Sunday, March 30, 2014


I recently had a chance to watch several episodes of various classic television shows that I had recorded from MeTV (Memorable Entertainment Television). The shows ran the gamut from the good, to the bad, to, well, you know how this goes.

First up was a TWILIGHT ZONE episode entitled "Nightmare as a Child". This was a rare TZ episode that I didn't recall ever seeing. It was a good one that I enjoyed even if I did see the twist coming.

Next was what I thought was going to be an episode of Rod Serling's every '70s horror anthology series NIGHT GALLERY. At least, that's what the TV listings said and that's what was listed on my menu of recorded programs for my DVR. And sure enough, the opening credits read "Night Gallery" and look, there's good old Rod himself introducing the episode. All well and good, except that it wasn't an episode of NIGHT GALLERY. It was a horribly edited episode of THE SIXTH SENSE, an hour-long series that ran on ABC TV from January 1972 to December 1972. The series starred Gary Collins as a paranormal investigator and I remember watching and enjoying the show. But apparently, for syndication purposes, Universal Studios (which produced both NIGHT GALLERY and SIXTH SENSE), decided to package everything as NIGHT GALLERY, include the Serling introductions and then make a sixty-minute episode fit into a thirty-minute time slot. It's a very poor idea which does a vast disservice to both series. I guess it makes some sense from a financial standpoint but for fans of both shows, it's extremely frustrating.

But the bad taste of NIGHT GALLERY/SIXTH SENSE was quickly erased by what I watched next, an episode of the Boris Karloff hosted anthology series THRILLER. The episode was entitled "Guillotine" and with a screenplay by Charles Beaumont (based on a story by Cornell Woolrich) and direction by Ida Lupino, this was a crackerjack exercise in excruciating suspense. No real horror or supernatural elements, just first rate storytelling. I loved it!

I finished the night by watching half of an episode of LOST IN SPACE. I turned it off halfway through. I just couldn't take it. I wasn't that big of a fan of the show when I was a kid (I much preferred STAR TREK) but out of a sense of nostalgia, I thought I'd give it a try. It was a wasted effort.

The script and characterizations were unbelievably juvenile and the focus of the episode (indeed, the entire series) was on the unholy trio of Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris), Will Robinson (Billy Mumy) and the Robot along with that week's guest alien. The sets look cheap, the costumes are ugly (there must have been a sale on velour) and Harris's simpering, effeminate characterization of Dr. Smith gets real old mighty fast.

I know that there are many devout fans of this series and I'm sure they enjoy watching (and re-watching) the show. But I'm not one of them.

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