Friday, October 2, 2009

The Twilight Zone Turns Fifty

It was fifty years ago tonight, on October 2, 1959, that a show debuted which was like nothing which had ever aired on television before. It was an anthology show which featured tales of a fantastic nature (science fiction, fantasy, horror--sometimes all three at once in a single episode). These tales all had one thing in common--they all took place in  a "...  fifth dimension -- as vast as space and as timeless as infinity...the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition ...," The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone was the creation Rod Serling, at the time one of the most highly regarded writers in television. As of 1959 he had already won four Emmy awards for his writing. Unfortunately, with Serling's success often came frustration. His scripts were often subject to censorship, either by the network or by sponsors. His 1958 teleplay for Playhouse 90, "A Town Has Turned to Dust," had been based on the real life murder of Emmett Till and was set in the modern day South. Because of concerns of offending Southern viewers, it was moved to the American West of the 1870's. Reportedly, in one of Serling's teleplays the Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the show, requested that the Chrysler Building be removed from the New York Skyline. Such battles with the networks and sponsors convinced Serling that he would be better off creating and producing his own show. What is more, Serling found a way around such censorship battles in the genre of fantasy. At the time fantasy was largely ignored by networks and sponsors alike, who could not conceive a serious message being delivered through the genre. Serling had already worked in the fantastic genres, both in radio and on television. An episode he wrote for Suspense, that was later adapted for Playhouse 90, "Nightmare at Ground Zero," bordered on science fiction, dealing as it did with an artist who creates mannequins for nuclear test sites. His first script for Playhouse 90 was an adaptation of Pat Frank's Forbidden Area.

A large influence on The Twilight Zone was one of Rod Serling's favourite radio shows from his youth, Lights Out. Lights Out was a horror anthology created by Wyllis Cooper in 1933. Lights Out was originally hosted by Cooper, and later Arch Oboler when he took over the show. It also had its own stylised introduction and closing. Like Serling would later, Oboler often dealt with political or social issues through the format of a fantasy series. Lights Out was very much like The Twilight Zone, save that it was exclusively a horror anthology series, while The Twilight Zone delved into fantasy and science fiction more often than horror.

It was in 1958 that Rod Serling met with CBS executive William Dozier (best known as the producer of the Sixties Batman series) and pitched the idea for a fantasy anthology series. Dozier was interested enough in the idea to order a pilot script. That script was "The Time Element," the story of a man from 1948, who awakes in Pearl Harbour on December 6, 1941 with the knowledge of the impending attack from the Japanese. While Dozier liked the script, he also realised that hour long anthology series were on their way out. He asked Serling if he could make his series only half an hour. Serling produced another script, which would run a half hour, "The Happy Place." CBS did not particularly care for "The Happy Place" and as a result plans for the series were shelved.

It was about the same time that Bert Granet, producer of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, stumbled upon the script for "The Time Element." He bought the script and it aired as an episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse  on November 4, 1958. It garnered the series its highest ratings ever. It was because of the success of "The Time Element" that CBS finally gave The Twilight Zone the green light, with one caveat--the show needed a host or narrator. Although he conducted a talent search, Rod Serling eventually found himself in the position of narrator--originally  providing narration off screen and later appearing on screen.

Here it must be pointed out that Rod Serling did not coin the term "twilight zone." In fact, it was used as early as the 19th Century, by William Jennings Bryan nonetheless. Rod Serling himself admitted that he later learned that it was a United States Air Force term referring to that time when a plane is approaching the ground and its pilot cannot see the horizon.

It was on October 2, 1959 that The Twilight Zone debuted. It's first episode was "Where is Everybody," in which Earl Holliman finds himself alone in a deserted town that seems to have been lived in all the same. "Where is Everybody" set the tone for the rest of the series, complete with a twist ending. "Where is Everybody" was written by Rod Serling. In fact, his contract with CBS stipulated that he would write eighty percent of the show's first season. What is more, The Twilight Zone was produced by Serling's own Cayuga Productions. Of course, Rod Serling was hardly the only writer on the show, even if he ultimately wrote fifty percent of the show's scripts in its five seasons.

