This Is The Continuing Story….

November 11, 2013

Ever since I discovered it ten years ago, one of the series I’ve most wanted to write about in a definitive way is Peyton Place.  Most of the truly canonical television series have been identified, if not universally agreed upon, by now.  I think Peyton Place may be the one exception – the sole long-running American show that belongs in the pantheon but has generally been excluded.  To my great delight, The A.V. Club has given me the opportunity to make a case for its excellence.

I’ve also written about Peyton Place in a less comprehensive way in a few other places.  After you read the A.V. Club piece, you may want to check out (or revisit) my interviews with writer-producer Richard DeRoy and actor Tim O’Connor, my obituary for director Walter Doniger, and my thoughts on James Rosin’s book about the series.

In addition to the four people named in the preceding paragraph, I also want to acknowledge a number of others who spoke to me about Peyton Place over the years: the late Franklin Barton; the late Gerry Day; the late Harold Gast; Lee Grant; Jeffrey Hayden; Patricia Morrow; Ed Nelson; Peggy (Shaw) O’Shea; the late William Self; and Jack Senter.  In particular, I’m grateful to the late Del Reisman, who spent many patient hours discussing this and other shows with me over the course of several years, and to Sonya Roberts, an off-the-record friend of long standing who finally and graciously consented to become a source for this piece.

As was the case with Ben Casey, there will be a few sidebars here during the next few weeks to showcase some of the research that didn’t make it into the A.V. Club essay.

(A final postscript: I spent some time trying unsuccessfully to locate the three African American writers who briefly joined Peyton Place‘s writing staff in 1968. Gene Boland and Sam Washington, if you happen to come across this post, I’d love to interview you.)


7 Responses to “This Is The Continuing Story….”

  1. Kristopher Koechling Says:

    When I lived in Maine, I owned a used/rare bookstore, and I acquired a first edition of PEYTON PLACE. I have visited Camden, Maine (the setting of the novel) on numerous occasions, and I can tell you that the little town by the bay has never fully recovered from the notoriety visited upon it by the book.

  2. nick caputo Says:

    Insightful overview of a true gem of television history. I had the opportunity to watch many of the episodes a few years back and was amazed at how sharp the writing, acting, cinematography and direction was. One of the best TV shows of its era, you’ve done a superlative job putting the show and its history in perspective.

    Nick Caputo

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      You mentioned cinematography, which reminds me that I didn’t have room to mention Robert B. Hauser, the original DP, and William Cronjager, his camera operator and eventual successor as DP. So consider that omission corrected here. Looking at the show again last month, I marveled at how sumptuous Cronjager’s lighting is in the color episodes (even though they do suffer a bit from that mid-60s “every object must be a bright primary color AND BUY YOURSELF A COLOR TV SET WON’T YOU” look).

  3. Larry Granberry Says:

    Great article. This show is on my bucket list of series to watch, but I am reluctant to buy anything from Shout Factory, after what they did to “Route 66” and “Peter Gunn.” Besides it doesn’t look like any more will be released – unfortunate, this sounds like a gem that needs to be rediscovered.

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Yeah, you’re going to have to get into Bootlegville to see the whole thing, and the last time I looked into it, the sets you could find on iOffer, etc, were incomplete and in poor shape. I have someone feeding me recordings from Foxnet, but slowly — I still haven’t seen the last 100 episodes or so. I am generally not a proponent of streaming video but since the size of this series is so daunting, it’s a rare case where a data-dump of the whole thing onto a streaming site really would be a good thing.

  4. Joey Says:

    This has convinced me to give the show a go and I’m really liking it so far. Luckily, I’ve managed to track down the whole series via torrents, with surprisingly good video quality. Looking forward to the upcoming Peyton Place posts!

  5. Randy Says:

    I think the reason the show is more remembered than seen today is the episodic structure. You pretty much have to run all 514 of them in sequence or not at all. The old ROMANCE CLASSICS on AMC did this back in the 90’s, which is where Bootlegville got them, except for about half of the first season episodes that came out on DVD with no follow-up. I find it fascinating that when the show was cancelled, they basically just pulled the plug, writing THE END while leaving all the plotlines up in the air. I don’t know of any other show that did this. It is hard to understand why ABC or the writers would not have dedicated the last two or three episodes to some sort of wrap up. Still, it was great fun and life without Rodney, Betty, Steven Cord, etc. will be a sadder place for me.

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