Friday, March 9, 2007
The Time Element, November 10, 1958
Desi Arnaz' desire to create another significant series saw limited success. The premiere episode of Desilu Playhouse, "Lucy Goes to Mexico" was a ratings bonanza. In general, the 13 hour- long Lucy shows sprinkled throughout this series, both in first run and re-broadcasts, kept the series afloat. The weeks with "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show" always landed the Desilu Playhouse show at the very top of the ratings; however, Lucy hours weren't the only important televised events for the show.
Episode 6 of the Desilu Playhouse had ramifications that still affect television today. "The Time Element" was essentially Rod Serling's pilot film for The Twilight Zone. CBS had declined the script, so Desi snapped it up for his new show. Starring William Bendix as Pete Jensen, ca 1941, it centered the story-line on his character's re-occuring dreams of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As Pete Jensen attempts to warn everyone in sight, including his psychiatrist, it becomes clear everyone is too busy having a good time to take him seriously. He is the bearer of bad news and impending doom. Of course, the bombing does happen, but with a twist, Mr. Pete Jensen dies in the bombing. The end of the show finds the psychiatrist alone in his office with an empty couch.
The buzz and ratings success created from the broadcast of this Desilu Playhouse episode re-energized CBS; and, Rod Sterling was signed to produce his series, The Twilight Zone for the following fall. Of course, the significance of the show cannot be over-stated, and is still one of the few early shows of televsion that is broadcast regularly today. It is also just one of the many, unique contributions to television by the much under-rated Desi Arnaz.