Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why The Sixth Sense Starring Gary Collins Deserves a Second Look If You Saw It On Night Gallery

If you're a fan of the Rod Serling show Night Gallery, and you see an episode and think to yourself, "That doesn't fit in with what I come to expect from Night Gallery at all," you're probably right, because you're probably watching an episode of a show called The Sixth Sense that was added to Night Gallery to create enough shows for syndication. Now, if you're watching a Sixth Sense episode of Night Gallery and you think to yourself "This episode of The Sixth sense really doesn't make any sense," you're also probably right, because in order to create thirty minute episodes for Night Gallery, what were hour long episodes of a show called The Sixth Sense, that had originally aired on ABC television in 1970-1971 as their own stand-alone show were chopped up in ways that often left the viewer confused and asking themselves why are these episodes of Night Gallery so bad? The answer being because they're not episodes of Night Gallery, and they're not really even episodes of The Sixth Sense. So, let's be fair to the show The Sixth Sense and rewind things a little bit.

"I'm Rod Serling, and this is The Night Gallery, or The Sixth Sense, or whatever the hell it is, just send me a check in the mail."

After the success of a 1971 television movie titled Sweet, Sweet Rachel, the plot of which entailed a psychic expert trying to save two attractive women from a psychic assassin, ABC showed interest in a television series with such a theme. The writer of Sweet, Sweet Rachel, Anthony Lawrence teamed up with producer Stan Shpetner to quickly knock out The Sixth Sense, a show starring Gary Collins as parapsychology expert Dr. Michael Rhodes. In each of the 25 episodes of the Sixth Sense Rhodes would investigate some facet of the paranormal, ranging from astral projection to witches to cryogenics to automatic writing. In every episode an attractive woman was involved, and no romance ever developed between Collins and the female guest star. Anne Archer, Stefanie Powers, Mary Ann Mobley, and Mariette Hartley were some of the young actresses who played the damsel in psychic distress in episodes of the show. Despite many talented writers and directors passing through, like Harlan Ellison and DC Fontana, most of the behind the scenes talent clashed with Shpetner and found themselves unable to continue working under his ridiculous guidelines.

It's a shame that team of talent wasn't able to gel and transform The Sixth Sense from a good kernel of an idea to a full-fledged television show exploring topics of the paranormal in an in-depth way they never had before. We know the interest was there because The X-Files went on to become one of the most successful shows in television history. Gary Collins was more than capable in the lead as Dr, Michael Rhodes, portraying himself as zen calm in the face of apparitions, ghosts, and physical danger from the real world that would have caused most to blanch in horror. I find his performance increasingly impressive the more episodes I watch, and the end result more and more frustrating as the writing and direction failed to keep pace with the promise of the premise.

As with other horror anthology shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Thriller, many talented young actors put in notable early performances on the show, including William Shatner, Cloris Leachman and Lee Majors. Also a standout were the special effects. Whatever limitations and flaws The Sixth Sense had I think fans of this genre will find a good amount to entertain, even provide some shocks and thrills, in its 25 full hour episodes.  
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