Roald Dahl made a great Rod Serling

Famed author and undercover sex spy Roald Dahl also wrote screenplays for American television in the late ’50s and ’60s. He’s best known for his work on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including having penned the scripts for the Emmy-nominated “Lamb to the Slaughter” (1958) episode starring Barbara Bel Geddes, and “Man from the South” (1960) starring Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre.

In 1961 he stepped in front of the screen for a brief, shining moment, hosting the science fiction anthology series ‘Way Out on CBS. It was a hastily assembled mid-season replacement for Jackie Gleason’s failed game show which had only aired once, followed the next week by a live on-air 30 minute apology from the comedian and then eight weeks of a completely different show wherein Gleason interviewed celebrities.

When CBS pulled the plug, they enlisted Dahl to scare up something quickly to air in its place. Dahl had a characteristically creepy short story already good to go, so in the blink of an extreme-closeup eye, the first episode of ‘Way Out, “William and Mary,” aired at 9:30 PM on Friday, March 31st, as the lead-in to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

The critical reviews were outstanding, especially for Dahl’s humorous introductions, like this one from the premiere episode:

Now you may find that this particular play disturbs you just a tiny bit as it goes along. If it does, let me assure you that that’s nothing to what it did to me when I wrote it. I thought it was perfectly beastly. The play is called “William and Mary” and it is not for children. It is not for young lovers either or for people who have stomach difficulties. It is more perhaps for wicked old women who relish a juicy plot where all sorts of nasty things happen which they can then wish upon their closest friends and their loving husbands. You see it’s ‘Way Out.

Sadly, despite the critical acclaim and strong ratings in cities, the show didn’t take off nationwide and CBS canceled the show after 14 episodes. It has never been released on VHS or DVD. The only place it could be seen was the Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles, which has the entire 14-episode run available in its viewing rooms.

Now, thanks to this wonderful series of tubes we’re on, the Internet Archive has put the first five episodes online for our brain-in-a-jar viewing pleasure.

Watch them all because they are awesome.

As for Roald pronouncing his name Ru-al, I don’t even know what to say about that. I think I’m going to have to pretend I never heard it.

5 thoughts on “Roald Dahl made a great Rod Serling

  1. Wow, I never knew anything about this!

    And maybe he pronounced it that way since his parents were Norwegian? Sound a little like how you say Roald in Norwegian.

  2. I’m sure you’re right, but I’ve been pronouncing it “Roe-ld” since I was a little kid reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I can’t take this revelation!

  3. At the time, these medical wonders seemed more plausible, but just out of reach. Today, the promise and limitations of medicine are more sharply defined, which diminishes the suspense a program like this had back then. The darker side of human nature, however, seems to have remained intact.

  4. I’d love to see a modern version of this kind of show. Scientific advances tend to come with a whole bag of uncomfortable ethical problems and physiological down sides, so there would be a brave new creepy world to explore.

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