Review: 'Night Gallery - Season One' A Serling Fan's Dream

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday November 23, 2021

Review: 'Night Gallery - Season One' A Serling Fan's Dream

Rod Serling fans, rejoice: Kino Lorber has transferred and upgraded Season One of "Night Gallery" to Blu-ray, and it looks and sounds fantastic.

An anthology show like "The Twilight Zone," this less-loved (but still worthwhile) series focused on horror, with the theme of each segment being represented in a painting. Serling does on-camera introductions with his trademark lockjaw delivery and cool panache; he's a little older, and frankly it's strange to see him in color, but his is a welcome and effective presence.

Unlike "The Twilight Zone," episodes of "Night Gallery" included multiple segments. Like "The Twilight Zone," though, "Night Gallery" had both hourlong episodes (during Season One) and half-hour episodes (in Season Two and Season Three). For casual and serious fan alike, Season One might be the best blend of format and storytelling, despite its relatively meager episode count. (Season Two had 22 episodes; Season Three had 15.

The 1960 feature-length pilot (consisting of three chilling tales, including an early directorial effort from Stephen Spielberg that stars Joan Crawford) is included along with all six episodes from Season One. All have been remastered at 2K resolution, and while the quality of the stories is variable — Serling fans, take note that the notoriously terrible "The Nature of the Enemy" is among the first season's segments — the video and audio quality is first rate, considering the source materials.

Much as "The Twilight Zone" was a prestige show that attracted top writing, acting, and directorial talent, "Night Gallery" boasts a remarkable guest cast; along with Crawford, Roddy McDowell, Diane Keaton (in a very early role), Larry Hagman, Phyllis Diller, John Colicos, and "TZ" veterans Agnes Moorehead, William Windom, and Burrgess Meredith, among others, all appear in Season One.

Serling's behind-the-camera involvement was more limited than it had been on "The Twilight Zone," and he clashed frequently with producer Jack Laird, whose decision to include brief comedy sketches in Season Two confounds fans to this day.

Still, this Season One Blu-ray edition of "Night Gallery" showcases some of Serling's most memorable work, including the classic segment "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar." There are also segments that feel like retreads of "TZ" offerings (to be frank, "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" has more than a passing resemblance to "TZ" classics like "Walking Distance" and "A Stop at Willoughby," as well as TV plays like "Patterns"), but Serling's gift for soaring, expressive dialogue is undimmed, and his sense of story is solid. Serling wrote all but three segments in this first season, and the writers who joined him included "TZ" vet Douglas Heyes; it's indisputable that "Night Gallery" is a legitimate successor to the earlier, more famous show, but what this new Blu-ray release will also make clear is that "Night Gallery" has much the same level of quality, at least at the outset.

Each episode comes with audio commentary, including remarks from Jim Benson and Scott Skelton, authors of "Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After-hours Tour," who even manage to offer a sensible explanation (sort of) for the otherwise-inexplicable "The Nature of he Enemy."

Podcaster Craig Beam also provides audio commentary for one episode, and also gets a separate special feature in which to explain the show's troubled, loopy transition into syndication. As part of this, Beam presents a side-by-side comparison of the original broadcast cut of "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar" and the subsequent cut for syndication. The comparison is invaluable if you want to understand the heartbreak around revered vintage television episodes being ravaged for reruns.

No Rod Serling fan will want to pass this edition up.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentaries on the pilot and all six Season One episodes by historian Gari Gerani, "Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After-hours Tour" authors Jim Benson and Scott Skelton, film historian Tim Lucas, historian Amanda Reyes, historian Constantine Nasr, publisher Taylor L. White, critic Kim Newman, writer/editor Stephen Jones, and film historian/podcaster Craig Beam

  • "The Syndication Conundrum": A Look at the Show's Troubled Second Life in Reruns, by film historian/podcaster Craig Beam

    "Night Gallery - Season One" is available now from Kino Lorber.

    Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.