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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, November 20

The Conners - "Miracles" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Life-changing news lands in the Conner household when a member of the family makes an announcement that no one saw coming. Meanwhile, Dan is suspicious that Becky isn’t sticking to her end of the deal when it comes to her drinking. Darlene continues her job search, and Jackie offers English lessons to a Casita Bonita busboy in need.

The Kids Are Alright - "Boxing" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Frank announces that he has decided to compete in the church boxing tournament, making it obvious that he’s playing for Mike’s affections. When Frank can’t cut it, Timmy steps in and takes up boxing in order to bond with his dad and get his approval. Ultimately, he has to choose between his dad’s dreams for him and his own dreams of showbiz glory. Elsewhere, feeling rusty after being at the seminary for so long, Lawrence asks Eddie to help prepare him for a date by taking him on a “practice date”.

black-ish - "Good Grief" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bow’s mom, Alicia, visits the family for the first time since the loss of Bow’s dad, and she is still heavily grieving. Bow decides to throw a big luau-themed party for what would have been her dad’s next birthday. Meanwhile, Mason has an extra ticket to an MMA fight and invites Diane on the same night as the party.

Splitting Up Together - "Yes, Deer" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Vlad, the new contractor for the house, arrives with his crew and Lena immediately begins to clash with him over his methods of repairing the house. Martin, on the other hand, feels that Lena should let them do what they were hired to do. After overhearing that she’s too uptight, Lena calls up an old friend to help her let out her frustrations. Elsewhere, Martin takes Mason camping to help him get over his breakup with Hazel and to teach him how to be a man, only to learn from him that it is okay to express his emotions.

The Guest Book - "Invisible Son" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Clem asks a stripper to pretend to be his girlfriend in order to convince his vacationing family that he is normal; once they get to Barefeet Retreat, it is discovered that Clem's fake girlfriend isn't the only thing he's been lying about.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 19)

Tuesday, November 20

  • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Catch Michael on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method) - Michael visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Judy Greer (Kidding/Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) - Judy appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • D'Arcy Carden (The Good Place) - D'Arcy stops by E!'s Busy Tonight at 10pm.
  • Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown) - Candice chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jenifer Lewis (black-ish/The PJs) - Jenifer is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/CafĂ© Americain/Sydney/One Day at a Time) - Valerie guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Patti LaBelle (Out All Night) - Patti talks about Christmas Everlasting on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan (check your listings) and on People Now at 12pm.
  • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Mario stops by The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jane Lynch (Angel from Hell) - Jane is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Tatyana Ali (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Second Generation Wayans) - Tatyana talks about Christmas Everlasting on People Now at 12pm.
  • Marlo Thomas (That Girl) - Marlo will be on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Tisha Campbell-Martin (Dr. Ken/Rita Rocks/My Wife and Kids/Martin) and Tichina Arnold (The Neighborhood/Survivor's Remorse/Happily Divorced/Everybody Hates Chris/Martin) - Tisha and Tichina talk about BET Presents: 2018 Soul Train Awards on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm. They also talk about The Neighborhood on the BUILD Series at 1pm.
  • Alicia Witt (Cybill) and Colin Ferguson (Then Came You) - Alicia and Colin talk about their Hallmark Movies & Mysteries original Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October/November)

The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection Alice - The Complete Eighth Season Step by Step - The Complete Third Season

10/02 - The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Fifth Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 6th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 7th Season
10/02 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 8th Season
10/02 - Ghosted - The Complete First Season
10/02 - The Love Boat - Season Four - Volume One / Volume Two
10/02 - Police Squad! - TV and Movie Collection
10/02 - Saved by the Bell - The Complete Collection
10/16 - Community - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
10/23 - Alice - The Complete Eighth Season
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Two
10/24 - The Odd Couple (2015) - Season Three
10/31 - The Bad News Bears - The Complete Series - All 26 Episodes
11/01 - Episodes - Season 5
11/05 - Robin Williams - Comic Genius (includes Mork & Mindy)
11/06 - American Dad! - Volume 13
11/20 - Step by Step - The Complete Third Season
11/27 - What I Like About You - The Complete Third Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest