Tony Albarella is on our Board of Directors and author of the series “As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling.” He also happens to be the number one expert on Rod Serling’s THE LONER series. He presented a comprehensive talk at this year’s Rod Serling Conference held at Ithaca College (April 2006).
This is Tony Albarella – sorry for the delay in responding. In answer to your questions, THE LONER cannot be found commercially but, as you’ve seen from the list Steve Schlich from our organization sent you, we’ve managed to obtain quite a few. It’s taken years of tracking down people who transferred old 16mm films or taped episodes during a brief run on TV LAND some time ago.
As to the viability of the series being released, I’m not optimistic, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it’s not well-known or popular, and sales are the key for any company seeking to release a title. Secondly, there aren’t many episodes relative to your average series. This means a DVD release could not command a high retail price and thus it would have little resale value.
But, you never know. The DVD market is constantly evolving and TV shows on DVD have become a big part of their business. Twilight Zone sells very well on DVD. Perhaps if Serling’s – or maybe Lloyd Bridges’ – work becomes more widely recognized in the future, some company will take a chance and pay for the rights to release THE LONER.
In regards to episodes being considered “lost,” I’ve not heard or read anything to verify this. All the episodes did make it into the syndication package. It’s just that since there are so few of them, it’s hard for any station to pick it up and run it without adding another series to the rotation, thereby doubling their costs. It’s cheaper for a television network to simply buy the syndication rights to a show that has enough episodes to fill a time slot without having to repeat entries every other week.
It’s a problem faced by any show that suffered from a short run before getting cancelled, and one of the factors that continues to hold them down. If it’s not popular, it’s cancelled, and if it’s cancelled quickly, there’s not enough product to viably rebroadcast. In every aspect, the fewer episodes a series has, the better the chance that it will remain obscure. Bearing this in mind, the entire series can be considered “lost.”
The only other factor I can think of to explain your observation is the TV LAND reruns. That cable channel once broadcast some but not all LONERS as part of a rotating lineup with other TV Westerns. (“TV LAND GOES WEST” was the umbrella title of this, and sadly none of us here at the RSMF caught it when it ran. We had to track down people who taped them.) However, TV LAND stopped this multiple-show program before all of the LONERs were shown. Perhaps this led someone to the assumption that the episodes not seen during this run were lost.
At any rate, I’m happy to answer any other questions on the show, as well as listen to any comments or opinions you may have. The article I wrote on THE LONER a few years ago is available via our website, and I added more material for the talk that Andy mentioned, at the recent Rod Serling Conference. I have detailed notes on that and would be happy to send them to you at your request.