Monday, September 15, 2014
Cult-TV Theme Watch: Radio
Did television kill radio?
If so, then cult-television has shown its deepest remorse for that murder by, across the decades, featuring many stories about radio, radio disc jockeys, and radio broadcasts.
The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1961) episode “Static” by Charles Beaumont, for instance, concerns an older man, Ed (Dean Jagger), who discovers an old radio that plays only his favorite tunes from the 1930s and 1940s.
He finds out the station, broadcast from somewhere in New Jersey, closed down over a decade ago. After a time, Ed realizes that this strange old radio is actually portal to his past, and his opportunity for a second chance with a woman he loved, but never married.
In Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1969 – 1973) Arte Johnson starred as J.J. Wilson in the second season segment, “The Flip Side of Satan.” J.J. was an immoral, adulterous disc jockey transferred out of New York to a remote station called KAPH. He soon learned the hard way how it felt to be betrayed, and was tortured by Lucifer (and the station…) for his lapses.
Another horror anthology, Tales from the Darkside (1984 – 1988) featured an object lesson for radio “hate” talkers like corpulent Rush Limbaugh. In George A. Romero’s “The Devil’s Advocate,” a talker named Mandrake (Jerry Stiller) spews hate and condescension on the airwaves for thirteen years straight, but one day his outward appearance begins to match his soul and temperament, and he discovers that he is broadcasting live…from Hell itself.
Evil radios appeared more than once on Friday the 13th: The Series (1987 – 1990) too.
In “And Now the News,” a cursed radio caused trouble at the Maseo Institute for the Criminally Insane.
And in “Hate on Your Dial” a cursed car radio from a 1950s Chevy transported a boy to a racist past that includes the Ku Klux Klan.
Radios have appeared on other series as well.
On Gilligan’s Island (1964 – 1967), a small white radio proved the castaways’ only life-line to civilization, and any news of rescue attempts.
Likewise on ALF (1984 – 1988), the stranded alien ALF used a ham radio in the Tanners’ garage to attempt to contact any survivors from his destroyed home world, Melmac.
One of the most beloved sitcoms of the 1970s, of course, was entirely set at a radio station. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982) highlighted the shenanigans of a low-rated station in Ohio, and featured such personalities as newscaster Les Nessman (Rich Sanders) and crazy D.J. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman).