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

Monday, September 20

The Neighborhood - "Welcome to the Family" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Dave starts researching his genealogy, he makes a surprising discovery: he and Calvin are more than just neighbors. Also, Tina offers to help Gemma when she’s overcome with morning sickness, and inadvertently stumbles on a new business idea.

Bob Hearts Abishola - "Welcome to Lagos" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
After Bob and Abishola land in Lagos, they rush to rescue Dele from his dad’s place and are a bit surprised at what they find once reunited. Also, Auntie Olu and Uncle Tunde explore their old stomping grounds and realize things have changed since their last visit to Nigeria.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 20)

Monday, September 20

  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!/The Cleveland Show) - Watch Seth on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Brendan Hunt (Ted Lasso) - Brendan appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • James Wolk (The Crazy Ones) - James is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC. He also talks about NBC's Ordinary Joe on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour and on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Ken Jeong (Dr. Ken/Community) - Ken will be on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Wilmer appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Scott Foley (The Goodwin Games/Scrubs/A.U.S.A.) - Scott talks about his role in the new TV series The Big Leap on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Ariana Grande (Victorious/Sam & Cat) - Ariana will be on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Awkwafina (Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens) - Awkwafina appears on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Fran Drescher (Indebted/Happily Divorced/Living with Fran/The Nanny/Princesses) - Fran is a guest on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tia Mowry (Family Reunion/Instant Mom/The Game/Moesha) - NBC's Today has easy power snacks with Tia on The Quick Fix Kitchen in the 10am hour.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Do Not Disturb/Carpoolers/My Secret Identity) - Jerry will be on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.


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

Head of the Class - The Complete Third Season Family Ties - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Hot in Cleveland - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Young Sheldon - The Complete Fourth Season I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

06/08 - The Critic - The Complete Series
06/08 - Fuller House - The Fifth and Final Season
06/08 - Fuller House - The Complete Series
06/08 - Our Cartoon President - Season 3
06/15 - The Office - Season 1 (Blu-ray) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9
06/15 - Parks and Recreation - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
07/07 - No Activity - Season 2
07/13 - The Unicorn - Season 2
07/20 - Head of the Class - The Complete Third Season
07/27 - Family Ties - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
07/27 - Hot in Cleveland - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
07/27 - The Neighborhood - Season Three
08/20 - The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet - Deluxe Edition (100 Episodes) (Time Life)
08/20 - The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet - Standard Edition (50 Episodes) (Time Life)
08/24 - The Jim Gaffigan Show - Season 2
09/07 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
09/21 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

09/19 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 20, 2021)
09/18 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Comes to an End; FXX Goes Full Blown Animation Domination with New Acquisitions
09/17 - Fri-Yay: NBC Reportedly Wants to Reboot The Office; Remembering Norm Macdonald of The Norm Show/Norm
09/16 - Comedy Central Fall 2021: Seinfeld Joins Lineup; Apple TV+ New Comedy Acapulco Premieres Oct. 8
09/15 - Only Murders in the Building Renewed for Season 2; HBO Max's Love Life New Season Starts Oct. 28
09/14 - Columbo 50th Anniversary Marathon on COZI TV; BET+ R-Rated Sitcom Renewed for Season 2
09/13 - Anthony Anderson and Mama Doris Headlining Halloween on Discovery+; The Last O.G. Is Back Oct. 26
09/12 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 13, 2021)
09/11 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Fox Mulls Future of Animated Comedies; Saturday Night Live Season Premiere Date Set
08/10 - Fri-Yay: A.P. Bio Quietly Continues Its Daring Humor on Peacock; Remembering Producer/Writer Irma Kalish, Michael Constantine of Room 222 and Art Metrano of Joanie Loves Chachi
09/09 - Wheel of Fortune Hosts Extend Contracts; Dancing with the Stars Announces Season 30 Cast
09/08 - Netflix Comedy On My Block's Final Season; Parks and Recreation Podcast Premieres Sept. 14
09/07 - FX on Hulu's Reservation Dogs Renewed; Comet and Stirr Celebrate Star Trek Day
09/06 - TV Marathons on Labor Day 2021
09/05 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 6, 2021)
09/04 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Life Goes On Reboot in the Works with Kellie Martin Reprising Original Role; Martha Plimpton Cast in Greg Garcia Comedy
09/03 - Fri-Yay: 30 Rock Returns to Netflix As It Attempts to Build Back Its Library; Did I Do That to the Holidays? A Steve Urkel Story Coming to Cartoon Network
09/02 - Freeform's 31 Nights of Halloween Schedule; MeTV Network and Decades Remember Ed Asner
09/01 - The Game Returns Nov. 11 on Paramount+; New Bel-Air Series Announces Casting of Will Character
08/31 - Run the World Gets 2nd Season; Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. Trailer and Guests Revealed
08/30 - Remembering the Legendary Ed Asner of The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Cobra Kai Season 5 Ordered Before Season 4 Premiere
08/29 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 30, 2021)
08/28 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Steve Harvey to Become Judge in Unscripted ABC Series; The Goldbergs to Pay Tribute to George Segal
08/27 - Fri-Yay: Apple's Ted Lasso Continues to Impress In Its Second Season; TCA Summer Press Tour: ABC
08/26 - Home Economics Returns with NFL Themed Premiere; New Flintstones Goes from Stone Age to Streaming Age on HBO Max
08/25 - New Baking Series Hosted by Two Comedy All-Stars; Showtime Orders The Wood to Pilot
08/24 - New Adult Swim Comedy Premieres Sept. 19; NBC Taps British Top Comedian for New Comedic Game Show
08/23 - Superstar: John Ritter Airs Wednesday (Aug. 25) on ABC; Two HBO Max Comedies Add More Cast Members
08/22 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of August 23, 2021)
08/21 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Peacock Cancels Punky Brewster Reboot; The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet Arrives on DVD from Time Life
08/20 - Fri-Yay: Brooklyn Nine-Nine Is Addressing Police Misconduct On Its Way Out the Door; Netflix Renews Never Have I Ever for Season 3
08/19 - Lifetime's Highway to Heaven Premieres November 6; COZI TV's Dog Days of Summer on August 21