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, April 14

The Goldbergs - "Who's Afraid of Bree Bea?" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After realizing there may be trouble in lovers’ paradise for Erica and Geoff, Beverly involves herself in their relationship as well as Barry and Joanne’s to make sure everyone stays together. Meanwhile, Adam and Brea are cast opposite of each other in the school play, but their excitement for one another’s success grows dim when one starts to outshine the other onstage.

Home Economics - "Mermaid Taffeta Wedding Dress, $1,999" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The Hayworth family is invited to the wedding of longtime family friend Spags. When Connor enlists Tom’s help to write and re-write a wedding toast, things take an unexpected turn between the brothers. Sarah realizes Denise is upset they never had a real wedding, while Marina meticulously plans her drinking schedule for a night out without the kids.

The Conners - "Regrets, Rehabs and Realtors" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Dan encounters a surprise visitor who shares some unsolicited advice, leaving him feeling guilty. Meanwhile, Darlene welcomes a new employee to Wellman Plastics.

Call Your Mother - "The Prime of Miss Jean Raines" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Before Sharon leaves town, she and Jean decide to plan a trip to Vegas. Meanwhile, Celia and Freddie have a serious conversation about whether or not they want kids.

United States of Al - "Pilot" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Marine veteran Riley, home at last after serving in Afghanistan, is happily reunited with his friend Awalmir, who goes by Al, the interpreter with his unit, after a long struggle to get him a visa to travel to the United States from Afghanistan.

United States of Al - "Repair/Tarmim" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Al uses his skills as a translator to try and repair the tense relationship between Riley and his estranged wife, Vanessa. Also, Lizzie is heartbroken when she is at a party and loses her late fiancĂ©’s dog tags.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 12)

Wednesday, April 14

  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Watch Terry on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:35pm on NBC.
  • Mary Lynn Rajskub (How to Be a Gentleman/Veronica's Closet/The Larry Sanders Show) - Mary is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Margaret Cho (All-Americna Girl) - Margaret will be on A Little Late with Lilly Singh at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Topher Grace (Home Economics/That '70s Show) - Topher chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Dylan McDermott (No Activity/LA to Vegas) - Dylan appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Jonh Corbett (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll/United States of Tara) - John talks about Rebel on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Outmatched/Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason will be on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kyra Sedgwick (Call Your Mother) - Kyra appears on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.
  • Emma Kenney (The Conners/Roseanne) - Emma talks about Shameless on ABC's GMA 3: What You Need to Know at 1pm.
  • Nicole Byer (Loosely Exactly Nicole) - Nicole talks about Netflix's Nailed It and TBS' Wipeout on Access Daily, so check your local listings.


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

Corporate - Season 2 Fam - The Complete Series Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series Happy Together - The Complete Series Til Death - The Complete Series

01/22 - Corporate - Season 2
01/22 - Corporate - Season 3
02/02 - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - The Complete Series (2021 Retail Release)
02/16 - Fam - The Complete Series
02/23 - Betty White's Pet Set - The Complete Series
03/02 - Blue Mountain State - The Complete Series
03/02 - Happy Together - The Complete Series
03/02 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-4 (DVD) (Blu-ray)
04/20 - 'Til Death - The Complete Series

More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


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