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

Wednesday, January 22

The Goldbergs - "Game Night" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Geoff struggles to keep his living arrangement with Erica and Barry a secret from Beverly during game night, while Adam goes to his guidance teacher for a lesson in being cool so he can get closer to a new girl in chemistry class.

Schooled - "FeMellor" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Principal Glascott and Lainey struggle to agree on what is an appropriate dress code, while Coach Mellor struggles with his relationship with Julie as she does not enjoy sports like he does.

Modern Family - "Dead on a Rival" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Mitchell learns a valuable life lesson when Murray (Paul Dooley), a former resident of the house, shows up unexpectedly. Meanwhile, the Dunphy’s old neighbor-turned-tech-titan, Kenneth (Josh Gad), comes to visit with a big surprise for Phil. Then, Manny’s dad, Javier (Benjamin Bratt), shows up with a big opportunity for his son.

Single Parents - "Chunkies" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Angie decides it’s finally time for Graham to meet his dad, Derek (Adam Brody), sickness overtakes the household. Derek is forced to either step in and help or head back out to his van. Meanwhile, when Sophie overhears some big news about Will and Tracy, she takes it upon herself to intervene; and the twins face their first professional failure.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 20)

Wednesday, January 22

  • John Mulaney (Mulaney) - Watch John on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Fortune Feimster (Bless the Harts/Life in Pieces/Champions) - Fortune visits The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. She will also be on Watch What Happens: Live at 9pm on Bravo.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on the BUILD Series at 12pm.
  • Charlie Hunnam (Undeclared) - Charlie is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse drops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Steve Buscemi (Miracle Workers) - Steve appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Patrick Stewart (Blunt Talk) - Patrick chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. He also talks about Star Trek: Picard on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Ashley Tisdale (Carol's Second Act/Merry Happy Whatever/Clipped/The Suite Life of Zack & Cody) - Ashley appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Finesse Mitchell (Outmatched/A.N.T. Farm) - Finesse is a guest on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Ilana Glazer (Broad City) - Ilana drops by The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jackée Harry (Tyler Perry's The Paynes/The First Family/Sister, Sister/227) - Jackée appears on a repeat of Access Daily, so check your local listings.
  • Boris Kodjoe (The Last Man on Earth/Second Time Around) - Boris gives the hosts a workout on E!'s Daily Pop at 12pm.
  • Erinn Hayes (Medical Police/Kevin Can Wait/Guys with Kids/Worst Week) - Erinn is a guest on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • BD Wong (Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens/All-American Girl) and Lori Tann Chinn (Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens) - BD and Lori will be on the BUILD Series at 1pm.
  • Abby Elliott (Indebted/Odd Mom Out) and Jessy Hodges (Indebted) - Abby and Jessy are guests on the BUILD Series at 5pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (November/December/January)

Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One

11/05 - The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang - The Complete Animated Series
11/05 - Laverne & Shirley in the Army (Animated Series) - The DVD Edition
11/05 - Letterkenny - Seasons 1 & 2
11/05 - Step by Step - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Twelfth and Final Season (Blu-ray)
11/12 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Series (Blu-ray Limited Edition)
11/18 - The Guest Book - Season Two
11/19 - The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (Blu-ray)
11/19 - The Kominsky Method - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
12/03 - The Simpsons - The Nineteenth Season
12/03 - The Simpsons - Seasons 1-20: Limited Collector's Set
12/06 - 9JKL - The Complete Series
12/10 - Family Guy - Season Seventeen
12/17 - Atlanta - Season 2 - Robbin' Season
12/17 - Fuller House - The Complete Fourth Season
12/17 - Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Series (2019 Release)
12/17 - The Other Two - Season 1
01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume One
01/02 - My Three Sons - The Fifth Season - Volume Two
01/14 - Veep - The Final (Seventh) Season ((Blu-ray)
01/14 - Veep - The Complete Series (DVD)
01/21 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Third Season (WBShop.com)
01/21 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Fifth and Final Season
01/28 - Ballers - The Complete Series
01/28 - The Mindy Project - The Complete Series (DVD)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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