When I originally posted this, I simply made a reference to the main Night Gallery Episode Guide page, but didn’t include the full text as a post. For those of you clamoring for that entry as a post rather than as part of the guide page (and you know who you are), here it is reproduced in its entirety.
Welcome to my Night Gallery episode guide. Thank you for finding your way here.
Night Gallery, later officially titled Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, was Serling’s “follow up” series to his groundbreaking The Twilight Zone, which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964, and which still airs regularly in reruns. Everyone knows about The Twilight Zone. But far too few people know much about Night Gallery. My hope is to do some small part in remedying that. For many, what little they know of Night Gallery is that it was the poor cousin, the weak sister of The Twilight Zone, and ultimately a failure for Serling. Without a doubt, The Twilight Zone deserves all its fame and accolades. But Night Gallery, too, deserves attention. No, it’s not as good overall as its predecessor. But on its own merits, it stands as an outstanding achievement. If you liked The Twilight Zone, if you like well-written dramas with varying tones of science fiction, the supernatural, the occult, horror, gothic romance and general eeriness, you are cordially invited to step into the Night Gallery.
As on The Twilight Zone, Serling introduces each episode of Night Gallery. Rather than a bare black background, the setting for his introductions is a large gallery of paintings and sculptures, or as Serling put it in more than one episode opening, objects d’art. His prose is purple as it was in his Twilight Zone introductions (no museum or gallery docent, would speak in this way, but it is pure Serling) and with each episode, a painting or sculpture is used to illustrate the story we are about to see. With this, the tone is set for something macabre, even if the results were sometimes less than satisfying.
The original two hour pilot episode aired on NBC November 8, 1969, a Saturday, which at that time was not the television graveyard it is today. It was a big night for tv viewing—in the early 70s M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Carol Burnett Show all garnered huge ratings Saturday evenings on CBS.
After the ratings success of the pilot, the first season of six 60-minute episodes was ordered as part of NBC’s “Four in One” experiment where four different series were alternated in the same time slot (Wednesdays at 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central), the others being The Psychiatrist, McCloud, and San Francisco International Airport. McCloud would later be re-rotated into NBC’s Sunday Mystery Movie umbrella, sharing time with Columbo, McMillan & Wife, Quincy, Banacek and other lesser-known shows.
These 60-minute episodes consisted of two, three or four separate stories, sometimes including brief one-to-four minute “blackout” sketches that were meant as comic relief to the otherwise mostly “heavy” longer stories. I can understand the thinking behind this, but to my mind, most of these shorts were dreadful and are largely forgettable.
For its second season (1971–72 and in the same time slot), Night Gallery earned its only full slate, with 22 hour-long episodes, each again featuring multiple tales including the occasional would-be comedic blackout sketches. This in many ways was the “classic” Night Gallery season, with a number of these stories among the series’ best.
For its third and final season (1972–73), Night Gallery’s time slot was cut to a half-hour and the show was moved to Sunday night. These changes may have lead to the ratings decline which resulted in its cancellation after fifteen episodes. Even more sadly, little more than two years after the end of Night Gallery, Rod Serling suffered a series of heart attacks and died on June 28, 1975. He was just fifty years old.
A bit of my own Night Gallery viewing history: I have vague recollections of seeing snippets of the show in its original incarnation. I would have not been quite nine years old at the final episode, but considering in those days there were just the three networks and a couple of independent stations available on tv, it’s possible I would have stumbled upon the show, or walked into the tv room when my parents were watching (my mother confirms they did watch the show) though I would certainly not have been encouraged or even permitted by my them to watch something like Night Gallery at that age.
In the 80s, due to re-runs on WGN locally in Chicago, then later on cable, I became a huge fan of The Twilight Zone. If I have the time and energy, perhaps I will delve into that show to write an episode guide, though it has been covered excellently and ubiquitously in many places. So unless I really have the time, I likely won’t tackle that.
In recent years, Night Gallery has been airing on local Chicago independent station “MeTV” which also airs on some cable and satellite systems nationally. This is what piqued my interest in the show. However, this syndicated version of Night Gallery leaves much to be desired. Universal Studios, which produced the series for NBC, edited the first 28 hour-long episodes down to 30 minutes. This explanation from Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, from their indispensable website nightgallery.net, follows:
“Since the show had numerous stories of various lengths per hour, many of the shorter segments had to be expanded in the re-editing with superfluous, meaningless footage, serving only to confound the narrative. Conversely, many segments longer than the half-hour time slot were severely trimmed of key scenes, making them even more perplexing than their shorter counterparts. Some segments were missing half their original length in syndication.
To confuse the issue further, 25 episodes of an entirely different series, the ESP snooze-fest The Sixth Sense, were grafted onto the syndication package with the addition of new Gallery-type introductions by a well-paid Serling. If an episode stars Gary Collins as psychic researcher Dr. Michael Rhodes, then it’s not a true Night Gallery segment.”
I could not have put it better.
After watching a number of the syndicated episodes on tv, often finding them intriguing but also confusing and dissatisfying, I decided to investigate Night Gallery’s existence on DVD. And very fortunately, I found what I was looking for at my local library in Naperville, IL. Each of three seasons has its own DVD. If your local library does not have them, request them. Otherwise, they are available on Amazon. If you are interested in Night Gallery, I highly recommend you seek out the DVDs and watch the episodes as they were originally broadcast. You won’t be disappointed. And now, on to the episode guide.