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Back when I was younger & partied way too much, I knew it was time to call
it a night after "Insight" aired in the wee hours of Sunday Morning. For a
production by a non-secular order (The Paulists) it was surprisingly
non-preachy, but probably the reason the long running anthology seems to
have been overlooked & underrated.
The writing was always top-notch & was successful in prompting the viewer to think about the age-old problems confronting man, albeit in a modern setting. The writing also seemed to avoid conclusions, rather, it seemed to focus on making one think about important questions.
The actors were also some of the best of their day. I remember Martin Sheen as appearing in multiple episodes, as did Harold Gould. Jack Albertson was in at least one episode (along with Martin Sheen, entitled "And The Walls Came Down" in which Sheen plays God to Albertson's old man). I also seem to recall other actors such as Linda Lavin, CArroll O'Connor and Teri Garr, although I am less sure on these three.
This syndicated series was produced by the Paulist Fathers, an
Catholic order of priests. For years, it was a staple of local TV
programming in the USA, usually being aired on Sunday mornings or at very
odd times, such as just before the station signed off for the night. To
Fathers, it was a way to spread the Word. To the stations, it was a cheap
way to plug holes in their schedules and meet the community service
requirements of their licenses.
I've also heard that the series was sometimes shown in Sunday schools and church group meetings, usually as the basis for a discussion.
As for the show itself, I found it to be a very mixed bag. Some episodes were interesting, thought provoking, and a bit offbeat, such as the one in which a group of people held a trial to impeach God. Many were preachy, predictable, and even unintentionally funny, like the one that ended with Edward Andrews signing "My Way." And some were just pulpits for 1960's-style liberalism, with noble criminals, brutal cops, and GI baby killers.
I remember the series fondly as a kid. In my early years as a TV
engineer in a little Public TV station in Newark, Ohio, I got to run
the episodes on film (we didn't have standard videotape in that
Except for those video pirates who have copies of the shows, "Insight" will remain buried forever. The reason is that the show represented Catholic theology of its time. Those episodes don't represent current Church doctrine on a lot of things. I think the Church doesn't want some of them publicized today. Some episodes also had very insistent bits of Catholic doctrine that make many people wince these days - I recall an episode that drably covered adultery in marriage that ended in suicide, with the priest/narrator suggesting this was the expected end of such immorality.
Even if you agree with the opinion that this was "the Twilight Zone of religious television," it was at least heartfelt. This show, and "Davey and Goliath," were made by people who honestly believed in the morals they promoted. I don't believe that's true of the expensive, show-bizzy, money-begging religious shows of today.
Insight is one of television's lost classics, an anthology series that successfully explored religious and spiritual themes while (usually) avoiding a heavy-handed approach. Considering the quality of the writing, direction, and acting in this series, it is amazing that it has not achieved a greater degree of popularity; it's regular use of symbolism, surreal images, and rather inventive plot and narrative devices should have guaranteed it a place in television history alongside other excellent anthologies such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The series dabbled in every format from comedy and satire to fantasy and speculative fiction to deliver it's modern-day morality plays. At times light-hearted and humorous, at other times downright chilling, it was always effective in it's delivery. And who can forget the Reverend Kieser's narrative intros that suggested a cross between Sermonette and Rod Serling's narrations?
"Insight" and "This is the Life" were two of TV's great "Hangover
Morning" shows if you came home all messed up from Saturday night
partying.....stark, creepy and presented like play filmed in a church
auditorium. Big stars must have done this show for personal
reasons--not for the paycheck--this was a very cheaply produced show!
Yes, with all the CRAP on DVD , this needs to be seen!
Lloyd Bridges was on it way too much though. Deborah Winters was a teen actress who was in one LSD episode. She was great, and this lead to her teen trauma feature film; "The People Next Door"--which almost looked like the feature length version of "Insight" !
Insight was a show that I used to see _early_ Sunday mornings after "Davey & Goliath". The best way to describe this show is a sort of religious "Twilight Zone". In fact, if I remember correctly, there was one episode that was a blatant rip-off of the "Zone" episode about the six dolls. The twist in the plot would be some sort of morality play. It was an interesting show that was pretty subtle in its message.
Some "Insight" episodes are available on VHS from Paulist Press
(http://www.paulistpress.com). They are grouped together in sets of 3;
I have used "Christ Incognito: Classic insight Dramas: Jesus B.C., The
Day Everything Went Wrong, The Man Who Mugged God" in my Sunday School
"Wrestling with God: Classic Insight Comedies: Packy, The Walls Came Tumblin' Down, This side of Eden" worked well, too; I remembered "Packy" about an actor's agent getting into heaven though I'd seen it once over 20 years ago.
