Night Gallery is Rod Serling’s follow-up series to The Twilight Zone that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973. Serling functioned both as the on-air host of Night Gallery and as a major contributor of scripts, although he did not have the same control of content and tone as he did on The Twilight Zone.
Serling appeared in an art gallery setting and introduced the macabre tales that made up each episode by unveiling paintings (by artist Tom Wright) that depicted the stories.
Night Gallery regularly presented adaptations of classic fantasy tales by authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, as well as original works, many of which were by Serling himself.
The series was introduced with a pilot TV movie that aired on November 8, 1969, and featured the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg, as well as one of the last acting performances by Joan Crawford. Unlike the series, in which the paintings merely accompanied an introduction to the upcoming story, the paintings themselves actually appeared in the three segments, serving major or minor plot functions.
Night Gallery was nominated for an Emmy Award for its first-season episode “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” as the Outstanding Single Program on U.S. television in 1971. In 1972, the series received another nomination (Outstanding Achievement in Makeup) for the second-season episode “Pickman’s Model.”
The series attracted criticism for its use of comedic blackout sketches between the longer story segments in some episodes, and for its splintered, multiple-story format, which contributed to its uneven tone. Despite these distractions, Serling produced many distinguished teleplays, including “Camera Obscura,” “The Caterpillar” (based on a short story by Oscar Cook), “Class of ’99,” “Cool Air” (based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft), “The Doll,” “Green Fingers,” “Lindemann’s Catch,” and “The Messiah on Mott Street.” Notable non-Serling efforts include “The Dead Man,” “I’ll Never Leave You—Ever,” “Pickman’s Model,” “A Question of Fear,” “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” and “The Sins of the Fathers.”
By the final season, Serling, stung by criticism and ignored by the show’s executives, all but disowned the series.
In order to pump up the number of episodes that were available for syndication, the 60-minute episodes were reedited into a 30-minute time slot, with many segments either severely cut or extended by using newly shot scenes and stock footage to fill up the time. Meanwhile, episodes of a short-lived supernatural series from 1972, The Sixth Sense, were also incorporated into the syndicated version of the series, with Serling providing newly filmed introductions to those episodes.