While The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits remain the most well known of America's anthology series, there remains one significant non-genre anthology show that in some ways, embodies the classic common notion of The Twilight Zone – a story with a twist in the tail – better than The Twilight Zone did.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents, hosted by the eponymous film director, originally ran for seven seasons, first on CBS from 1955 to 1960 as half-hour episodes, and then on NBC between 1960 and 1962, followed by The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which lasted for a further three seasons. Each started with an introduction by Alfred Hitchcock himself and ended with a follow-up sketch. Intriguingly, these varied depending on what country you saw them in – in the US, they frequently mocked the sponsors and popular commercials, while in Europe (with Hitchcock speaking fluently in French or German as the need demanded), they usually mocked Americans.
In between these Hitchcockians bookends were stories, occasionally directed by Hitchcock himself, that were dramas, thrillers and mysteries that almost always ended with a surprise twist – far more than Twilight Zone episodes did, certainly. Only once did the director himself appear in the main story, but a list of all the notable actors that did appear in the show would be vast.
A list of all the talented writers who wrote for the show would be equally long, but possibly the best and the most famous episode of the entire run was the Man From The South, featuring Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre. That was written by no less than Roald Dahl, who went on to give us his own version of the show as Tales of the Unexpected.
As always, if you liked it, buy it on DVD!
So popular was Alfred Hitchcock Presents in syndication that it was revived in the 1980s, following the success of a TV anthology movie similar to the cinematically released 1983 movie The Twilight Zone: The Movie. Hitchcock obviously couldn't do any new introductions, so colourised introductions from the original series were used instead.
The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents ran on NBC from 1985 to 1986 and was revived on NBC's sister channel the USA Network from 1987 to 1989. This had a greater tendency towards the comedic and went far and wide for material, even taking in a Sherlock Holmes mystery along the way. It was successful enough to encourage The Twilight Zone to be revived in the same way, although these lacked Rod Serling in any form beyond a brief smokey appearance in the main titles.
Possibly the most timely, if not the best, is this 1989 effort, Diamonds Aren't Forever, which starred George Lazenby as definitely not James Bond. Definitely not.
Enjoy (and say thank you to Toby for suggesting it)!
- November 28, 2012: The Wednesday Play: The New Twilight Zone - A Small Talent For War (1985)
The Wednesday Play is an episode of The New Twilight Zone, A Small Talent For Ware