Welcome back to the tombs of THE UNSEEN HORROR. Today, we use the realm of television to venture to another dimension of time and space… well, slightly to the left of it. Horror and sci-fi fans both hold the original TWILIGHT ZONE in the highest of regard. Creator Rod Serling crafted a program containing some of TV’s best writing and twists. The show held viewers for five seasons, solidfying it’s place in history. However, Serling created a second anthology program that is somewhat less remembered. That series tread similar ground to the ZONE, but delved more into horror and suspense. Today, we take a look at Serling’s second major series. So come with us, into… the NIGHT GALLERY.

Background and Premise Of NIGHT GALLERY

Since NIGHT GALLERY is an anthology show with no returning characters or overreaching plot, we will examine it by going into it’s history. Serling created the series to air on NBC, as part of a series called FOUR IN ONE. It would air once a month as part of a block of four distinct series. NBC renewed it as a solo series after the first season.

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The format of the show was quite similar to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but there were notable differences. Serling only appeared in the beginning of each show, inside a darkened art gallery. He would greet the audience, and then discuss a particular painting. Said paintings formed the basis of the episodes, with some featuring multiple stories. The series did contain some of the social relevance Serling had on the ZONE. However, NIGHT GALLERY used horror as its basis, instead of the varied genres of the ZONE.

Serling contributed many scripts, as he had with the ZONE. However, he did not enjoy the full control he’d had with that show. As a result, NIGHT GALLERY’s seasons vary in quality. The first and second season were an hour, featuring multiple stories, but also short comedic sketches in between stories. The network reduced the final season to a half-hour format and eliminated the sketches.

Serling struggled with episodes being edited to fit the timeslot. The hour long episode suffered cuts, and then had other footage put in to fill time. The network made Serling film new intros for episodes of a canceled series called SIXTH SENSE to make them part of the series. The network cancelled NIGHT GALLERY  after only three seasons.

Portraits of the NIGHT GALLERY

Despite undergoing many network issues, NIGHT GALLERY still produced a number of strong episodes, often featuring the work of other writers as the basis. While there are too many to name, the list below is a short sample of just what NIGHT GALLERY could be as it’s best.

They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar

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Often cited as the best NIGHT GALLERY episode, this features a washed up salesman trying desperately to return to the past. However, returning to his favorite bar has unseen consequences in the present…

Cool Air

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One of two NIGHT GALLERY episodes adapted from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. A young woman begins a relationship with the professor that lives in her apartment building. The professor is kind, but has an odd obsession with keeping his apartment chilled. This becomes a horrifying problem as the summer heat taxes his air conditioning…

You Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore

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In a future where androids are used as servants, an unhappy couple begin to take out their frustrations on their robots. The maid is eventually sent back for repairs after they damage it. However, she returns with some new programming built in…

 The Cemetery

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A personal favorite for NIGHT GALLERY, this episode features a boorish young man who inherits his uncle’s estate after murdering him. However, a painting of the on-site cemetery keeps changing to show the nephew his uncle isn’t done with him yet…

Pickman’s Model

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The second H.P. Lovecraft story adapted for NIGHT GALLERY, this one tells of a talented painter, famous for his otherworldly portraits. However, the subjects are all too real, as a young student finds out..

The Dead Man

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A scientist learns how to use hypnosis to simulate disease and injury in a man. He experiments with the man, even as the man falls in love with the scientist’s wife. This leads to problems when they begin to simulate death. They realize the solution, but it may be too late to implement it…

Certain Shadows On the Wall

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The siblings of a dying woman wait for her to die, with her brother being particularly resentful of her. He simply wants his inheritance and to sell off her house. However, after she dies, the sister’s shadow remains fixed on the wall, as the other siblings suspect foul play caused her death…

Venture into the NIGHT GALLERY

NIGHT GALLERY didn’t leave the lasting impression that TWILIGHT ZONE did. However, it retains much of the quality Serling was known for. It does have a dedicated fanbase, and the full series was released on DVD. The Simpsons even used the show’s concept as the framing mechanism for ‘Treehouse of Horror IV.’ So if you’ve seen all the TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, try a new take on Serling’s genius with NIGHT GALLERY.

And don’t forget to come back next week, when we examine something truly terrifying… a small town in Indiana…

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