12 of Television’s Best Anthologies


Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves has officially been attached to The Twilight Zone film remake, which will be written by freshman scribe Jason Rothenberg. Reeves edged out some pretty big names for the job, including directors Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron, and Michael Bay. The Leo DiCaprio-produced film will be ” … a big science fiction action movie with a single freestanding story that is linked to the original series mainly in that it shares that familiarly eerie feel.” While The Twilight Zone is certainly one of the more well-known television anthologies — thanks to its mysterious, chilling plotlines and universal themes that still ring true to this day — there are several other fantastic programs that used the anthology format to explore their stories. Click through for a look at some of TV’s best anthology series, and let us know which ones you miss the most.

ABC Afterschool Special

Even if you didn’t watch the delightfully hokey ABC Aftershchool Special during its run from the early ’70s to the mid ’90s, you undoubtedly know what the legendary program was about. The anthology series presented situations to young viewers — who usually caught the show in the afternoons once arriving home from school — that aroused questions about various teen issues. Sex, drug addiction, alcoholism, bullying, and family life were amongst the topics covered with earnest, but cheesy, conviction. Many famous faces were able to get their start in Hollywood thanks to the series. Memorable and ridiculous titles like “My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel” and “Have You Ever Been Ashamed of Your Parents?” will live on in our hearts forever.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The “master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock, created and hosted a 10-year television anthology in the ’50s and ’60s that brought his talent for mysterious and horrific thrillers to the small screen. Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ famous line-drawn image of Hitchcock’s plump profile opened each episode, after which he creepily introduced the program. (He also directed about 20 eps.) Many stars populated the series, including Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre who appeared in one of the most loved episodes, “Man from the South” — which became the basis for Quentin Tarantino’s segment in 1995’s Four Rooms .

Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

The late Jack Palance’s breathy and ominous delivery opened every episode of the 1980’s anthology series, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. The bizarre show with an educational slant took us around the world for a look at shadowy people and historical events across the globe. Palance’s intense demeanor made learning about weird science and people like Rasputin a badass experience.

Masterpiece Theatre

Some of you may have quickly changed the channel when PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre came up on your dial, but for some folks the drama anthology was their first introduction to British sensibility. Parodies of the show have permeated pop culture, riffing on its highbrow style and fancy pants opening with host Alistair Cooke — who led the series for over twenty years, starting in the 1970s. Masterpiece Theatre still airs to this day, but it will never be like the original class act.

Tales from the Crypt

Horror fans that grew up during the ’80s and ’90s name Tales from the Crypt’s Crypt Keeper amongst their closest pals. The cackling, skeletal zombie made tons of bad jokes during his introduction, the humor of which was often carried throughout the episodes — along with a decent amount of bloodshed. (This was HBO after all.) The show — which was based on a 1950’s EC Comics anthology — sported some of horror’s biggest names. The Exorcist’s William Friedkin, Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper, Pet Sematary’s Mary Lambert, and creepy character actors like Lance Henriksen, Brad Dourif, and Tim Curry all contributed to the terror tales.

The Ray Bradbury Theater

If you were a fan of Fahrenheit 451 scribe Ray Bradbury, then you probably watched The Ray Bradbury Theater during the 1980s and ’90s. Writers marveled at Bradbury’s cluttered office and desk during the atmospheric opening sequence, where he took viewers for a little tour around his digs. Although the special effects were low budget, the stories were high quality — many based on the sci-fi author’s original tales. Incidentally, Bradbury’s writing was featured on Alfred Hitchcock Presents many times — two of the greatest 20th century genre masters melding minds.

John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You

Cult film legend John Waters hosted a film anthology on television network here!, providing raunchy opening and closing remarks. The series screened several LBGT-friendly films, along with exploitation flicks and art house movies all curated by Waters (Fuego, Irréversible, and L.I.E. to name a few). It probably goes without saying that the above video is NSFW.

Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse

After the spirited Desi Arnaz and wife Lucille Ball wrapped up their legendary comedy series I Love Lucy in the late ’50s, they started production on the Desilu Playhouse anthology with manufacturing mogul Westinghouse — which later became TV network CBS. The series featured dramatic and comedic performances (and the couple’s signature musical numbers), two of which would become the pilots for The Twilight Zone and The Untouchables .

The Wonderful World of Disney

Sunday nights with The Wonderful World of Disney were a staple in many households. Before the Mickey Mouse studio gave up on their television anthologies in lieu of their Disney Channel, several series from the animation giant aired — including Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color — featuring cartoons, educational clips, and other original shorts. The Wonderful World of Disney was also a way for the studio to showcase their films, like 1961’s The Parent Trap as seen in the above clip.

Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre

Inspired by children’s anthology Shirley Temple’s Storybook, the Shelley Duvall-hosted Faerie Tale Theatre was a well-acted and humorous spin through the classic fables of our childhood. When The Shining actress wasn’t being stalked by her lunatic on-screen husband, she was acting out these magical stories alongside stars like Christopher Reeve, Robin Williams, and Elliot Gould. As you can see from Duvall’s somewhat wooden, but charming opening, there’s an oddball air about the show that instantly transports you back to the ’80s.


R.L. Stine’s popular Goosebumps book series inspired a television anthology that had a bevy of sinister characters and scary storylines just right for kids. The show’s opening boasts some hilariously dated special effects, and overall the acting wasn’t terrific. Still, children of the ’90s look back fondly on the tiny terrors of this show for nostalgic reasons.

The Outer Limits

Before the Syfy channel invented their new moniker — which pissed off sci-fi freaks everywhere — they were one of the stations to host the eerie science fiction stories of The Outer Limits. If the show’s menacing intro wasn’t enough to scare you, the monsters, aliens, and science/technology weirdness of the show definitely got under your skin. While The Outer Limits clearly owes a debt to classic anthologies like The Twilight Zone, the well-crafted show’s dedication to sci-fi subjects (a genre that is often marginalized) and in-depth plotlines (with many unhappy endings) makes it a unique standout.