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
9-year-old Sheldon Cooper is a once-in-a-generation mind capable of advanced mathematics and science but learns that isn’t always helpful growing up in East Texas, a land where church and football are king.

Kevin Can Wait - "Civil Ceremony" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Kendra and Chale must get married immediately when the Gables learn that he is about to be deported. As Kevin chases down Father Phillip (Jim Breuer) to officiate the ceremony, Vanessa helps Kendra put together the last-minute affair. Leah Remini joins the cast as Vanessa Cellucci, and Jim Breuer returns as Father Phillip.

Me, Myself & I - "Pilot" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Bobby Moynihan, Jack Dylan Grazer and John Larroquette star as Alex Riley in a new comedy about the defining moments in one man’s life over three distinct periods – as a 14-year-old in 1991, at age 40 in present day and at 65 in 2042.

People of Earth - "Game Night" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Gerry and Yvonne host a group game night; Agent Foster meets a person from her past; Walsh, Jeff, Don and Kurt enact their mutiny against Eric.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 25)

Monday, September 25

  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory/Young Sheldon) - Watch Jim on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage/Ellen/The Larry Sanders Show) - Jeremy visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • America Ferrera (Superstore) - America appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Kaley chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristin previews My Little Pony: The Movie on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings. She will also be on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Jussie Smollett (On Our Own) - Jussie speaks about the series Empire on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings. He will also be on the AOL Build Show at 6pm.
  • Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace, Jodie and Andrea are guests on Harry, so check your local listings.
  • RonReaco Lee (Survivor's Remorse/Let's Stay Together/Sister, Sister) - RonReaco drops by The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Melissa and Stephanie are guests on Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Zoe Perry (Young Sheldon) - Zoe opens up about the premiere of her new show Young Sheldon on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Anne Heche (The Michael J. Fox Show/Save Me) and Mike Vogel (Grounded for Life) - Anne and Mike talk about The Brave on NBC's Today in the 10am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET. The will also be on the AOL Build Show at 1pm.
  • Iain Armitage (Young Sheldon) - Iain is a guest on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Kristin Bell (The Good Place) - Kristin makes Carly's Spinach Pesto on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • The Cast of Will & Grace - Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes are guests on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
  • Damon Wayans (My Wife and Kids) - Damon appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Paulo Costanzo (Joey) - Paulo talks about Designated Survivor on the AOL Build Show at 11:15am.
  • Josh Gad (1600 Penn/Back to You) - Josh is a guest on the AOL Build Show at 3:30pm.