Why no 'Night Gallery' remake?
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The remake that the remakers forgot...
Whenever Rod Serling gets spoofed for Twilight Zone skits - and he became enough of a cultural icon for such parodies to have persisted way beyond the generation who best remember him - he's always envisioned standing there, talking to camera, breaking the fourth wall. In fact this is something, curiously enough, that I remember him better for in the relatively short-lived three seasons of the horror/chiller anthology series Night Gallery which ran on NBC from 1970-73 and was frequently broadcast late-night in the UK in the 1970s.
The show had a whimsy and charm that was often missing in Twilight Zone; you never knew if the next story - all of which were tenuously linked to a painting in the Night Gallery - would be some dreadful, two-minute corny spoof (such as vampires breaking into blood banks or lunar expeditions finding huge mice on the moon), or something genuinely chilling such as Sins Of The Fathers.
Though he increasingly lost control of the show over its three-season run, the fact that Serling left the project with a marked bitterness is only one indication of how personal Night Gallery was to him. He wrote over one third of the scripts. Not all were chillers, either - something horror buffs occasionally complained about was how Serling might use Night Gallery to address issues beyond its 'chiller' remit, such as the Serling-penned story They're Tearing Down Tim Reilly's Bar, a tale of mid-life crisis and post-Vietnam disillusionment with a rather perfunctory supernatural element thrown in to no particular effect.
But that was the show for you - if it was occasionally confused, that fact helped to make it a hell of a lot of fun. Even the most basic tenet of the Night Gallery formula - three short 'tales of terror' related to paintings presided over by after-hours museum-curator Serling - was malleable, since several of the shows featured only one, longer story.
So it is a surprise that no-one has succeeded in remaking or re-booting Night Gallery, the last news on the matter being in 2002.
One can argue that Night Gallery had neither the popularity nor the relatively consistent quality of Twilight Zone, and also that it had a narrower audience demographic, since network TV is limited in terms of how it can depict 'horror' material. Detractors can even argue that Night Gallery was utter crap, and doesn't deserve a remake.
"Love it or hate it, why leave Night Gallery alone when you're digging up every single other body in the graveyard?"
Even if that were true, this kind of thinking bewilders me - why have a second stab at what worked perfectly the first time, but leave alone a good concept that was imperfectly executed on its initial run? As a point in evidence, the 1970s monster-of-the-week show Kolchak: The Night Stalker was really dire after the initial pilot episode, but this didn't stop Chris Carter not only re-booting it with big improvements in The X-Files, but giving Kolchak lead Darren McGavin an honoured guest spot in the episode Aqua Mala, as the retired 'creator' of the X-Files (McGavin was due to reprise the role in two other episodes, but could not due to failing health).
So love it or hate it, why leave Night Gallery alone when you're digging up every single other body in the graveyard?
The show received perhaps its most enduring claim to fame in bringing Steven Spielberg his first TV job, directing Joan Crawford in the pilot episode story Eyes. But what I best remember are the genuine jewels among the 93 stories told in Night Gallery's 43 episodes. The seven Richard Matheson stories, the Serling-penned Marmalade Wine, and the horrific ending of The Sins Of The Fathers (you'll never see John Boy Walton actor Richard Thomas in the same light again).
"If we must have gore instead of terror, there is probably no place for Night Gallery 2.0 beyond payTV's ring-fenced domain"
But if we must have gore instead of terror, there is probably no place for Night Gallery 2.0 beyond payTV's ring-fenced domain. And if they filled it with splatter, it would just be a re-hash of Tales From The Crypt and other horror anthology efforts of the last two decades. Perhaps the time has passed for elliptical horror stories; but hopefully not for eccentricity. I feel that Serling had far more of an instinct for the tale of horror than of sci-fi, and that he might prove a typically scrutinous spectral figure during the production of any new version of Night Gallery...
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