(Edward) Rod(man) Serling Robert Lewis Shayon - Essay

Robert Lewis Shayon

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Murder was brilliantly done on the (NBC) Kraft Television Theatre in January and repeated "by popular demand" early in February. The unplanned second performance of an original television drama ["Patterns"] so soon after its first showing is an unusual video event. The notability is doubly compounded when the play pyramids its prestige almost exclusively by word of mouth. Of even sharper interest to this viewer is the fact that the "murder" which climaxes the drama is unwittingly (I hope not deliberately) condoned by the author and producer in subtle yet painful violation of commonly honored and deeply cherished moral principles….

In the years I have been viewing television I do not recall being so engaged by a drama, nor so stimulated to challenge the haunting conclusions of an hour's entertainment.

"Patterns" is the story of murder in the executive echelon of a typical big-business corporation. I call it murder; in the story the victim [Andy] dies suddenly of a heart attack, but the fatality comes stunningly on the heels of an executive conference in which the company's president [Ramsey] plunges an invisible dagger, tipped with the poison of fear, hate, and resentment, into the life-urge of an unwanted member of his high command….

"Patterns" is the kind of a script that strikes a match to production talents. Director, cast, even stagehands suddenly become aware they're touching a piece of uranium in the TV desert. You're inching open a curtain on truth…. Rod Serling's lines are spare, measured out with intensity, precision....

(The entire section is 653 words.)