Night Gallery episode 6: They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar/The Last Laurel

First airing on January 20, 1971, this episode of Night Gallery fully embraces the darkness of the world, as a man grows old and the world changes around him in the first story, one I have gone back to watch again and again.

“They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” is directed by Don Taylor (Damien: Omen IIThe Final CountdownEscape from the Planet of the Apes) and written by host Rod Serling is the story of Randy Lane (William Windom), who returned home from the war, had a party at Riley’s, got married and found a great job in plastics. But that was 25 years ago and now, his wife is dead, the job is a dead end and they’re tearing down Tim Riley’s Bar.

His boss (John Randolph) has forgotten him. His assistant (Bert Convey!) is after his job. The only person who seems to care is his secretary (Diane Baker) but he’s blinded by grief and can’t see it. All he can do is drink himself into oblivion and wander the old places of his life and bear witness to the ghosts of the past, much better spirits than he sees every day.

Not really horror, not even scary, this is one of the best segments of the show and was nominated for an Emmy. The older I get, the more it upsets me, but that’s why when Serling is good, there’s no one better, even if the ending is way too simple.

“The Last Laurel” was directed by Daryl Duke, who would go on to make The Silent Partner and The Thorn Birds. Written by Serling from a story by David Grubb, it suffers by comparison to the first half of this episode. Jack Cassidy plays Marius Davis, a man dying and unable to stop his gorgeous wife Susan (Martine Beswick) from sleeping with the man treating him in his last moments, Doctor Armstrong (Martin E. Brooks). Of course, there’s revenge by astral projection.

This ends the first season of Night Gallery yet it feels like things are just getting started.

What’s your favorite episode?

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