For those old enough to remember, Night Gallery was creator-host Rod Serling’s follow-up to The Twilight Zone. Set in a shadowy museum of the outré, Serling unveiled a dark and disturbing collection of canvases as preface to a highly diverse anthology of tales in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction vein.
Bolstering Serling’s thoughtful original dramas were adaptations of classic genre material—short stories by such dark-fantasy luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, A. E. van Vogt, Algernon Blackwood, Conrad Aiken, Richard Matheson, August Derleth, and Christianna Brand. Variety of material brought with it a variety of tone, from the deadly serious to the tongue-in-cheek, stretching the television anthology concept to its very limits. But conflicts over the series’ direction arose between Serling and producer Jack Laird. The disgruntled host found himself excluded from the producer’s circle. Despite the tensions, Serling continued his dramatic contributions and ultimately scripted more than a third of the segments.
Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (the series’ full title) was broadcast on NBC-TV on Wednesday evenings at 10:00 p.m. Gallery had only six hour-long episodes in its first season (1970–71), rotating with three other series (The Psychiatrist, McCloud, and San Francisco International Airport) as part of Four in One, NBC’s experimental programming wheel. In its second year (1971–72), Gallery was promoted to a full-season offering with 22 hour-long episodes, which included many of its best and most memorable stories.
Sadly, the show seems to have been cursed: For the third season (1972–73), short-sighted executives at the network cut Gallery’s third-season time slot to a half-hour and moved the show to Sunday evenings—despite good ratings and a growing cult following on college campuses. It lasted only 15 episodes before it was canceled. In an ironic twist, Night Gallery won the best ratings of its broadcast run as its final season played out, regularly beating its competition.
The Gallery curse continued: To make a viable syndication package, Universal Studios (the company that produced the series for NBC) cut the first 28 hour-long episodes down to 30 minutes. 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 (and no, you won’t find any of the Sixth Sense episodes listed on this website. You can’t miss ’em, though: If an episode stars Gary Collins as psychic researcher Dr. Michael Rhodes, then it’s not a true Night Gallery segment.)
In 1999, Columbia House Video Club began releasing the uncut episodes of the series through their video club; ultimately, all but eight of the episodes made it to VHS. For a while, the Mystery Channel broadcast these original uncut episodes as well, and the series is currently available via streaming video on Hulu. As of April 2012, all three seasons of the series have been released on DVD.
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