Cult-TV Theme Watch: B&W

Black-and-white photography, often abbreviated to "BW" or B&W" is a mode of monochrome photography in the visual arts.  Black and white photography features shades of gray, rather than, necessarily, strong black and white contrast.

Black-and-white is frequently utilized in cult-TV history to signify or venerate an older period of film history (before color photography).

For example, She-Wolf of London (1990) featured an episode "Beyond the Beyond" about a beloved old TV science fiction series that was lensed in black-and-white.  All footage of the "show within a show," was, accordingly, in black-and-white.

Similarly, when Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) sought to pay homage to the 1930s sci-fi serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, the production company used black-and-white photography do to so; to ape the "older" look of those chapter plays or cliffhangers.

One of the greatest episodes of The X-Files (1993-2002), "The Post-Modern Prometheus" was also filmed in black-and-white, which connected, satirically, its new Frankenstein story with the Universal Studios' classic of the 1930s.  We were suddenly in a new age of genetic science, a time ripe for science run amok, and the visuals thus connected to our memories of the Karloff Frankenstein monster.

Even the romance-drama Felicity, in the year 2000, paid homage to TV of yesteryear by making a black-and-white episode that looked like Serling's The Twilight Zone (1959-1964).

In some cases, black-and-white photography is also used on modern programming to suggest the age of film noir: the 1940s.  

This is certainly the case in the acclaimed Moonlighting (1985-1989) episode, "The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice."  Here, the program's detectives, David (Bruce Willis) and Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) "imagine" or fantasize themselves into a 1940s-era night club, replete with a murder.

More recently, Smallville's (2001-2011) episode "Noir" followed a similar pattern, with Jimmy Olsen dreaming of a World War II era black and white, of course.


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