In fact, some of the shows most famous episodes were written by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. Richard Matheson was already an established writer of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, having already written the classic novel I Am Legend. He already had a screenplay to his credit (The Incredible Shrinking Man) and had written teleplays for such shows as Studio 57 and Wanted Dead or Alive  Among the episodes which Matheson wrote for The Twilight Zone was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," in which William Shatner sees a gremlin while aboard a plane. Charles Beaumont was also an established writer of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. With Jerry Sohl he co-wrote one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone, in which a doll named Talky Tina takes a serious dislike to her owner's stepfather. Among others who wrote episodes for the series were George Clayton Johnson (co-writer of Logan's Run), Earl Hamner (creator of The Waltons), sci-fi and fanstasy writer Jerry Sohl, fantasist Ray Bradbury, and Reginald Rose.

The ratings for that first episode of The Twilight Zone were fairly low. It aired opposite another new show on ABC, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor, and Gillette Cavalcade of Sports on NBC. Fortunately, word of mouth would soon spread about the strange new anthology series on CBS. As the weeks past, ratings for The Twilight Zone grew. The show would never have exceedingly high ratings, for most of its run hovering in a 19 to 20 Nielsen, but that was enough to keep it on the air.

Unfortunately, the nature of The Twilight Zone and its middling ratings also meant that it was hard for the series to keep sponsors. Kimberly-Clark sponsored its first season, then dropped out. From then on The Twilight Zone changed sponsors frequently. Colgate-Palmolive sponsored the show for a time, as did General Foods and Liggett-Myers. There were points in the show's run where it was literally without a sponsor.

 Indeed, The Twilight Zone would be late in finding a sponsor in its fourth season. As a result its place in the prime time schedule was taken by an hour long sitcom, Fair Exchange. The show's staff was so certain that this was the end that producer Buck Houghton took a position with Four Star Productions while Rod Serling took a teaching position at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. As it turned out, however, Fair Exchange performed very poorly in the ratings. It was in November 1963 that CBS made a deal for an hour long version of The Twilight Zone, which would replace Fair Exchange at mid-season. The show's crew was nervous about this expansion to an hour, particularly Rod Serling. There was serious concern whether the show could retain its flavour. Buck Houghton, who had been the show's line producer from the beginning, was replaced by Herbert Hirschman (who had previously worked on both Perry Mason and Dr. Kildare). Hirschman would take an offer from NBC to produce the series Espionage. He was then replaced by Bert Granet, the producer who had bought "The Time Element" for Westinghouse-Desilu Playhouse.

For its fifth season, The Twilight Zone returned to its familiar, half hour format. Bert Granet left the show to be replaced by William Froug. In hindsight, Froug may not have been the best choice for a producer. He effectively drove George Clayton Johnson away from the show when he hired another writer to rewrite one of Johnson's scripts. He also shelved a number of scripts which had been bought when Granet was producer. As it was, the fifth season would be the last for The Twilight Zone. CBS determined that The Twilight Zone was not receiving high enough ratings to warrant its budget and cancelled the show.

ABC expressed some interest in picking up the show, although it would have to be under a new name, Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves. One  reason for the new name was that CBS co-owned The Twilight Zone and hence co-owned the rights to its name. Another reason was that ABC wanted to turn The Twilight Zone into a horror anthology. Rod Serling had little interest in ABC's proposal, although he would eventually create his own supernatural anthology, Night Gallery, in the late Sixties.

After five years and 156 episodes, The Twilight Zone had left its mark on television. The anthology series was critically acclaimed in its first season. It won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for three more. And there was little reason it should not be so well regarded. The Twilight Zone featured some of the best writing of any series of the time, often dealing with such issues as racism, McCarthyism, the Cold War, and so on, all under the heading of "fantasy." The show left viewers with some of the most memorable episodes of any series: aliens arrive on Earth under the guise of "serving" man ("To Serve Man"); a young woman undergoes plastic surgery so she can look like everyone else ("Eye of the Beholder"); a street in a small town is convinced that an alien invasion is imminent ("The Monsters are Due on Maple Street"); and many others.

The Twilight Zone would prove to be one of the most successful shows in syndication. As a result, the show would live on in different formats and would even be revived. In 1981 The Twilight Zone magazine was founded. It ran until 1989. In 1983 a feature film based on the series was released, adapting the episodes "Kick the Can," "It's a Good Life," and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." In 1985 CBS revived the series. This incarnation of The Twilight Zone lasted two seasons before the network fired its original production team. Under a new production team it lasted one more season. In 1994, CBS aired a television movie of two Richard Matheson adaptations of Rod Serling short stories under the name Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics (even though both stories were written after the show had been cancelled). In 2002 The Twilight Zone was revived once more, this time on UPN. It only lasted one season. That same year, a radio show based on the series began production.  It  has adapted several episodes of the original show to a radio format.

There can be little doubt that The Twilight Zone is the most famous anthology series of all time. It has also had more impact on Anglo-American pop culture than any other anthology series. Even people who have never seen the show not only know of it, but are even familiar with some of its episodes. It is one of those shows, alongside I Love Lucy and Star Trek and only a few others, which has infiltrated pop culture to such a degree that its theme music, its host (Rod Serling), and elements of its episodes are immediately recognisable. It is doubtful it will ever be forgotten.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dedicated Followers of Fashion

 Like most bloggers, I have those blogs I read regularly and those I read now and again. In the latter category falls a cat of an impossible colourI enjoy reading it because A Cat of an Impossible Colour sometimes posts about her writing (she has a novel coming out in 2011) and her cat Mink (as anyone who has read this blog knows, I love cats). The reason I only read a cat of an impossible colour now and again is because it is first and foremost a blog about vintage fashion. Being a somewhat stereotypical male, my interest in fashion, even vintage fashion, is somewhat limited. I am interested in the fashions of the Victorian Era, the Twenties, and especially Swinging London, but I cannot say I am a dedicated follower of fashion by any means. That having been said, I do respect those who are. After all, while I haven't written much about fashion in this blog, it is very much a part of pop culture. As a pop culture buff and a history buff, I can understand those who are interested in vintage fashion.

It was over a week ago that A Cat of Impossible Colour posted an entry defending an interest in fashion. The gist of this post was that one should not have to give up an interest in fashion or a sense of style to be taken seriously. Quite simply, an interest in fashion does not mean that one is shallow or vain, or lack intelligence. While my interest in fashion is somewhat limited, I happen to agree with her whole heartedly. I know plenty of people who are interested in fashion, and none of them can I say is shallow, vain, or unintelligent.

Indeed, it seems odd to me that someone would even think to class those interested in fashion as shallow, vain, or unintelligent. People do not make these same judgements about an interest in movies, TV shows, books, or music. And like movies, TV shows, books, or music,  fashion is very much a part of pop culture. Just think about it. Certain fashions will bring to mind certain eras of history just as certain songs or movies or TV shows will. Even when they are long out of style, we tend to remember certain fashions to the point that they have become part of our collective unconscious.

In fact, much like other pop culture artefacts such as movies or TV shows or books, fashion can also be an indicator of an era's standards and mores. By way of example, the Twenties were a time of breaking with tradition, an emphasis on modernity, and changes in society ranging from urbanisation to sexual liberation. This was reflected in the fashions of the era. Dresses not only had hemlines that were scandalously high by the standards of earlier eras, but even bared women's shoulders and arms. Suits with long, tight waisted jackets and drainpipe trousers came into fashion for men. These fashions were a reflection of the modernity, the changes in society, and the liberality of the era. By contrast, the Fifties were a much more conservative era. The hemlines of dresses during the Fifties were actually lower than what they had been in the Forties. Dresses tended to be tight to the waist before falling into a full skirt. As for men's fashions, this was the era of the grey flannel suit. Those suits tended to be simpler than the ones of the Forties and not only had shorter jackets, but shorter trousers as well. The fashions of the Fifties then reflected the conservatism of the era. It is for that reason that many who are interested in history or nostalgia are also often interested in vintage fashion as well. Nothing exists in a vacuum. The fashions of a given era will reflect the standards and mores of that time.

Of course, there is another reason not to look down on those with an interest in fashion. It is not often one hears fashion classified as an art, but I see no reason it should not. After all, the work of industrial designers such as Charles and Ray Eames and Viktor Schreckengost have long begin regarded as art. If industrial design can be regarded as an art, then why not fashion? After all, much like painting or sculpture or writing, fashion design is essentially an act of creativity. Like any other artist, the fashion designer must take an idea and turn it into a reality that will be appealing to the human eye. It as much about aesthetics as it is creating something that people can wear. In fact, I must point out that there was a time when fashion was regarded as much of an art as painting. Late 19th century fashion designer Paul Poiret was friends with the painter Francis Picabia and he employed artists such as Paul Iribe to illustrate his fashions. He even collected paintings. It was not unusual for fashion to be displayed in international expeditions, such as the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, alongside other works of art. Although today we don't tend to think of fashion as art, there is little reason not to. Indeed, it can be argued that the classic fashion designers, from Coco Chanel to Hollywood's legendary Edith Head were artists. If fashion is to be regarded as an art, then there is no reason to belittle an interest in it, any more than interest in any other art form.

Of course, I just mentioned Coco Chanel and Edith Head, which brings me to another point. Both Coco Chanel and Edith Head were strong willed, independent, and intelligent women who made their own careers. Not only were both women obviously interested in couture, they made a living from it--Coco Chanel designing distinctly modern clothing in the Twenties and Thirties, Edith Head designing costumes for Hollywood. Neither of them could be said to be shallow and certainly neither of them could be said to be unintelligent. Coco Chanel made millions from her fashions and even designed the most famous perfume of all time (Chanel No. 5). Edith Head won eight Academy Awards, more than any woman in the history of film, and was so well regarded that in the late Seventies the government asked her to design the women's uniform for the United States Coast Guard. These were two women who were nobody's fools, and yet they made a living from fashion. They would seem to be proof that an interest in fashion is not indicative of a lack of intelligence!

Even if an interest in fashion were to be considered entirely frivolous, it seems to me that would still be no reflection on the intelligence or depth of an individual. The fact is that human beings are complex animals who often need to escape from the stress and pressures of existence. For some this might be through watching television. For others it may be through sports. For yet others this may be through fashion. The desire for entertainment of some sort, something we can enjoy, is universal to all humanity, whether the individual is intelligent or, well, not intelligent. Even if it was judged frivolous (and I see no reason it should be), an interest in fashion should be used to judge someone no more than interest in comic books, music, sports, or what have you.

While I cannot say I am overly interested in fashion, then, I can fully identify with those who are. Fashion is a part of pop culture and it has contributed something to modern, Anglo-American society. While it may not seem overly important to some, I do not think cannot be faulted for having an interest in it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Year of Death

New York Magazine christened the summer of 2009, "the Summer of Death." And there can be little argument that it is not a fitting sobriquet.  This summer saw the deaths of such celebrities as Walter Cronkite, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, John Hughes, Edward Kennedy, Patrick Swayze, and yet others. For the whole of the summer it seemed as if the news was little more than an endless stream of obituaries. If nothing else would, it would seem the summer of 2009 would put an end to the old idea that celebrities die in threes. This summer, it seemed as if they died in sixes and even twelves.

That having been said, I think it might not quite be accurate to call 2009 the "Summer of Death." The reason for this is simply that it seems to me that the celebrity deaths did not start with the summer of 2009 or even the spring of 2009. They started with the very beginning of the year. Character actor Pat Hingle died when 2009 was only three days old. Later in January Patrick McGoohan, Ricardo Montalbahn, and  Sir John Mortimer (creator of Rumpole of the Bailey) died. As the year progressed, 2009 would see the deaths of James Whitmore, Philip Jose Farmer, Wendy Richard, Paul Harvey, Natasha Richardson, J. G. Ballard, Bea Arthur, David Carradine, and yet others all pass well before summer. It is now autumn and no celebrities have died yet. The way this year has been going, however, it seems likely there will be more celebrity deaths.

Of course the $64,000 question is why there have been so many celebrity deaths this year. I think the primary reason is that many of those who were central to Anglo-American pop culture are simply getting old. Walter Cronkite was 92 years old. Ed McMahon was 86, as was Bea Arthur. Ricardo Montalbahn was 88. Patrick McGoohan was 80. It is a sad fact of life that human beings are not immortal. We are all going to die at some point, and that reality becomes more likely with advancing age.

