Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Might've Been: Ghost Story (1972)

Ever wonder why horror-themed series are so few & far between on television? I have, too, but I wish I could come up with an answer that made sense.

In 1972, NBC tried to fill the need with a one-hour anthology series, Ghost Story, which was the brainchild of filmmaker William Castle ("Rosemary's Baby", "The Tingler"). Television vet Sebastian Cabot (ex-Family Affair) was cast as Winston Essex, who served as the show's host. A nice idea, but what killed this project was where it was placed on the schedule---on Friday nights. Never mind that it had Sanford & Son among its lead-ins, Ghost Story for some reason lost viewers as the night progressed.

Halfway through the season, NBC & Screen Gems decided on a change of title and format. Gone was the heavy emphasis on the supernatural, and Cabot was cut right along with it. The series title was changed to Circle of Fear, which bore more of a resemblance to an earlier NBC anthology, Kraft Suspense Theatre, in that it involved more common murder mysteries and less things that go bump in the night. Also, with Cabot gone, the network hired American Top 40 host Casey Kasem as off-screen announcer. I know this first-hand from having seen at least one episode back in the day. Kasem parlayed this gig into becoming NBC's house announcer for a few years.

Jpwrites uploaded this open from an episode of Ghost Story, which would end up being Sebastian Cabot's last series.

Sony owns the rights to the series, but it's languishing in the vaults somewhere, though I understand it was meant to be released on DVD. Ghost Story aspired to be a, ah, spiritual successor to Rod Serling's Night Gallery, but was left wanting. Circle of Fear wanted to be more like those radio mysteries from back in the day, and was ignored. Some people just don't know a good thing when they see it.

Rating: B+.

Update, 8/23/13: Capnvid47 uploaded the open to Circle of Fear. Unfortunately, Casey Kasem's voice-over intro has been long since deleted.


magicdog said...

For a long time, I think it was the desire for family friendly shows that made "horror" themed shows languish in TV Land. Personally I'm not a fan of such programming (unless the Buffy & Angel series count). Most people belived a horror movie broadcast on late nights with a host was sufficient.

hobbyfan said...

That desire doesn't exist as much anymore with all those cablers and the overplaying of certain shows into the ground. Back in the day, though, Ghost Story was the last of its kind.