One of the benefits of being an 80s child was the emergence of the cable industry. MTV was a fresh phenomenon that was bringing attention to music in ways never imagined. Most of Generation X will most certainly remember the debut of the Nickelodeon channel in 1981, which has remained to this day one of the most popular and influential children’s cable stations of the last 30 years. Viacom owned both channels at the time and decided tap into the Boomer generation and their children, myself included, and introduced Nick at Nite on July 1, 1985. It was a novel idea that debuted just 7 months after VH1. No coincidence for sure.
Besides just filling the gap between kid’s programming, Nick at Night offered the chance to re-air classic television shows from the 50s and 60s primarily to a whole new generation, all on one channel. Not that you couldn’t view these shows anywhere else, but I don’t think they were ever presented it as well as on Nick at Nite. I was 11 years old, and ready and willing to indulge in these time capsules on the small screen. Then one hot muggy summer night, with the over sized electric fans humming, I was introduced to an anthology series that would open up literary and cinematic worlds for me decades since my first viewing. That show would be none other than Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
I was well on my way at 11 to being an avid reader of mystery,suspense,horror and the supernatural. I consistently devoured what I could get my hands on at the time, or at least what I was able to process at that age. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) was a revelation. Spanning 268 episodes, the program was a showcase for some of the best actors and actresses of the 1950s, and featured scripts from the likes of Ray Bradbury,Robert Bloch,Charles Beaumont, and Dorothy L. Sayers among a long list of others. Until September of 1962 it represented some of the best of what the television medium could offer, and along with Rod serling’s The Twilight Zone, it remains at the very peak of all anthology series. It would be hard pressed to find a better blueprint for 30 minutes of masterfully crafted storytelling.
Hitchcock was already 3 decades into his career as a film director. He first established himself as Britain’s finest and then after his migration to the US in 1939, he would become one of the world’s greatest director of genre filmmaking. In his peak decades of the 40s and 50s, he would create an amazing body of cinematic work that includes such favorites at Dial M for Murder,Suspicion, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo and of course his most infamous work, Psycho. For myself, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was the gateway to incredible array of actors, actresses, writers and directors themselves who either were influenced by Hitchcock himself or who were influences on him in his formative years. It was also a master class in mystery and suspense.
Hitchcock was himself a very complex figure, and certainly through many of his films explored some of this thematically, but that’s a whole other post I suspose. You can pretty much catch any of the episodes on Youtube or Netflix, or on local TV is you’re lucky. If you’re a fan of mystery,suspense,horror,the supernatural, comedy or some combination of any the previous, then you can’t go wrong with the body of work of Sir Alfred Hitchcock.