Arte Johnson as a deejay whose career—and life—may end at a remote radio station during the graveyard shift. The Night Gallery story “The Flip-Side of Satan” is reviewed here.
“The Flip-Side of Satan” ** ½
Teleplay by Malcolm Marmorsteen & Gerald Sanford, Story by Hal Dresner
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Arte Johnson as J. J. Wilson
If you’ve ever wondered if Arte Johnson of Laugh-In fame could carry a fifteen minute piece all on his own, this is your chance to find out. He’s better than I expected in this dramatic story, good but not great, but as the only actor onscreen, it’s a lot to ask and perhaps this segment would have been lifted up further with a somewhat stronger actor.
Johnson plays J.J. Wilson, a former big-time disc jockey, having worked fifteen years in New York City. His career on a downward trajectory—way, way down as it turns out, he’s been banished to the middle of nowhere doing the midnight shift on a low-power station. “On a clear day, you can hear across the street,” he complains bitterly.
He pumps himself up with (false?) braggadocio asking rhetorically, “Who’s better than J.J.?” then plays his canned introduction of funky music with women singing his name.
His scheduled playlist, which he has been ordered to adhere to without exception, begins with gothic organ music. Not what this early ‘70s hipster expected, he calls his manager to complain about how backward the station is.
His agent, Sid, thought J.J. and his wife were having an affair. She’s dead now, seemingly a suicide. As he ends the call, J.J. seems contrite, though not admitting the affair.
Getting back to his canned between-song repertoire, Sid tells some jokes and plays canned laughter in response. The next record is eerie electronic music. He calls Bert, a man to whom he owes money. He wants Burt to give Sid an alibi for the weekends that both he (J.J.) and Sid’s wife were both away on “separate” excursions, thus we now know they were indeed having an affair.
The next track on J.J.’s playlist has satanic conjurings and he thinks he’s being hazed by the station’s other deejays. Finally, he decides to go against orders and put on one of his own records, but it comes out as the same conjuring.
Becoming scared, he dials the operator and is told it’s a disconnected number. The record says “all have been summoned to witness the sacrifice of the condemned.” J.J. notices a gallery of portraits on the studio wall, portraits of dead deejays who worked there. The record says the sacrifice is to Lucifer and J.J. is electrocuted and we then pan up to the wall and see his portrait has been added to the gallery.
The ending of this story is rather abrupt and if it had been expanded a bit and also perhaps had a stronger actor in the lead, this could have been quite an excellent episode. As it is, it has a certain element of creepiness to it and it’s a borderline recommended segment.