Tales of the Unexpected was aired between 1979 and 1988 by ITV. It was produced by Anglia Television, and it proved a big success for them.
The series began as an adaptation of Roald Dahl's series of short stories by the same name. They ran out of adaptable stories (there were a few more they could have done but they did not lend themselves to a TV adaptation) after about one and a half seasons and started using other works. Dahl did an introduction for every story for the first two seasons, but severed ties with the project before series 3. They then ran up until series 9.
The tone varied from story to story but on the whole it has been described as like The Twilight Zone, but with a darkly humorous slant, especially in the Roald Dahl stories. The show had a low budget but the writing lead to an amazing list of Guest Stars including: Anna Neagle, BRIAN BLESSED, Timothy West, John Gielgud, Elaine Stritch, John Mills, Julie Harris, Wendy Hiller, Joseph Cotten, Derek Jacobi, Janet Leigh and Siobhan McKenna.
Examples of the more famous Dahl stories are William and Mary, in which Mary learns that her husband has cheated death via a brain transplant; The Landlady, in which a seemingly charming old lady is really murdering and stuffing her tenants; The Way Up to Heaven, in which an abusive husband is trapped in a lift, and his long-suffering wife deliberately leaves him there to die, and Lamb to the Slaughter, in which a wronged wife batters her husband to death with a frozen leg of lamb and then gets away with it by getting the detectives (including BRIAN BLESSED) to Eat the Evidence.
Several episodes are remakes of stories that had already been adapted for other series, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents ("Lamb to the Slaughter", "The Man from the South") and Way Out ("William and Mary").
Not to be confused with the much less successful Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (which actually predates this series, having been made in 1977).This series wasalso aired on ITV in the UK under the name Twist In The Tale.
- Adaptation Expansion: "Flypaper" is based on a very short story by Elizabeth Taylor (not THAT one). The short story never names a specific threat, going for all-around paranoia. The episode ends with the very strong implication that the lonely schoolgirl who the story revolves is about to be the next victim of a loving couple of pension-age murderous paedophiles.
- Affably Evil: Gerry Williams from "Shatterproof", a wealthy, mild mannered and charismatic tycoon (played by Eli Wallach) who finds out that an assassin is sent by his cheating wife Ellen to kill him, only to blackmail the assassin into going over to kill Ellen.
- And I Must Scream: "William and Mary"
- Black Comedy
- Brain in a Jar: "William and Mary"
- Cruel Twist Ending and Karmic Twist Ending
- Cultural Translation: The opening narration was replaced in the American version.
- Eat the Evidence: "Lamb to the Slaughter".
- Episode on a Plane: "Hijack".
- Fortune Teller: Myra in "In the Cards."
- Genre Anthology
- The Ghost: Harry in "Shatterproof" is never seen.
- Hoist by Her Own Petard: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat"
- Horror Host: Tales from the first two series were introduced by the grandfatherly, perpetually cardigan clad Roald Dahl.
- Masochism Tango: True of both the married couples in the rather kinky "My Lady, My Love, My Dove."
- Off with His Head!: The probable fate of Natalia in "The Neck."
- Impossible Thief: The title character of "The Hitchhiker".
- Overtook the Series: It started out adapting Roald Dahl stories, but lasted for seven and a half seasons after it had used them all up...
- Reincarnation: The cat in "Edward the Conqueror" may be the reincarnation of Franz Liszt.
- Spared by the Adaptation: The orange cat in "Edward the Conqueror."
- Your Cheating Heart: Many episodes, including "Lamb to the Slaughter" and "A Harmless Vanity."