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

Tuesday, December 7

Live in Front of a Studio Audience - The Facts of Life & Diff'rent Strokes

Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes - (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
In this one-night-only event, an all-star lineup of talent will tackle the roles first portrayed in the iconic television sitcom “The Facts of Life,” including Jennifer Aniston playing the role of Blair, Gabrielle Union taking on the role of Tootie, Allison Tolman who will play Natalie and Kathryn Hahn recreating the role of Jo. Previously announced “Diff’rent Strokes” cast member Ann Dowd is also set to appear as Mrs. Garrett in this recreation of “The Facts of Life.” The Sony Pictures Television special can also be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu.

The live special event will feature reenactments of the hit series “The Facts of Life,” created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, and “Diff’rent Strokes,” created by Bernie Kukoff and Jeff Harris, and will reunite executive producers Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Brent Miller, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Jim Burrows. Previously announced cast members taking on the famed “Diff’rent Strokes” roles include John Lithgow, who will play Mr. Drummond; Kevin Hart, assuming the role of Arnold; and Damon Wayans and Ann Dowd, who will play Willis and Mrs. Garrett in “Diff’rent Strokes.”

Abbott Elementary - "Pilot" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
In this workplace comedy, a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life. Though these incredible educators may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do — even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children.

The Last O.G. - "Know Thyself" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
Amira attends college presentations, and her quick decision surprises Tray, who then works to guide Amira toward a better understanding of her identity; while cleaning out Roberta's storage unit, Shahzad makes a discovery about her past.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne - "Wondering Prince" (BET, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Lisa helps Miranda set up her online dating proļ¬le.

Tyler Perry's Assisted Living - "What the Wellness" (BET, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Mr. Brown vows that he's finished eating meat until he's left alone with a lot of soul food.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of December 6)

Tuesday, December 7

  • Brandy (Zoe Ever After/The Game/Moesha/Thea) - Catch Brandy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • J. B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm/Mapleworth Murders/Bent/'Til Death) - J. B. guest hosts Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Kristin Davis (And Just Like That.../Sex and the City) and Cynthia Nixon (And Just Like That.../Sex and the City) - Kristin and Cynthia are guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS. Kristin also talks about And Just Like That... on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Chris Kattan (The Middle) - Chris will be on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Jane Levy (Suburgatory) - Jane appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Sterling K. Brown (Starved) - Sterling is a guest on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so check your local listings.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Harlem/Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi talks about her new holiday collection on The Drew Barrymore Show, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (October-December)

Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release) Mom - The Eighth and Final Season Punky Brewster (1984-88) - The Complete Series (2021 Release) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Blu-ray) The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

10/19 - Maude - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - The Honeymooners Specials - A Christmas Carol
11/02 - Mom - The Eighth and Final Season
11/02 - Punky Brewster - The Complete Series (2021 Release)
11/02 - Sex and the City - The Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
11/09 - Saved by the Bell (2020) - Season One
11/09 - Younger - The Complete Series
11/16 - Kevin Can F*** Himself - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
11/23 - Dead Pixels - Seasons One and Two
11/30 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) (2021 Release) (Blu-ray)
12/07 - The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
12/07 - Rick & Morty - Season 5 (Blu-ray) (Blu-ray Limited Edition Steelbook)
12/14 - The Abbott and Costello Show - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
12/14 - Letterkenny - Season 9
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Recent SitcomsOnline.com News Blog Posts

12/07 - Freeform Acquires The Office Starting January 2022; 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards Nominees
12/06 - getTV Acquires The Rockford Files, Here Come the Brides; Disney's Secrets of Sulphur Springs Premieres Jan. 14
12/05 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of December 6, 2021)
12/04 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Kevin Can F*** Himself and Pen15 Cancelled; The Waltons' Homecoming Brings Ratings High to The CW
12/03 - Fri-Yay: It’s Always Sunny Returns, Bold and Funny as Ever; Jon Stewart Joins Live in Front of a Studio Audience for The Facts of Life; Remembering Eddie Mekka of Laverne & Shirley
12/02 - Rewind TV January 2022 Schedule Includes Drew Carey, NewsRadio; HBO's Somebody Somewhere Premieres Jan. 16
12/01 - Live in Front of a Studio Audience Announces Cast of The Facts of Life; Disney Television Orders Marsai Martin Produced Comedy
11/30 - Antenna TV January 2022 Schedule and Q1 2022 Stunts; Chucky Gets 2nd Season on Syfy & USA
11/29 - Who's the Boss? Now on GAC Family; black-ish Farewell Season Starts Jan. 4
11/28 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 29, 2021)
11/27 - SitcomsOnline Digest: MacGruber Series Premiere Date Set; Saved by the Bell Pays Tribute to Dustin Diamond
11/26 - 2021 Antenna TV Christmas and New Year's Schedule
11/25 - 2021 Thanksgiving TV Marathons on TV This Holiday Weekend Include The Jeffersons on Starz Encore Black
11/24 - First Look at Peacock's Bel-Air; Dollface Returns Feb. 11 on Hulu
11/23 - Paramount+ Celebrates the Holidays with Sitcom Classics; HBO Max Gets in Holiday Spirit as Well with Christmas Comedy Series
11/22 - Apple TV+ Announces The Afterparty Premiere Date; SNL Closes Out 2021 with 2 New December Episodes
11/21 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 22, 2021)
11/20 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Netflix Orders Last Blockbuster Video Comedy Series; Party Down Revival Set at Starz
11/19 - Fri-Yay: Sitcom Thanksgiving Episodes to Be Thankful For; Live in Front of a Studio Audience Returns Dec. 7 with The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes
11/18 - COZI TV's 2021 Unexpected Guests Thanksgiving and Christmas; How I Met Your Father Premieres January 18 on Hulu
11/17 - Freeform Announces January Schedule; Starz Releases Premiere Date for Shining Vale with Courteney Cox
11/16 - MeTV Network Loses Columbo, Adds Andy Griffith and M*A*S*H Sundays; Remembering Gavan O'Herlihy, the Original Chuck Cunningham on Happy Days
11/15 - NBC Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; And Just Like That... Premieres Dec. 9 and Airs Thursdays
11/14 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 15, 2021)
11/13 - SitcomsOnline Digest: Night Court Reboot Set for 2022-2023 Debut on NBC; The Harper House Cancelled at Paramount+
11/12 - The Newlywed Game Coming to BUZZR; Nick Renews Tyler Perry's Young Dylan for Season 3
11/11 - CBS Winter 2022 Midseason Schedule; The Wonder Years Series Premiere Grows in Multi-Platform Viewing
11/10 - HBO Max's Search Party Sets Final Season Launch on Jan. 7; The Wall Returns to Fill in on NBC
11/09 - Fox Winter Midseason 2022 Schedule; The Righteous Gemstones Returns Jan. 9 on HBO
11/08 - The CW Midseason 2022 Schedule; Dolly Parton to Appear on Final Season of Grace and Frankie
11/07 - Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows; This Week in Sitcoms (Week of November 8, 2021)