Tales of the Unexpected (TV series)

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Tales of the Unexpected
Created by Roald Dahl
Starring Various
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 9
No. of episodes 112 (list)
Producer(s) Anglia Television
Running time 25 minutes
Original network ITV
Picture format 576i 4:3 (SDTV)
Original release 24 March 1979 (1979-03-24) – 13 May 1988 (1988-05-13)
External links
[{{#property:P856}} Website]

Tales of the Unexpected (Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected) is a British television series which aired between 1979 and 1988. Each episode told a story, often with sinister and wryly comedic undertones, with an unexpected twist ending. Every episode of Series 1, eight episodes of Series 2 and one episode of Series 3 were based on short stories by Roald Dahl collected in the books Tales of the Unexpected, Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You.

The series was made by Anglia Television for ITV with interior scenes recorded at their Norwich studios whilst location filming mainly occurred across East Anglia. The theme music for the series was written by composer Ron Grainer.

Although similar in theme and title, the show is not related to the American anthology television series, Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, which ran for one season in 1977.


The series originally adapted various stories from Roald Dahl's anthology books. Despite being produced on a low budget the series attracted guest stars, such as José Ferrer, Joseph Cotten, Janet Leigh, John Gielgud, John Mills, Wendy Hiller, Denholm Elliott, Joan Collins, Rod Taylor, Ian Holm, Brian Blessed, Michael Gambon, Cyril Cusack, Julie Harris, Michael Hordern, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Connelly, Siobhán McKenna, Anna Neagle, Elaine Stritch, Andrew Ray, Harry H. Corbett, and Timothy West.

Dahl introduced most of his own stories himself, giving short monologues explaining what inspired him to write them.

Although many of Dahl's stories are left open to the reader's interpretation, the television series usually provided a generally accepted conclusion. This is exemplified in the story "The Landlady", the written version of which only hints at character Billy's fate, while the televised adaptation has a more resolved conclusion.

Later episodes were set in different locations outside the United Kingdom, with many being made in the United States.

Later series

The second series featured four episodes from other writers. The title reflected this change when it became Tales of the Unexpected – Introduced by Roald Dahl – Dahl ceased providing introductions for episodes after the programme had reached series three. The series three episode Parson's Pleasure was the final regular episode to feature an on-screen introduction by Dahl, although he did return to provide an introduction to the series eight episodes On The Cards and "Nothing' Short of Highway Robbery" and gave a brief voiceover introduction to the series four episode Shatterproof. The third and fourth series' featured two episodes apiece adapted from Dahl stories and a fifth, entitled The Surgeon, featured in the final series in 1988. The series was cancelled in 1988, after the ninth series, following a decline in viewers.

In the US, John Houseman succeeded Dahl as the opening narrator.

Episodes have been repeated on ITV3 in 2006, and Sky Arts 2 in 2011.

In 1980, English writer and comedian Peter Cook starred alongside a host of celebrities in the LWT special Peter Cook & Co.. The show included many sketches including a 'Tales of the Unexpected spoof' entitled "Tales of the Much As We Expected", which involved Cook as Roald Dahl explaining why he dropped the "n" in Ronald; the sketch ends with flames from the fireplace spreading over the room.

The series is mentioned in an episode of The Ricky Gervais Show as being one of Karl Pilkington's favourite shows, with Gervais commenting that Karl was probably the only person in the world to whom the tales were actually unexpected (a reference to the show's reputation for using predictable twist endings). A similar joke appears in "Beyond a Joke" from Series VII of Red Dwarf, mentioned in passing by Kryten.

All series have been released on DVD.

Way Out

Dahl had hosted a similar series for the American CBS network called Way Out in 1961. It was similar in concept and themes to Twilight Zone, and ran for 14 episodes on Saturday nights. It used some stories which would later be adapted for Tales of the Unexpected.



External links