Tuesday, August 19, 2014

They're here!

Rod Serling pitched the idea of "The Twilight Zone" (I'm not going to call it "the original") in part because of his suspicion that science-fiction and fantasy offered a way to explore social and moral themes that even Golden Age television couldn't or wouldn't handle right. History has judged him kindly on that decision.

On the other hand, here's something I discovered by accident while doing some digging on Sinclair Lewis' 1935 satire/jeremiad It Can't Happen Here, in which Lewis imagines how fascism might take hold in America.
Inspired by the book, director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings in 1982. The script was presented to NBC for production as a television miniseries, but NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too cerebral for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were re-cast as man-eating extraterrestrials, taking the story into the realm of science fiction. The revised story became the miniseries V, which premiered May 3, 1983.
So. Nothing "too cerebral."

Mission accomplished, NBC.

Funny, though – I don't remember the right-wing commentariat ever pitching a hissy that "American fascists were re-cast as man-eating extraterrestrials" constituted further proof, as if any could possibly be necessary, that the American entertainment industry has always in thrall to its liberal hippie overlords.

Perhaps it was too, you know, cerebral.

(Also, I find it interesting to read that the American fascist parts were "re-cast" as man-eating extraterrestrials, rather than rewritten as man-eating ETs. It suggests the almost-Calvin-and-Hobbesian picture of a big folder down in Central Casting labeled Flesh-Eating Other Worlders – perhaps it's filed between Child Stars and Ingénues – all of whom are SAG members with résumés with head shots.)

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