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

Thursday, January 21

Young Sheldon - "Freshman Orientation and the Inventor of the Zipper" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
College orientation does not go as Sheldon planned. Also, Mary is invited to a party when she’s mistaken for a university student, and George Sr. helps Pastor Jeff set up a children’s nursery.

B Positive - "Open Heart Surgery" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Gina needs to keep herself together to pass a psych evaluation while dealing with the news of an ex’s engagement.

Mom - "Woo-Woo Lights and an Onside Kick" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bonnie and the ladies indulge Jill when she goes to extremes to get her relationship with Andy (Will Sasso) back on track.

The Unicorn - "The First Supper" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
When Wade decides to introduce Shannon to his friends, the get-together quickly takes an awkward turn. Also, Noah tries to fit in with the older kids since he’s tired of being one of the babies.

Call Me Kat - "Therapy" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Sheila comes to stay with Kat to avoid being home alone, Sheila's lack of boundaries leads them to try therapy; Phil and Randi make a road trip to buy Phil's mother medicinal marijuana.

Last Man Standing - "Jen Again" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Mike surprises Vanessa with a visit from Jen that might last longer than expected; Ryan asks Chuck for advice to impress his new corporate boss on the golf course.

Mr. Mayor - "The Sac" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
A special assignment forces Jayden and Arpi to get to know each other; Neil sets out on a mission to reconnect with Orly after she gets into a little trouble.

Superstore - "Biscuit" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
After returning from quarantine, Glenn enlists Cheyenne and Bo's help to get Dina to relinquish control; Jonah and Mateo have second thoughts about helping Sandra with her cat's medical needs; Garrett struggles with customer returns.

grown-ish - "Public Service Announcement" (Freeform, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After dropping out of Cal U and diving into her dream job, Zoey balances the demands of her work life and her personal life.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 18)

Thursday, January 21

  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Catch Allison on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Alison Brie (GLOW/Parks and Recreation) - Alison appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Regina King (The Boondocks/227) - Regina is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/30 Rock) - Jane will be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Francia Raisa (grown-ish) - Francia appears on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Yara Shahidi (grown-ish/black-ish) - Yara talks about grown-ish on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace is a guest on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Morris Chestnut (Out All Night) - Morris talks about The Resident on a repeat of Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Sara Gilbert (The Conners/Roseanne/Living Biblically/Bad Teacher/Twins) - Sara talks about The Conners on a repeat of Access Daily, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (September-January)

Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season Mom - The Complete Seventh Season The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

09/01 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Season 14
09/01 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete Second Season
09/01 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
09/15 - Mom - The Complete Seventh Season
09/15 - South Side - Season 1
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Second Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Third Season
09/22 - Brockmire - The Complete Fourth Season
09/22 - Man with a Plan - Season Three
09/29 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Series (2020 Release)
10/13 - The Jetsons - The Complete Series (Diamond Collection)
10/13 - Our Cartoon President - Season Two
10/23 - Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em - The Complete Collection
10/27 - The Flintstones - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
10/27 - Head of the Class - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
11/10 - Letterkenny - Seasons 5 & 6
11/10 - The Office - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/10 - Schitt's Creek - The Complete Collection
11/17 - Carol's Second Act - The Complete Series
11/17 - Robbie - Season 1
11/24 - Corporate - Season 1
11/26 - Man with a Plan - Season Four
12/01 - The Neighborhood - Season Two
12/15 - Avenue 5 - The Complete First Season

More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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