8 reasons why 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' might be the greatest TV show ever
Brilliant directors, brilliant actors, brilliant writers. It's that simple.
Alfred Hitchcock's credentials speak for themselves. Not too long ago, the British Film Institute named his Vertigo the greatest film of all time. And that's just Vertigo. Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, North By Northwest, Rope, Strangers on a Train… can any filmmaker truly compete? Hitch's movies are beautiful works of art and devilish populist fun.
Few — if any — filmmakers of his stature were as equally committed to the small screen. For a decade, the master of suspense hosted his anthology series. We have long aired The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962–65). Soon, the earlier classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–62) will join our lineup.
A handful of our shows are in the debate for greatest television series of all time. If you want to make the case for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, here are some reasons to support the argument.
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1. Alfred freaking Hitchcock himself directed 17 episodes.
He has been named the greastest director of all time. Spielberg honed his craft by helming a few episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D., Night Gallery and Columbo in his early career. Tarantino did an episode of CSI. But no other director has dedicated so much effort in his or her prime to television. Hitchcock's work is gorgeous in black and white. Take "Breakdown," for example, pictured here. A paralysed man is presumed dead, though we hear the horror of his inner thoughts. At the end, he weeps, and tears run down the screen. It's a nifty effect from a visionary.
2. He was not the only legendary director behind the camera.
You want ace direction? Look no further. Big names like Robert Altman and Ida Lupino were behind the camera for other episodes. Disney aces Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins) and David Swift (The Parent Trap) sat in the chair for some tales, too. Speaking of Disney, during the run of the series, Hitchcock was looking to film a project with Jimmy Stewart at Disneyland. However, Walt Disney barred Hitch from working in his park, after seeing Psycho.
3. TV and film legends were guest stars.
Heck, Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre worked together in the brilliant episode "Man from the South." Speaking of McQueen, Clint Eastwood makes an uncredited cameo as a reporter sitting behind McQueen in "Human Interest Story." If you have Clint Eastwood as an extra, that's some star power. Other major names onscreen include Robert Redford, Gena Rowlands, Bette Davis, John Cassavetes, Olivia de Havilland and Jessica Tandy. Oh, and just about every major TV star turns up as well — Dick Van Dyke, Art Carney, Peter Falk, Cloris Leachman, William Shatner and dozens of others. It's an unparalleled roster.
4. Roald Dahl wrote six episodes.
So, we know that the talent onscreen and behind camera were all-stars. The writers were icons, as well. Roald Dahl, one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century, was the brain who came up with the twists and chills of six episodes. They have the same wicked black comedy of his short stories, like "Lamb to the Slaughter," which sees a woman serving police officers… well, we won't spoil the plot or dinner.
5. "The Man from the South" has been remade a few times.
No Roald Dahl tale stands out quite like "Man from the South." Peter Lorre plays Carlos, who bets a cocky gambling man, Steve McQueen, he can not light his Zippo ten times in a row. If the gambling man loses — he loses his little finger. The story was remade in 1979 as the premiere episode of Dahl's own series, Tales of the Unexpected. In 1985, the story was done yet again as part of the rebooted Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Of course, Quentin Tarantino also did his spin on the story, as part of Four Rooms in 1995. Seems like we're overdue for another one!
6. It pushed boundaries.
"The Sorceror's Apprentice" holds a dubious distinction. NBC refused to broadcast it because of its "gruesome" ending. A young, disturbed carnival assistant literally saws a woman in half in the climax. (Though, we don't see anything.) While it was never aired during the original run, the episode does pop up in syndication. Keep your eyes peeled for it.
7. It's been a U.S. Postage stamp.
You can try to make the case that The Sopranos or The Wire or Breaking Bad are the greastest television shows, but they were never official postage stamps, were they? The stamp pictured here was issued in 2009. Oh, and a decade earlier, there was a 32¢ Hitchcock stamp featuring his iconic silhouette seen on the show — which Hitchcock had inked and designed himself.
8. Alfred even made stories for young children.
Hitchcock can appeal to all ages — depending on the format and tales being told. In 1962, this record was released for kids, including titles like "Jimmy Takes Vanishing Lessons" and "The Helpful Hitchhiker."