Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thriller Season 1 - A Mid-Term Report

We thought we'd take a moment before we launch into Season 2 to do a quick review of our favorites from Thriller's first season.

Before we get to our individual picks, we thought we'd start off with a list of the top ten "visited" episode reviews on the blog:
  1. Pigeons from Hell
  2. Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper
  3. The Purple Room
  4. The Watcher
  5. The Devil's Ticket
  6. Parasite Mansion
  7. The Twisted Image
  8. The Fatal Impulse
  9. The Guilty Men
  10. A Good Imagination

Our Season 1 Top Ten Lists

  1. The Grim Reaper
  2. The Well of Doom
  3. The Cheaters
  4. Late Date
  5. The Terror in Teakwood
  6. Dark Legacy
  7. The Devil's Ticket
  8. Parasite Mansion
  9. The Guilty Men
  10. A Good Imagination
  1. The Grim Reaper
  2. Terror in Teakwood
  3. The Cheaters
  4. The Hungry Glass
  5. Well of Doom
  6. Devil's Ticket
  7. Purple Room
  8. Parasite Mansion
  9. Dark Legacy
  10. Late Date

Season 1 Best Actor

John's Pick:
Guy Rolfe - The Terror in Teakwood
Peter's Pick:
Harry Townes - Dark Legacy

Season 1 Best Actress

John and Peter's Pick:
Natalie Schafer - The Grim Reaper

And if you haven't already, we strongly encourage you to sign up to follow the blog so you don't miss out on any of the insightful commentary that goes on each and every day. And it's also worth scanning through older episode comments to be sure you haven't missed out on any great info buried with, such as David J. Schow's links to this great Thriller site.

To all who criticized us for our review of "Pigeons from Hell," we promise to try harder in Season 2.

And we didn't think a Season 1 recap would be complete without the lovely melody you probably know as Stranger in Paradise...


  1. I'm going to reserve a Top Ten for the entire series, since I have a sub-list of Honorable Mentions and Memorable Moments.

    But for S1 actor: Henry Daniell
    S1 Actress: NATALIE ALL THE WAY, baby!

  2. My pal and fellow writer Norm Partridge acquired the THRILLER set, too, and posted about it over on his American Frankenstein blog:


  3. Interesting that both lists include "Late Date" (clearly the best of the crime shows) but neither includes "Prisoner in the Mirror", a very good horror entry.

    Just an observation.


  4. Larry!
    My God, you are an observant chap. My brother John will back me up that Prisoner in the Mirror is #11. We both agonized to each other on the phone over that one. In the end I went with A Good Imagination but could easily have swayed towards Prisoner, which had one of the most startling climaxes on all of Thriller. I'm glad you brought it up.

  5. I was actually quite thrilled that in coming up with a top ten, there were probably 15 episodes in contention. The top 5 or 6 were pretty easy to pick out of the air, whereas figuring out which deserved those last few spots was a more challenging process.

    I look forward to not only coming up with the list of Season 2's greatest, but then shuffling those into the Season 1 top ten to see which rise to the top.

    And for those of you who bother to read these comments, a quick teaser: As we get closer to the end, we're going to invite you all to weigh in with your own top ten lists, so we can assemble the top Thrillers as decided by the blog readership.

    But don't tell the others yet, I don't want everyone making out their lists before they've seen all the episodes!

  6. And how is it that no one has commented on the return of John Williams? I thought for sure the angry villagers would be at us with pitchforks and torches by 9am.

    Had everyone already torn out their computer speakers after the last go round? Or has it grown on you, making A Thriller a Day a more homey place to visit each morning? I was going to remove it after the first complaint, but maybe we should leave it!

  7. Ahh, it's a priceless introduction to the classics, which will enrich every home...

  8. I hold in my hands a fifth printing of Gary Gerani and Paul H. Schulman's "Fantastic Television." Back then, a television episode aired and vanished into the ether. If you were lucky, after a possible network repeat, it might be syndicated. But, had you seen all the episodes? Do you watch the syndicated dailies in hope of an episode you had missed before? Where to get to a list of episodes to compare notes with? Precious and few were the sources until "Fantastic Television" arrived. Over the next two decades other books and magazines would begin filling in the blanks (one magazine, Epi-Log, was little more than a collection of episode guides). Now, we have innumerable sources on the Web.

