Neha Patil (Editor)

Tales of the Unexpected (TV series)

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Created by
Roald Dahl


No. of series

Directed by
Liam Moody

Country of origin
United Kingdom

No. of episodes
112 (list)

Tales of the Unexpected (Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected) is a British television series which aired between 1979 and 1988. Each episode told a story, often with sinister and wryly comedic undertones, with an unexpected twist ending. Every episode of Series 1, eight episodes of Series 2 and one episode of Series 3 were based on short stories by Roald Dahl collected in the books Tales of the Unexpected, Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You.


The series was made by Anglia Television for ITV with interior scenes recorded at their Norwich studios whilst location filming mainly occurred across East Anglia. The theme music for the series was written by composer Ron Grainer.

Although similar in theme and title, the show is not related to the American anthology television series, Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected, which ran for one season in 1977.


The series originally adapted various stories from Roald Dahl's anthology books. Despite being produced on a low budget the series attracted guest stars, such as José Ferrer, Joseph Cotten, Janet Leigh, John Gielgud, John Mills, Wendy Hiller, Denholm Elliott, Katy Jurado, Joan Collins, Rod Taylor, Ian Holm, Brian Blessed, Michael Gambon, Cyril Cusack, Julie Harris, Michael Hordern, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Robert Morley, Jennifer Connelly, Siobhán McKenna, Anna Neagle, Elaine Stritch, Andrew Ray, Harry H. Corbett, and Timothy West.

Dahl introduced most of his own stories himself, giving short monologues explaining what inspired him to write them. Unlike other horror anthologies such as The Twilight Zone, Tales of the Unexpected features no supernatural or fantasy elements and instead takes place in entirely realistic settings.

Although many of Dahl's stories are left open to the reader's interpretation, the television series usually provided a generally accepted conclusion. This is exemplified in the story "The Landlady", the written version of which only hints at character Billy's fate, while the televised adaptation has a more resolved conclusion.

Later episodes were set in different locations outside the United Kingdom, with many being made in the United States.

Later series

The second series featured four episodes from other writers. The title reflected this change when it became Tales of the Unexpected – Introduced by Roald Dahl – Dahl ceased providing introductions for episodes after the programme had reached series three. The series three episode Parson's Pleasure was the final regular episode to feature an on-screen introduction by Dahl, although he did return to provide an introduction to the series eight episodes On The Cards and "Nothing' Short of Highway Robbery" and gave a brief voiceover introduction to the series four episode Shatterproof. The third and fourth series' featured two episodes apiece adapted from Dahl stories and a fifth, entitled The Surgeon, featured in the final series in 1988. The series was cancelled in 1988, after the ninth series, following a decline in viewers. 'Non-Dahl' stories included episodes adapted from stories by W Somerset Maugham. 'The Colonel's Lady' starring Pauline Collins and Joss Ackland was number one in the evening ITV ratings. Story editor Carol Gould once received flowers and a telex from the Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor asking her to find a Tales of the Unexpected in which she could appear but the search proved fruitless. In the US, John Houseman succeeded Dahl as the opening narrator.

All series have been released on DVD.

Way Out

Dahl had hosted a similar series for the American CBS network called Way Out in 1961. It was similar in concept and themes to The Twilight Zone, and ran for 14 episodes on Friday nights (ironically as the lead-in for The Twilight Zone). It used some stories which would later be adapted for Tales of the Unexpected.


Tales of the Unexpected (TV series) Wikipedia

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