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, October 16

The Goldbergs - "Animal House" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Barry decides to rush a fraternity, but it doesn’t quite work out as he expects. Meanwhile, Beverly and Murray find themselves getting closer to being empty nesters, which means more hobbies and activities for Beverly and more TV for Murray.

Schooled - "Kick Like a Girl" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Hoping to improve the football team’s chances at winning the title, Coach Mellor and Principal Glascott recruit star soccer player Felicia to kick field goals. But soon, she is treated like one of the guys, which affects her relationship with fellow player Reza. Meanwhile, CB chaperones an overnight ski trip and hopes to get in some quality time with Lainey but is constantly thwarted by socially awkward Tom Scott.

Modern Family - "Pool Party" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Mitch and Cam help Lily overcome her insecurities about wearing a bathing suit to a pool party but discover their own. Meanwhile, now that Gloria’s new internship is taking up so much of her time, Jay is feeling particularly neglected.

Single Parents - "Big Widow Wives" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After a house incident leaves Graham in fear of staying in his and Angie’s home, Angie enlists Will to help her get the house back together; however, there is a hiccup in the plan as Angie discovers a possum on the loose that she has to deal with. Meanwhile, Poppy discovers that Douglas is lying to her about a weekly poker game he must attend, as he participates in a weekly widow’s support group instead, causing Poppy to get a little jealous of his emotional vulnerability with the women in his support group.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - "The Gang Chokes" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Annoyed that the gang failed to react as he nearly choked to death on an appetizer, Frank decides the waiter, his savior, is the only person who has his back.

Family Time - "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Devin starts dating an older woman, which has Tony and Lisa concerned; Ebony's school project inspires her to go vegan.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 14)

Wednesday, October 16

  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends/Muddling Through/Ferris Bueller/Molloy) - Watch Jennifer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Dane Cook (Maybe This Time) - Dane appears on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi) - Whoopi is a guest on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • John Goodman (The Conners/Roseanne/Center of the Universe/Normal, Ohio) - John appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Ed Helms (The Office) - Ed is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • June Diane Raphael (Grace and Frankie/Burning Love/Players) - June appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Thomas Lennon (The Odd Couple/Sean Saves the World/Reno 911!) and Whitney Cummings (Whitney) - Thomas and Whitney are panelists on Lights Out with David Spade at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss?/Romantically Challenged) - Alyssa chats with the ladies of The View about her book Project Middle School (Alyssa Milano’s Hope #1) on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly/Samantha Who?) - Melissa visits The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michael Rapaport (Awkward/The War at Home) - Michael stops by The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory/8 Simple Rules) - Kaley is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Paul Rudd (Living with Yourself/Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later/Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp/Wild Oats) - Paul talks about Netflix's Living with Yourself on CBS This Morning sometime between 7-9am.
  • Ali Wong (American Housewife/Are You There, Chelsea?) - Ali talks about Dear Girls on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) - William talks about The Good Place on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Angela Kinsey (The Office/Haters Back Off/Your Family or Mine) and Jenna Fischer (Splitting Up Together/The Office) - Angela and Jenna talk about the Office Ladies Podcast on NBC's Today in the 10am hour and on the BUILD Series at 2pm.
  • Julie Andrews (Julie) - Julie talks about her book Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years on the BUILD Series at 5pm.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (August/September/October)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season Life with Lucy - The Complete Series

08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Third Season
08/06 - Caroline in the City - The Fourth Season
08/13 - I Love Lucy - Colorized Collection
08/13 - Leave it to Beaver - Seasons One and Two
08/20 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Six
08/27 - Baskets - The Complete Season Four
08/27 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Thirteenth Season
09/03 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 9th Season
09/03 - Fresh Off the Boat - The Complete Fifth Season
09/03 - The Goldbergs - The Complete Sixth Season
09/03 - Single Parents - The Complete Season One
09/03 - Young Sheldon - The Complete Second Season
09/04 - What We Do in the Shadows - The Complete First Season
09/10 - American Dad! - Volume 14
09/10 - The Jetsons - The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray) (WBShop.com)
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume One
09/11 - My Three Sons - The Fourth Season - Volume Two
09/17 - Friends - The Complete Series (25th Anniversary)
09/17 - Modern Family - The Complete Tenth Season
09/19 - Angel from Hell - The DVD Edition
10/08 - Leave it to Beaver - The Complete Series
10/08 - Life with Lucy - The Complete Series
10/15 - The King of Queens - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

