Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Thriller.
Lets start off with probably the most well known one first, The Twilight Zone. Of course, everyone knows Twilight Zone. Rod Serling’s, classic series, with more classic episodes than anyone could count. The series is still on television today and there is a yearly marathon on the SyFy channel. The series originally ran from 1959 through 1964. The praise over the years for this show has been abundant and deserving. Twilight Zone is probably the best series of this type. It was extremely well written, so much so that even the bad episodes were up to the standards for the day. However, the good episodes transcended the medium. The narrative is one of the best, Rod Serling, became just as much of the show as the stories themselves. The show is not only great entertainment but is now entrenched in our popular culture. I mean we all have at least one friend who does an impressive Serling imitation. There is just so many great episodes and so many stars who appeared on this show it is too numerous to go over. It is great television maybe the greatest television.
Another classic anthology series is The Outer limits, which ran from 1963 to 1965. The Outer limits is more of a Sci fi series than any of the others. The series was produced by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano. Joseph Stefano had written the screenplay for Psycho. The series was more of a kind of a Monster of the week show, that used science fiction as a way to tell tales of the human condition. Much like Star Trek would a couple years later. The episodes of this show ranged from pretty awful at times to down right amazing. This show includes some of the best television ever. Episodes like The Architects of Fear, The sixth finger, and many others. The series also include two episodes written by Harlan Ellison, The Soldier, and the most amazing episode of all, Demon with the Glass Hand. This series also include some well know actors including Martin Landau, Robert Duvall, Dabney Colman and many more. However the greatest character in the series is “The Control Voice” , Vic Perrin. This show took a note from the Twilight Zone, with its own narrative opening which was one of the best on television. I watched this series as a young boy in reruns, and was truly frightened by what I saw.
Lastly one of my favorites Thriller also known as Boris Karloff’s Thriller, which originally aired from 1960 to 1962. This series is very unique , for its type. Starting off as a suspense show but soon turned to out and out horror. Although airing on television, it has some of the creepiest images I have ever seen. Like Outer Limits I watched this show when I was young, but not only was I frightened I had nightmares. Many years later I still had vague memories of this show. This one was not so easy to find in reruns it seems that after the 70s it was non-existence. Recently the show has been released on Dvd giving me an opportunity to refresh my memory. …and wow, this is really great stuff. Stephen King in his book, Danse Macabre called it “probably the best horror series ever put on television. There are really great episodes here, The Cheaters, The Hungry Glass, The Purple Room, Pigeons from Hell and the truly creepy The Incredible Doktor Markesan. Like the other two series, this show has a beginning narration. The narrator is the great Boris Karloff, and he is great, in most episodes he does only the narration but in a few he has staring roles and although in his 70s during the run, he is really creepy and amazing.
Okay, now why write about these old black and white shows, because they are black and white, because they are old, and because they are really damn good. In todays, mass media, streaming internet, 3D movie society there are many who will not watch anything in black and white. I don’t really know why this is, maybe they believe it is outdated, or they think its can’t be good, or they are just not aware. These shows are starting to fade away and it would really be a shame if there was a whole generation never got a chance to enjoy them.
Speaking of Streaming, you can watch The Twilight Zone and the first season of Thriller on Netflix and the Outer Limits is available to watch on Hulu. So give them a try.