Show Type: Serials

First Telecast: February 27, 1979

Last Telecast: May 1, 1979

Broadcast History:

February 1979 - May 1979, Tuesday 8:00-9:00 on NBC


From the early 1910's to the 1950's, cliff-hangers were a staple form of movie entertainment for America's young. Saturday afternoons meant a trip to the neighborhood theater when the latest chapter of the current Zorro, Superman or Commando Cody serial was on display. All of the movie serials - whether Westerns, melodramas, science fiction, or gothic horror stories - had one element in common. At the end of each episode (full series ran 10 to 15 episodes) the hero or heroine was left in a perilous potentially fatal situation. Miraculously, however, the first few minutes of the succeeding episode would show how he or she had escaped. The kids at the Saturday matinees knew their heroes would survive, the only question was how. Not knowing gave them something to talk about all week until they faithfully returned to the movie house the following week to find out.

More than two decades after the last movie serial was produced, NBC tried the format on television. Cliff Hangers was the umbrella title for three separate serials all sharing the same hour on Tuesday nights. Each week, viewers saw the latest 20-minute chapter of Stop Susan Williams, The Secret Empire, and The Curse of Dracula. To add to the "in progress" feeling, each of the three was picked up at a different stage on February 27, 1979: Stop Susan Williams at Chapter II, The Secret Empire at Chapter III, and The Curse of Dracula at Chapter VI. The idea was to begin new serials while others were still in progress, but only The Curse of Dracula managed to reach its conclusion in the brief time Cliff Hangers was on the air.