10/15 - Sarah Silverman Returning to HBO with Late Night Series; Craig Ferguson to Host ABC Game Show
10/14 - ABC Gears Up for Halloween with Specials and Sitcom Episodes; truTV Comedy Returns for Season 5
10/13 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 14, 2019)
10/12 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Walker, Texas Ranger Reboot in the Works; South Park Banned in China
10/11 - Fri-Yay: Another Netflix Original to End as BoJack Horseman Announces Final Season; TNT Sets Halloween Supernatural Marathon
10/10 - Daily Show Correspondent Gets Comedy Special; Fox Gets Jenna Dewan for Dance Show
10/09 - Remembering TV Legend Diahann Carroll; Marvel and Hulu Bring New Series
10/08 - Search Party Moving to HBO Max for Seasons 3 and 4; Disney Gets More Gabby Duran & the Unsittables
10/07 - 2019 New York Comic Con Round Up
10/06 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of October 7, 2019)
10/05 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Cherie Johnson to Reprise Role in Punky Brewster Sequel; Pop TV Renews Florida Girls
10/04 - Fri-Yay: New Sitcoms: First Week Impressions; Pop Goes Back to Florida for Poverty Sitcom
10/03 - The Iliza Shlesinger Sketch Show Coming Soon to Netflix; Family Time Returns for Season Seven
10/02 - Visit Schitt's Creek Pop-Up; Viacom Networks Finish 2018-19 Strong
10/01 - HGTV Goes Behind the Brady Bunch Build; LMN Sets 25 All-New TV Movies This Fall
09/30 - Freeform Says Everything's Gonna Be Okay with New Comedy; HBO Max Teams Up with Ellen for 4 Projects
09/29 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 30, 2019)
09/28 - SitcomsOnline Digest: thirtysomething Reboot in the Works; Decades Celebrates Brady Bunch 50th Anniversary
09/27 - Fri-Yay: Primetime Emmy Results for Comedy; AFV Gets 30th Anniversary Special
09/26 - Seinfeld Moving from TBS to Viacom Networks in 2021; Tell Me a Story Returns Dec. 5 with New Cast
09/25 - NBC Fall Pilot Review: Sunnyside - Premieres Thursday (Sept. 26); CBS Fall Pilot Review: Carol's Second Act - Premieres Thursday (Sept. 26)
09/24 - NBC Fall Pilot Review: Perfect Harmony - Premieres Thursday (Sept. 26); CBS Fall Pilot Review: The Unicorn - Premieres Thursday (Sept. 26)
09/23 - CBS Fall Pilot Review: Bob Hearts Abishola - Premieres Monday (Sept. 23); ABC Fall Pilot Review: mixed-ish - Premieres Tuesday (Sept. 24)
09/22 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 23, 2019)
09/21 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Reboots for The Office and Even Hogan's Heroes?; The Boondocks Returning for Two New Seasons on HBO Max
09/20 - Fri-Yay: Primetime Emmy Predictions for Comedy; Paramount Heads to Paris for New Comedy
09/19 - Pop TV Renews Schitt's Creek for Sixth and Final Season, Fifth Season Marathon to Air on Sept. 21; HBO Max Revives The Boondocks
09/18 - NBC Streaming Service Peacock Sets Reboots of Saved by the Bell & Punky Brewster; The Big Bang Theory Coming to HBO Max, While TBS Renews Through 2028
09/17 - ABC Sets Reunions of Cheers, The Drew Carey Show, Girlfriends, Charmed, Castle and More; NBC Renews Titan Games for Season 2
09/16 - Nick Slates Are You Afraid of the Dark? Premiere; Spectrum Originals Drama Goes Back Into Production for Season 2 in 2020
09/15 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of September 16, 2019)