    But back then, it was mostly FT which was a great reference to the fantastic television I'd watched growing up. But I wondered what the deal was with "Thriller." I'd seen all the others shows given episode guides in the book and felt they merited the space (except maybe "One Step Beyond" with its ridiculous "true stories"). Why couldn't there have been a "UFO" guide instead of space spent on this show I'd never seen.

    So since the 70s, in the back of my mind, I've been looking for "Thriller" on the basis of its FT peer group. (I've even got the complete UK "Thriller" set prompted, in no small part, because it might resemble the American "Thriller" show.) So I was a natural to get this set.

    However, to make the experience as fresh as possible, I avoided reading up on the show. With a decades-old memory of what I saw in FT, mostly of Karloff in makeup (see page 57, FT), I launched into the series. Boy, was I in for a shock. It was not what I expected. I quickly brought myself up to speed on the crime-horror dichotomy and faithfully slogged, where needed, through each episode until the gems arrived.

    I found this site almost immediately during my info search. I'm very impressed you were able to keep the daily pace. I was about to drop out completely until I finally got 2 or 3 good ones in a row. And whaddaya know, that Gerani fellow's still alive and doing commentary on the discs and on this site (directly above me, even!).

    Since I hadn't run across the show in syndication, I'd assumed the situation was like the show only existed in a limited number of kinescopes. Imagine my surprise to find the show was filmed and good sources existed for the DVDs.

    It's leading me to further reading. Much as the "Suspense" TV release lead me to pick up some Robert Louis Stevenson, I've recently purchased some Lovecraft, Derleth, Chandler (for the crime side), and a Robert E. Howard horror collection.

    I've enjoyed your site very much, even though the level of snark seems to run high. Here, at the halfway point, though, I think I'll need to take a break for awhile before plunging into the 2nd season.


  9. Thriller was aired in a time period where I am not too familiar with the TV programs of that era. My knowledge of TV shows starts in the mid 60s programs, which I was able to view as reruns starting in the mid 70s. With this background, much of Thriller was fresh to me. Although I've watched some Twilight Zone episodes, and have heard of Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I haven't watched any of those shows, so can't compare Thriller to it's peers. My background allowed me to be more forgiving towards Thriller than many of the other reviewers.

    As many other reviewers have pointed out, it took a while for Thriller to find it's style, which most would agree would be episode seven, The Purple Room. With the exception of The Mark of the Hand, I wasn't bored with any of the first six episodes. That opinion might change with a second viewing!

    I liked the genre mix of crime, gothic, period piece and supernatural tales. Each genre had it's winners and losers. It was especially impressive that the Thriller folks could create an engaging 50 minute episode replete with good acting, script, stage set and creative musical score. It was fun to see some familiar TV faces in roles before they were famous.

    Thriller had a sizzlin' batting average from the stretch between The Cheaters and The Grim Reaper. It felt like the Thriller folks fine tuned their machine to near perfection and Season Two would be incredible. Unfortunately, NO!

    My Season One top ten is.

    1. The Grim Reaper
    2. Pigeons From Hell
    3. The Hungry Glass
    4. The Cheaters
    5. Well of Doom
    6. Parasite Mansion
    7. The Purple Room
    8. The Devil's Ticket
    9. Terror in Teakwood
    10. A Good Imagination

  10. The show picked up a head of steam in the middle of the first season but then the next season, instead of good all horror or near all horror they continued to air sub-par crime and mystery stories now and again. The last few episodes aren't particularly good. I can't think of another TV series offhand,--well, okay, maybe 12 O'Clock High--that, no sooner had it "found itself", the right tone, the right style, lost it, or much of what made the series work so well in the first season, in the next one (in that one it came down largely to the loss of Robert Lansing as the star of the show). I wonder what Thriller's excuse is.