If you like television shows that offer a completely new story in each episode, then you’re a fan of anthologies. Since each episode stands alone as a miniature series within a series, you don’t have to worry about missing one or having to get caught up. You also don’t have to start watching it from the first episode of the first season. A recent online group of TV watchers discussed their favorite anthologies, and their responses spanned several decades.
1. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955 – 1965)
Considered by many to be one of the most significant television programs in history, each episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents is a standalone story about a person who finds themselves in a predicament (usually a criminal one) that they must escape. Hitchcock expertly told his stories with a blend of drama, thriller, horror, and comedic elements like no one else could.
2. The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964)
Despite the original first-run episodes airing decades ago, The Twilight Zone is a pop culture phenomenon that continues to enjoy a strong fan following. Each anthology episode centers around ordinary people encountering strange and, at times, otherworldly events that defy explanation. Many episodes reflected social issues and contained a moral for the viewers to ponder.
3. The Outer Limits (1963 – 1965)
A collection of science fiction stories intertwined with horror and fantasy, this series was more than just scary tales about space aliens that were hostile to humans. The episodes contained deeper, socially relevant themes around space travel, evolution, time travel, and human nature. A reboot of the series aired from 1995 until 2002.
4. Night Gallery (1969 – 1973)
Developed and hosted by Rod Serling, Night Gallery picked up where The Twilight Zone ended. However, his new creation had darker, more frightening horror themes that branched into the supernatural. Each episode started with Serling displaying a painting that was somehow connected to the terrifying story that was about to unfold.
5. Darkroom (1981 – 1982)
Legendary actor James Coburn hosted this underrated hourlong show that featured prominent actors such as Helen Hunt, Billy Crystal, and David Carradine. All of the episodes had two or three distinct thriller and horror stories, most of which were related to the supernatural. Darkroom only aired for one season, but it’s a show that’s still very much worth watching.
6. Amazing Stories (1985 – 1987)
Created and produced by Steven Spielberg, each airing of Amazing Stories crossed over into a different genre, such as thriller, horror, mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. Alternating between funny and whimsical to frightening, some saw the show as a 1980s version of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
7. The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985 – 1992)
The author of the critically acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 developed this weekly science fiction fantasy anthology series. All the episodes were scripted by Bradbury and were based on his published books and short stories. Like much of his writings, The Ray Bradbury Theater touched on topics related to dysfunctional societies.
8. Tales From the Crypt (1989 – 1996)
This long-running weekly HBO horror series made the character of the Cryptkeeper a household name. The stories were based on the EC Comics published in the 1950s. Tales From the Crypt achieved enough popularity to feature three major studio movies: Tales From The Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995), Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood (1996), and Ritual (2002).
9. Black Mirror (2011 – 2013)
Critically acclaimed and a fan favorite, Netflix’s Black Mirror is reminiscent of The Twilight Zone but told through a present-day lens. Each series episode features a different cast and tells a unique story. Still, the commonalities that are shared include the advancement of technology, how they’re used and abused, and how they’re connected to the degradation of society.
10. Inside No. 9 (2014 –)
A British black comedy that follows 30 minutes in the characters’ lives has an exciting premise. Each episode is related to something with the number nine, such as a shoe size or a home address, and contains unexpected plot twists. Inside No. 9 covers some dark topics but provides much social commentary with biting British wit.
11. Room 104 (2017 – 2020)
Audiences get a voyeuristic peek into the lives of the various quirky and memorable guests of room 104, located inside an inexpensive motel in America. The stories told in each episode cross several genres and run the gamut from strange and funny to serious and disturbing. After watching this show, you won’t look at hotel rooms the same again.
12. Electric Dreams (2017 – 2018)
Based on the postmodern, science fiction writings of American author Philip K. D—, the stories are against the backdrop of a post-nuclear war society. The episodes are self-contained, and each takes place at various points in time after the world has been destroyed by nuclear conflict. Alternating between depressing and optimistic, Electric Dreams offers a fascinating look into human nature.
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