Guest Post: The Influence of Ray Bradbury in Television

July 24, 2015 Guests 0

The Martian ChroniclesAll Things Urban Fantasy is pleased to welcome back Maria, whose first guest post about The Game of Thrones can be read hereHave a great idea for a guest post? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]

Ray Bradbury’s unique blend of fantasy and human reaction to the seemingly impossible first delighted and intrigued television audiences in the early 1950s when several of his stories were adapted for popular anthology shows of the day, including CBS Television Workshop, Tales of Tomorrow and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. While an argument can be made that the influence of The Martian Chronicles author easily transcends all forms of media, there is no question that the “Poet of Pulp” has had an influence on how science fiction and fantasy are portrayed on television – an influence that’s still clearly evident in some of today’s small screen offerings.

Coincidentally, Tales of Tomorrow was very similar to the popular The Twilight Zone series, which included a TV adaptation of Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric” for its 100th episode. It’s a story about a family that purchases an automated grandmother to help out around the house after the mother passes away and how one of the children interacts with “her” that illustrates the writer’s ability to play on human emotions even when extraordinary circumstances are involved. The Twilight Zone creator Rod Sterling felt Bradbury’s style of writing would fit well with the show, even though previously submitted Bradbury scripts weren’t used. Some devoted fans of the show were disappointed that it wasn’t more on the sci-fi side, although the author never considered himself a science fiction writer, instead insisting that he wrote fantasy, observing in an interview discussing his particular brand of fiction that his tales would likely endure because they are “ Greek myths, and myths have staying power.”

NBC aired “The Merry-Go-Round” as an episode of Sneak Preview in 1956 that was praised by industry trade publication Variety. It’s an adaptation of Bradbury’s “The Black Ferris,” about two friends who notice that an old man appears to be using the Ferris wheel from a traveling carnival to turn himself into a young child in order to win the trust of a local widow to eventually steal her jewelry. It’s one of Bradbury’s stories that was later retold as part of The Ray Bradbury Theater, an anthology series that ran on HBO and the USA Network from 1985 through 1992. The author penned all 65 episodes and provided introductions during the early seasons. Some of the stories presented included TV versions of “A Sound of Thunder,” about a seemingly meaningless mishap that occurs when scientists are returning from a trip back in time that dramatically alters the future and “Banshee,” a tale of a wailing female spirit that haunts a combative movie director. The latter, based on Bradbury’s contentious relationship with director John Houston, illustrates how he often drew from real-life experiences in his works.

the whispersBradbury’s influence on television continues today in CBS’ Extant with Halle Berry and Under the Dome, based on a story by Stephen King, who was clearly inspired by the author. However he’s directly influencing the new ABC series The Whispers (which is airing now and also available to watch through services like DTV and ABC Go). The series is based on “Zero Hour,” a short story from Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man about children who are seemingly interact with imaginary beings playing a game called “Invasion” that proves to be more real than their parents and other adults realize. The series updates the story, now focused on mysterious beings haunting Earth by taking advantage of the innocence of children, while retaining Bradbury’s basic plot. From the enchanting tales of happenings that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to the intermingling of dinosaurs and humans in the Jurassic Park series, the Ray Bradbury’s influence remains evident in many of the stories that still entertain us today.

About the Author

Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.

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