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Ray Bradbury Theater

Entry updated 8 March 2017. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1985-1986; 1988-1992). Atlantis Films/Wilcox Productions for Home Box Office (HBO) and later USA Network. Executive producers Michael MacMillan, Larry Wilcox, Ray Bradbury; produced by Seaton McLean; teleplays by Bradbury, based on his own stories. Leading actors included Drew Barrymore, James Coco, Jeff Goldblum, Nick Mancuso, Peter O'Toole, William Shatner. 65 episodes of 23-28 minutes. Season one comprised six segments, the first three in 1985, the second three originally shown together as a 90-minute special in 1986; season two had twelve segments in 1988. Four further seasons were aired by USA Network: season three (12 segments) in 1989, season four (12 segments) in 1990, season five (8 segments) and season 6 (15 segments) both in 1992. Colour.

The first season of playlets, introduced a little stiffly by Bradbury, comprised imaginative adaptations of "Marionettes, Inc." (March 1949 Startling), "The Playground" (October 1953 Esquire), "The Crowd" (May 1943 Weird Tales), "The Town Where No One Got Off" (October 1958 Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine), "The Screaming Woman" (27 May 1951 Today) and "Banshee" (September 1984 Gallery). Only the first could be called sf (it features a neglected wife's husband being replaced by an Android); the rest are dark fantasy. The entire sequence was among the most successful of many Bradbury dramatizations on television, winning several awards and good ratings, perhaps because Bradbury dramatized them himself – sometimes transferring elements from other Bradbury stories. The show returned for a second HBO series and four further series aired by USA Network, with minor variations in presentation: the third-season introductions included comments from Bradbury on the current storyline, while subsequent seasons used the same generic Bradbury introduction throughout.

Some Bradbury adaptations included in the Ray Bradbury Theater second season were screened in 1988-1989 in the UK as part of the Twist in the Tale series, having been made by Granada TV in the UK. The four stories adapted were "The Coffin" (September 1947 Dime Mystery as "Wake for the Living"; vt in Dark Carnival, coll 1947), "Punishment without Crime" (March 1950 Other Worlds), "The Small Assassin" (November 1946 Dime Mystery) and "There Was an Old Woman" (July 1944 Weird Tales). Produced by Tom Cotter, they starred among others Cyril Cusack, Roy Kinnear, Dan O'Herlihy and Donald Pleasence. Other programmes for the same package, which was screened in the USA, were made in France and Canada. [PN/DRL]


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