The Challenge / Rod Serling's Wonderful World of... “Propaganda”

Saturday, May 21, 2022 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm
black and white headshot of rod serling

UCLA Film & Television Archive presents free screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum.

Please review our required COVID-19 precautions and updated admission policies.

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The Challenge

U.S., 1955

Produced with the assistance of the Fund for the Republic, an organization developed by the Ford Foundation to promote civil liberties, the format of the proposed series The Challenge was to present open-ended social dramas to engage audiences and spur discussion. The morally-charged pilot, assembled by a creative dream team including writers Reginald Rose (Twelve Angry Men) and Rod Serling (Patterns) and director Sidney Lumet (Network), offers a stark take on the impact of McCarthyism on small-town America. Concerning a gentle bus driver (Jack Warden) who refuses to sign a state loyalty oath, the compact teleplay explores themes of patriotism and groupthink that both Rose and Serling would insightfully examine repeatedly during their acclaimed careers, despite opposition from network censors and sponsors. In this instance, however, the controversial topic of the blacklist proved an insurmountable hurdle, and The Challenge failed to sell, despite initial interest from NBC.

Mark Quigley

DCP, b&w, 30 min. Production: A Worthington Miner Production; produced with the Assistance of The Fund of the Republic. Producer: Matthew W. Rapf. Director: Sidney Lumet. Writers: Reginald Rose, Rod Serling. With: Jack Warden, Louise Larabee, Michael Allen, Frank Thomas, Sr.

Preservation funding provided by the John H. Mitchell Television Preservation Endowment. Digitally preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from 16mm elements. Special thanks to the Library of Congress, Moving Image Section, Rob Stone.
 

Rod Serling's Wonderful World of… “Propaganda”

U.S., 3/8/1970

By the 1970s, Emmy Award-winning writer Rod Serling had expanded his ongoing role as a multi-dimensional media personality, appearing in commercials, performing voiceover work (The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, 1966-1976), and, most unexpectedly, serving as host of a syndicated game show, Liar's Club (1969-70). Of these non-writing projects, most organic to Serling's reputation as television's unwavering voice of conscience is the obscure local series, Rod Serling's Wonderful World of… (KNXT, 1970). Produced, written and directed by the stalwart team behind KNXT's beloved Ralph Story's Los Angeles (1964-1970) each week, Wonderful World of… tackled weighty topics ranging from prejudice to propaganda. As host, Serling brought his trademark gravitas to the program’s mini-documentaries intended to provoke and promote thought. Sadly, as all too common with local television programming of this era, only a single episode of the short-lived series is known to survive—submitted here, as Serling would say, “for your approval.”

Mark Quigley

DCP, color, 25 min. KNXT. Production: A KNXT Production. Executive Producer: Dan Gingold. Producer: Joe Saltzman. Director: Dan Gingold. Writers: Jere Witter, Nate Kaplan. Host: Rod Serling.

Preservation funding provided by the John H. Mitchell Television Preservation Endowment. Preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive from an original 2 in. videotape. Video transfer at DC Video. Engineering services by David Crosthwait. Use courtesy of KCBS. Special thanks to Paul Button.

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