They are working on DVDs but say that it is "a slow process".
I wasn't as old as many of the writers here who remember this program
as a "hangover from Saturday night" program. And I wasn't forced to see
it in Sunday School or humanities classes. But I do remember this
program. Like the old Twilight Zone Series and Outer Limits Series, I
may not remember every episode, and everyone in it, but if I saw it
again,I would remember.
Now... this is not to say THIS program reminded me of the original Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, but it was originally aired around the same time in the 60's and longer. What got my attention about this was more like the old beginnings of "soap opera"/"playhouse 90" style of film & writing. Yes, the budgets were near existent, but the actors came out and worked their chops like a one act stage play. They seemed to be serious about what they did. That's what I remember. That's why I remember this.
The religious themes? Somewhat apparent for me. More of the irony and morality of it all - especially of the time. The 60's and 70's were turbulent times and everyone had questions about religion, morality, etc. In my view, this was a program that explored that. Because I was so young, I guess I missed the "preachy" points of it. I thought "Davey and Golith" was more preachy than this. But then again, I like live theater. This could be a spark as to why.
Yes, this was primarily shown before the "Star Spangled Banner" came on ... or right after "The Morning Farm Report" Sunday Morning when the TV station came back on their air. In the 70's I remember that it was also shown for a short time on Saturday Afternoons around 2PM or so. That's the ones I remember the most.
I too vote for digging these up and showing them again. Somen has an archive of copies of this somewhere. If "I Love Lucy", "The Donna Reed Show", and "The Honeymooners" can be shown from back in the day...this could also be restored and shown as well. (I think it would be like finding and showing the Milton Berle Show, Your Show of Shows, The Steve Allen Show, etc. rare...but not impossible.) American Life Network or the Inspirational Channel would be good stations. It would be interesting to look back at the world from the 60's -70's and early 80's...and see the work of these actors in this kind of setting once again... Preachy or not.
When I was a teenager, God was having a tough time getting through to
me through conventional, Sunday morning church services. How clever of
Him, then, to have sneaked into my stubborn consciousness through early
Sunday morning television, with the brilliant Insight series. As Greg
from Kalispell, MT also mentioned, there was an episode I have never
forgotten, titled "The Poker Game". It starred a young Beau Bridges as
a quiet, sweet, hippie sort of guy. He was wearing wire-rimmed glasses
(much like the type John Lennon wore) which may have had rose-colored
lenses - I'm not certain; I saw the episode in black and white. What I
mostly remember is the theme of tolerance, based on love, versus
intolerance, based on prejudicial, stereotypical thinking.
Another unforgettable episode had the theme of God as presumed dead. (I think Carroll O'Connor starred in this one.) A small group of self-centered, cynical, miserable people had gathered at a chapel to conduct a "funeral" for God, declaring that, given the state of the world, He must be dead. At the end of the funeral, one of the men brusquely instructed the chapel's caretaker, a simple, God-loving man, that the steeple bell was to be disconnected permanently, as it would no longer be needed.
The group reassembled at a nearby building for a "wake", which actually was more of a cocktail party during which the group members revealed a number of unsettling and unsavory aspects of their lives. But after some time, the chapel bell suddenly began to ring. Startled, the group hurried back to the chapel, where the caretaker, frightened, insisted he had not reconnected the bell.
Inside, the open casket still lay at the front. One at a time, the frightened members of the party approached it. Lying within the satin lining, each saw, with horror, who truly was dead ... without the grace and love of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
As the last person to gaze fearfully into the casket, only the caretaker found it to be empty.
God bless the late Father Kieser, Paulist Productions, and the actors, writers, and crew members who worked together to bring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit into the 20th Century so creatively and memorably.
Oh my goodness...what memories "Insight" and "This is the Life" bring
back to me even now. In a world that is rapidly changing and moving
further and further away from the God of the Bible, these two series
had some true life lessons, and gave you something to really think
about no matter what was going on around you.
Sad to say I'm not surprised they're no longer on the air, ABC one of the very 'few' channels at that day and time to even air shows of this nature (as well as the 'famous' Davey and Goliath claymation series), what an awful shame we don't get to see those shows right now when we need them the most.
If there was 'any' way that I could get them back on television, I'd do it in a flash, without a moments hesitation, as I also remember actors like Martin Sheen and a few notable others who made wonderful guest appearances on the show.
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