While many of the celebrities who have died have been old, it does seem as if many of them simply died young. A prime culprit was cancer. It took Farrah Fawcett at the age of 62. It took Patrick Swayze at the age of 57. It took Wendy Richard at the age of 65. Other celebrities died young from other causes. Natasha Richardson was only 45 when she died from a head injury. John Hughes died of a heart attack at the age of 59. Character actor Dale Swann died at the age of 61 from complications from a stroke. There is no rational explanation for the extreme number of relatively young celebrities who have died from many different causes this year.  It seems that instead of taking a holiday, Death has decided to work overtime.

We can only hope that in these last few months of 2009 fewer celebrities die. As it is there was a time when it seemed as if a day could not go by, let alone a week, with the news of some celebrity's death. I rather suspect that more celebrities have died in 2009 than some two years combined. In the end, it seems as if the most fitting toast this coming New Year's Eve might be, "To absent friends."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Actor Robert Ginty Passes On

Robert Ginty, an actor who was a regular on both Baa Baa Black Sheep and The Paper Chase, passed on September 20 at the age of 60. The cause was cancer.

Robert Ginty was born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1948. He attended both Yale and the City College of New York. He studied acting at the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City. Interested in music from an early age, he eventually became a rock drummer. He even played with such legends as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. After his band appeared in a movie, Ginty was encouraged to go into acting.

Robert Ginty appeared in regional theatre early in his career. In 1972 he was the understudy on the Broadway plays The Great God Brown and Don Juan. He worked for a time as the assistant to Broadway producer Harold Prince. In the early Seventies he moved to Los Angeles. There he made his first appearances on television in episodes of Nakia and The Rockford Files in 1974. Ginty guest starred on the shows Police Woman, Joe Forrester, and Jigsaw John. He also appeared in the films Two Minute Warning and Bound for Glory. It was in 1976 that he became one of the original, regular characters on Baa Baa Black Sheep. He played Lt. T. J. Wiley on the show for nearly the entirety of its run. It was in 1978 that he became a regular on the television series The Paper Chase, on which he played Thomas Craig Anderson.

It was in 1980 that Robert Ginty played the lead in the film The Exterminator. A low budget film of the Death Wish genre, The Exterminator performed very well at the box office. Ginty appeared in similar, low budget action films, such as Scarab, Programmed to Kill, Three Kinds of Heat, and Code Name Vengeance, and The Bounty Hunter. He also appeared in the low budget sci-fi film Warrior of the Lost World and the horror movies The Alchemist and Maniac Killer. Ginty continued to appear in TV shows, including Simon and Simon and Knight Rider. He was a regular on the show Hawaiian Heat in 1983 and appeared for a story arc on Falcon Crest. In the Nineties Ginty appeared in the movies Madhouse, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Lady Dragon, and The Prophet Game. He appeared on the shows Murder She Wrote and In the Heat of the Night.

Ginty also directed movies and television shows. He directed the low budget action films The Bounty Hunter and Vietnam, Texas. He also directed episodes of the shows Dream On, China Beach, Evening Shade, Xena Warrior Princess, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Charmed, and Tracker.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cowboy Actor John Hart and Writer Norman Katkov Pass On

John Hart

John Hart, the actor best known for taking over the role of The Lone Ranger from Clayton Moore for a short time, passed on September 20 at the age of 91. He also played Jack Armstrong in the serial Jack Armstrong All-American Boy and Hawkeye in the Fifties TV series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans.

John Hart was born December 13, 1917 in Los Angeles, California, but grew up in San Marino, California. His mother was a drama critic for The Pasadena Star-News. As a young man he worked as a cowboy in the summers.

Before appearing in films, John Hart acted in a number of productions at the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his film debut in an uncredited role as a sailor in Daughter of Shanghai in 1937. After appearing in an uncredited part in The Buccaneer in 1938, Hart was signed to Paramount. Even so, most of Hart's roles prior to World War II tended to be small and often uncredited. He appeared in such films as King of AlcatrazMillion Dollar Legs, and North West Mounted Police. His acting career was interrupted by World War II. He was drafted into the United States Army in 1941. He would not return to acting until 1947.

