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

Sunday, June 4

The Simpsons - "My Life as a Vlog" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Through a series of YouTube recommended videos, the story of the rise and fall of the Simpson family vlog is revealed.

Family Guy - "Oscars Guy" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The Griffins perform a retelling of three Oscar-winning stories: "Silence of the Lambs," "American Beauty" and "Forrest Gump."

HouseBroken - "Who's Nocturnal?" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
After Honey loses a clutch of baby possums she is supposed to be caring for, she and The Gray One set out to find them; Shel and Nibbles try to apprehend a critter that has been pooping on Shel's shell at night; Diablo gets abducted by an owl.

HouseBroken - "Who's Married?" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
A new playmate upends Honey and Chief's relationship; Tabitha helps Chico find the perfect anniversary gift for Kevin; Nibbles goes searching for her special someone.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 29)

Saturday, June 3

  • Ronald Gladden (Jury Duty) - Ronald can be heard on SiriusXM's Ben +1 at 9am.


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

Cheers - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) Gimme a Break! - The Complete Series (VEI) Kate & Allie - The Complete Series (VEI) Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete Series Night Court (1984-1992) - The Complete Series

01/03 - Andy Richter Controls the Universe - The Complete Series (2023 Release)
01/27 - Master of None - Season Three / The Complete Series
02/21 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Nine / The Complete Season Ten
02/28 - Growing Pains - The Complete Series
03/28 - Rick and Morty - Season 8 (Blu-ray) (DVD)
04/04 - South Park - The Complete Twenty-Fifth Season (Blu-ray) (DVD)
04/18 - Blondie - The Complete 1957 Television Series (Blu-ray)
04/25 - Cheers - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
05/23 - The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet - The Complete Season Eleven / The Complete Season Twelve
05/23 - Go On - The Complete Series
05/23 - Kate & Allie - The Complete Series (Universal)
05/29 - Gimme a Break! - The Complete Series (VEI)
05/29 - Kate & Allie - The Complete Series (VEI)
05/30 - Looney Tunes Collector's Choice - Volume 1 (Blu-ray)
06/13 - Mayberry R.F.D. - The Complete Series
06/13 - Night Court (1984-1992) - The Complete Series
More Recent and Upcoming TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

06/03 - SitcomsOnline Digest: ABC Declares Rating Victories for 22-23 Season; Australian Version of The Office in the Works
06/02 - HBO Renews Somebody Somewhere for a Third Season; Remembering Marlene Clark of Sanford and Son and Other Sitcom Stars We Recently Lost
06/01 - MeTV's Marry Me Block on June 4; TBS Sets Miracle Workers: End Times Premiere Date for July 10
05/31 - Amazon Freevee's Jury Duty Gets Special Release; Stars on Mars Fan Experience
05/30 - 75th Emmy Awards Nominations on July 12; Final Season of HBO's How to with John Wilson
05/29 - Memorial Day 2023 TV Sitcom Marathons
05/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 29, 2023)
05/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: CBS Wins 2022-2023 Ratings Game; Netflix Ends Sharing of Passwords
05/26 - Prime Video Renews Priyanka Chopra Series; Sex and the City 25th Anniversary Event in NYC
05/25 - Brady Bunch House on the Market; The Family Stallone Gets 2nd Season
05/24 - Antenna TV's Father Knows Best Father's Day Fest Marathon; Netflix Gets Glamorous This June
05/23 - CBS Summer 2023 Reality Schedule; Apple TV+ Announces Peanuts Programming
05/22 - More Details on Zoey 102; New Lifetime Movie Series Coming July 8
05/21 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 22, 2023)
05/20 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Showtime Looking to Bring Back Two Old Favorites; Disney+ Removing Content
05/19 - Futurama Triumphantly Returns July 24; Final Season of Physical Drops August 2; Primo Premieres May 19 on Amazon Freevee
05/18 - The CW Upfront 2023-24: Fall 2023 Schedule; Netflix Upfront 2023
05/17 - Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2023; Sarah Silverman HBO Special Premieres May 27
05/16 - ABC Upfront 2023-24: Fall 2023 Schedule; FX's Summer 2023 Slate
05/15 - FOX Announces 2023-24 Programming Slate; iCarly Season 3 Premieres June 1
05/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 15, 2023)
05/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Night Court Season Finale Brings Back a Familiar Face; Comedy Central Renews Digman! for Second Season
05/12 - NBC Upfront 2023-24: Fall 2023 Schedule; Hulu Orders Deli Boys from Onyx Collective
05/11 - CBS Upfront 2023-24: Fall 2023 Schedule; The CW Summer Lineup Has Comedies
05/10 - Minx Returns in July on STARZ; Never Have I Ever Final Episodes Premieres June 8, Trailer Drops
05/09 - The CW Acquires Son of a Critch; FX's The Bear Returns June 22
05/08 - NBC's Hot Wheels Gets Celeb Judges; Zooey Deschanel's Max Series Premieres May 23
05/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of May 8, 2023)
05/06 - SitcomsOnline Digest: First Week of Writers' Strike Already Sees Early Casualties; Fox Cancels Call Me Kat
05/05 - BUZZR's Classic TV Moms Week; Fox's Stars on Mars Celebs Announced
05/04 - Dancing with the Stars Returning to ABC in Fall; Conan O'Brien Producing New Podcast Miniseries
05/03 - Roku 2023 NewFront; Peacock Schedules Kaley Cuoco Series