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Night Gallery Misconceptions
Not all episodes of Night Gallery were created equally
Claim: Rod Serling didn't do much besides hosting the series.Not true! Serling wrote more than a third of the scripts for the show—35 out of 98, to be precise. While he chose to take a less active role than he did on The Twilight Zone, he created the concept and his story material and scripts defined the direction of the show. Serling was deeply involved in these important aspects, and that shouldn’t be dismissed. And Serling did make a great host. He wrote the intros for all of the segments that he introduced, and his screen presence left an indelible impression.
Claim: All of Serling's scripts for the show were heavily rewritten.Also not true. The rumor that his scripts were doctored seems to have been spread by a second-season story editor on the show, Gerald Sanford, in numerous interviews on the subject of Night Gallery. These rumors were perpetuated by Serling biographers who failed to research the claims. The proof that most of Rod Serling’s scripts got to the screen intact can be found among the many drafts and completed Gallery scripts located in the Serling archive at Ithaca College. Yes, Serling did have a few rewrites along the way: “The Little Black Bag” had its last scene rewritten to avoid a graphic on-screen suicide; “The Dear Departed” was entirely rewritten (and based a few clues in the dialogue of the altered script, it seems probable that producer Jack Laird performed the rewrite). “Midnight Never Ends” had its dialogue rewritten by Sanford, although its structure follows Serling’s original scene-by-scene; “The Different Ones” was shortened by two scenes (removing a major character) and had a new opening scene added by Sanford; and “A Fear of Spiders” had one of the main character’s lines replaced in the second act when the lead actress in the role, Kim Stanley, improvised during production. That’s the extent of the rewrites—only five out of 35 Serling scripts were altererd, and only two were significantly changed.
Claim: There are nearly 100 episodes of Night Gallery.Not really—unless you call every individual story, even the 60-second vignettes, an “episode.” But that would be like calling every short story in an anthology a “book.” Night Gallery was unusual among anthology shows which typically featured a different story each week. Rod Serling's format for the show included 2-4 stories of varying lengths, which gave the writers and production staff freedom to tell the stories they wished, and juggle their budgets and resources as well. (Things got trickier when the series was repackaged for syndicated reruns. More on that below.) Lets say an episode comprises all of the material between the opening titles and the end credits. When discussing Night Gallery or the 1985 Twilight Zone, we choose to call each tale within an episode “stories” or “segments.” Don't be fooled by websites that confuse things by listing individual "stories" as "episodes". The original version of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery has 93 stories collected in 43 episodes over three seasons. The pilot film has three stories. The syndicated version of Gallery included two vignettes that had not aired before. That totals 98 stories (and you can see the paintings for each segment here.)
Claim: Night Gallery featured Gary Collins as a paranomal reseacher.No, it didn't. Collins was the star of an entirely different program called The Sixth Sense that ran for just 25 episodes. So how did he end up in Night Gallery? In 1973, Universal Studios wanted to offer Night Gallery for syndicated reruns. At the time, the maket preferred half-hour long shows, with at least 90 episodes that could be "stripped," running five episodes a week for at least 16 weeks. Unfortunately, Night Gallery had 98 stories of varying lengths, which added up to fewer than the desired quantity. Universal's solution was to re-edit the Night Gallery episodes to fit the 30-minute format, drastically cutting some stories and padding others with unrelated stock footage or omitted scenes. They also cut all of the Sixth Sense episodes to half their original length and added new paintings and introductions by Rod Serling (for which he was strictly a hired hand.) These altered episodes don't reflect the original series—yet they are the most widely available version of the Night Gallery. If you want to experience the show as it was originally intended, get the complete series on DVD.
Claim: The Night Gallery paintings were created by many artists.Amazingly, most of the wild (and wildly different) paintings in Night Gallery were the work of a single artist: Thomas J. Wright. Originally an art director and illustrator, Wright has become a top TV producer-director. But his remarkable visual skills are evident in the 100+ paintings that he conceived and rendered for the series. The original pilot episode featured three paintings by Jaroslav "Jerry" Gebr, another noted studio portrait artist and designer. He was later tasked with creating 25 additional paintings (under less-than-ideal circumstances) to introduce the Sixth-Sense episodes that were rebranded as "Night Gallery" for the reruns.
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