John Hart's first role after the war was as Big Jim in the musical Vacation Days. He played Jack Armstrong in the Columbia serial Jack Armstrong All-American Boy that same year. John Hart would find steady employment in both serials and Westerns. He appeared as Dent in the serial Brick Bradford, as a henchman in the serial The Adventures of Batman and Robin, and a henchman in Atom Man vs. Superman. He appeared in such B Westerns as Cowboy and the Prizefighter, Colorado Ambush, Stagecoach Driver, Warpath, and Texas City. He also appeared in such varied films as Pirates of the High Seas, Aladdin and His Lamp, and Thief of Damascus.

John Hart would eventually move into television. He guest starred on The Lone Ranger in 1950, two years before he would play the Masked Man himself. He also appeared on Sky King and Gangbusters. It was in 1952 that he would replace Clayton Moore, who had asked for a pay raise, as The Lone Ranger. The show's producers had reasoned that it was the character, not the actor, who drew viewers to the show. The producers would be proven wrong, however, as the public never quite warmed to Hart as The Lone Ranger. By 1954 Clayton Moore was back in the part.

John Hart would go onto appear in the serial The Adventures of Captain Africa in 1955, and make guest appearances on Tales of the Texas Rangers, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and Highway Patrol. In 1957 he played the role in the syndicated series Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans. From the Fifties into the Eighties, John Hart would regularly appear in television shows and in movies. During the 1961-1962 season he was a regular on the television Western Rawhide. He guest starred on such shows as The Jack Benny Programme, Ben Casey, The Lieutenant, The Addams Family, Perry Mason, Barbary Coast, and Happy Days, In the 1980-1981 season he was a semi-regular on Dallas. John Hart appeared in movies such as The Shaggy Dog, Marnie, Viva Las Vegas, The Phynx (as The Lone Ranger), and Blackenstein.

John Hart is best known as the other actor besides Clayton Moore to play The Lone Ranger in the Fifties TV series. That having been said, he deserves to be remembered for more. In fact, John Hart did particularly well in heroic roles. If he mostly played in Westerns and action movies it was with good reason. Not only did he look the part , but he was capable of acting convincingly in such parts as well. There can be no doubt that the fact that he had actually worked as a cowboy. Although the role was undoubtedly Clayton Moore's, Hart made a good Lone Ranger and did well in similar roles as well.

Norman Katkov

Writer of screen and television Norman Katkov died on September 13 at the age of 91.

Norman Katkov was born in the Ukraine on July 26, 1918. He was still a child when his family moved to the United States, settling in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940 with a degree in journalism. Afterwards he worked as a police reporter for The St. Paul Pioneer Press. During World War II he served in the United States Army. Following the war he worked for The New York World Telegram. It was also after the war that he started writing short stories for such magazines as Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post.

His first writing for the big screen was uncredited work on the film noir Macao in 1952. His first work on television would be a 1956 episode of General Electric Theatre. Over the next few years he wrote episodes for such shows as Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, and Steve Canyon. He wrote the screenplay for the Doris Day sex comedy It Happened to Jane.

It was in 1960 that he became one of the regular writers on Wanted Dead or Alive, the Western starring Steve McQueen. He also wrote episodes of Outlaws, Cain's Hundred, 87th Precinct, Dr. Kildare, and The Untouchables. In 1962 he started to write regularly for Ben Casey. He would be nominated for the 1963 Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for the episode "A Cardinal Act of Mercy" for the show.  After Ben Casey ended, Norman Katkov would write for such shows as The Wild Wild West, The Loner, The Virginian, Bonanza, Mannix, Ironside, Dan August, Mission: Impossible, and  Kung Fu. He was the story editor for the short lived series Banyon. He also wrote the screenplay for Once You Kiss a Stranger.

Norman Katkov also wrote novels, including A Little Sleep, A Little Slumber and Blood and Orchids

Norman Katkov was one of the better writers to work in television. The teleplays he wrote always featured strong characters and equally strong plots. Indeed, he wrote one of the better episodes of The Wild Wild West, "The Night of the Human Trigger," and two of the best episodes of Kung Fu. He was a writer who approached television with the same eye for quality that he did his novels. Katkov was only nominated for one Emmy, but he should have been nominated for more.