Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Big VIDEO Wednesday - Tales of Tomorrow

Decided to change things up a little and show one of the earliest TV science fiction programs, Tales of Tomorrow, now available on Hulu.

I know it's not radio, but Tales of Tomorrow aired from 1951 to 1953, so it's contemporary with several of the radio shows I have presented here before. The first season of the series has just gone up on Hulu, and this episode in particular jumped out at me, for several reasons.

Number one, it plays the same sort of meta-games with reality and fiction and the fourth wall as Wyllis Cooper did on Lights Out (such as "The Coffin in Studio B") and Quiet, Please.

Number two, it features a young Rod Steiger in one of the roles.

Number three, it was written by a guy named Frank De Felitta. De Felitta isn't very well known, but he's had a couple of novels turned into movies, including The Entity, supposedly based on a true case. I saw De Felitta in person when I attended a screening of "The Entity" (starring Barbara Hershey) at USC. I remember it because not only did he talk about the allaeged true haunting the story was based on, but he also went on at some length about how he had sued Spielberg over "Poltergeist," which lifted some concepts and one minor scene from De Felitta's novel.

But it's interesting that a guy who would later cause controversy with a novel "based on a true story" would early in his career script a TV episode where the episode in question keeps getting interrupted by events that are "really happening" somewhere.

Number four, it's a fascinating look at early television, filmed live, flubs and all, especially this episode, which lets you see behind the sets. I love the imagery of the opening titles, with that gloved mad scientist hand throwing that huge switch on the wall, and yet I can't help but notice how even that is cheap and spare.

Number five, the show is sponsored by Kreisler. I used to work with my dad selling watches and watch bands. At that time (and maybe still), the number one watch band company was Speidel, but Dad still had some old Kreislers floating around (Kreisler seems to have morphed into Voguestrap at some time). So those Kreisler commercials hold a little extra interest for me. I especially love how the commercial at the top of the show starts out with a woman offering cigarettes, then morphs into a commercial for the box the cigarettes are in, and then segues into "Oh yeah, there's jewelry, too."

So enjoy this look at the "Golden Age" of live television in the Golden Age of science fiction, and then count your blessings that you live today.

Next week, I'm planning to start another long Superman marathon, unless someone requests something different.

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