Ray Bradbury’s influence felt on anthology TV
Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday at age 91, had his share of novels adapted for the big screen (most notably “Farenheit 451" in 1966 and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” in 1983), but Bradbury’s great strength was the short story, and the format best suited to showcase those works was the anthology TV series.
Although Bradbury had been publishing stories since 1941, his first adaptation came 10 years later in an episode of the NBC horror-suspense anthology series, “Lights Out.” “Zero Hour” was a story of children aiding and abetting in an alien invasion of Earth.
Other Bradbury stories appeared as part of other anthology series, including “Out There,” “Suspense,” " CBS Television Workshop,” “Tales of Tomorrow,” “Fireside Theater” and “Studio 57.”
Only one of Bradbury’s stories was adapted for “The Twilight Zone"(“I Sing the Body Electric”), but many of them appeared as part of " Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Bradbury himself even wrote the teleplays for several of the episodes, including “Shopping for Death,” “Design for Loving” and “Special Delivery.”
Although the anthology format slowly fell out of vogue, Bradbury came back in glorious form in the mid-'80s with “The Ray Bradbury Theater,” a series written mostly by Bradbury himself, who also hosted (a la Hitchcock) and provided some narration.
Sixty-five episodes of the series aired from 1985-1992, beginning with two seasons on HBO, followed by the rest on the USA cable channel. It was notable for the opening sequence, which showed Bradbury in his overstuffed office, looking around for inspiration for his writing.
Bradbury’s work also was adapted for the ‘80s revivals of “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” but those didn’t meet with nearly as much acclaim as the adaptations of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
His novel “The Martian Chronicles” was adapted into a three-part TV miniseries on NBC, which aired in 1980. Bradbury reportedly was not a fan of the results.
More successful was a 1993 adaptation of his novel “The Halloween Tree,” produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions and featuring the voices of Leonard Nimoy and Bradbury himself.
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