Cliffhangers (TV series)

Cliffhangers is an American drama television series that debuted on NBC from February 27 to May 1, 1979.

Title card
Created byKenneth Johnson
Composer(s)Joe Harnell
Country of originUSA
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes10
Executive producer(s)Kenneth Johnson
Producer(s)Richard Milton
Running time60 min.
Production company(s)Universal Television
DistributorNBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseFebruary 27 (1979-02-27) 
May 1, 1979 (1979-05-01)


Cliffhangers attempted to revive the genre of movie serials in a made-for-TV format. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) segments featuring different storylines. During the series' run, three serials were featured - a mystery, a science fiction/western hybrid, and a horror story:[1]

  1. "Stop Susan Williams": Susan Anton stars as a beautiful TV journalist investigating the murder of her brother, and stumbling on a vast international conspiracy. This featured series drama also co-starred Ray Walston.
  2. "The Secret Empire": the adventures of a U.S. Marshal (Geoffrey Scott) in the Old West who stumbles upon a futuristic underground city run by aliens.
  3. "The Curse of Dracula": starring Michael Nouri as Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco.

To add to the "in-progress" feeling of the proceedings, all three series were started with different chapter numbers (although this was the first broadcast for all of them): "Stop Susan Williams" began at Chapter II, "The Secret Empire" started with Chapter III, and "The Curse of Dracula" with Chapter VI. The series was cancelled after only 10 episodes were aired, by which point only "The Curse of Dracula" had reached its conclusion. However, one unaired episode (which did air overseas) featured the two concluding chapters of "The Secret Empire" as well as the final part of "Stop Susan Williams." American viewers later got a chance to see the concluding part of "Stop Susan Williams" in the TV-movie The Girl Who Saved The World which re-edited the 11 installments into a single two-hour movie ("Curse of Dracula" was also re-edited as two TV-movies for later airing called Dracula '79 and World of Dracula).

  • "Stop Susan Williams" was a take-off of the old serial The Perils of Pauline.
  • "The Secret Empire" was a pastiche of the Gene Autry movie serial The Phantom Empire. Scenes in the futuristic underground city were in color, but scenes in the 19th century Wild West on the surface were sepia-toned.
  • "The Curse of Dracula" revolved around the notion that after 600 years, Dracula was getting tired of immortality and, in pursuit of the love of a beautiful woman, sought mortality so that he could live out his days with her.

Cliffhangers was an expensive production due to three simultaneous production units being required. The hope was that if, after 10-12 serial episodes, a serial caught on, that it could be spun off as a series, but the series aired opposite Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, the #1 and #2 most popular shows in television at the time, and was cancelled after 10 episodes.

The series was created by Kenneth Johnson and staffed by many young writers who went on to become quite successful, including, Craig Faustus Buck, Harry Longstreet, Renee Longstreet, Andrew Schneider, Sam Egan, Richard Christian Matheson, and Jeri Taylor.

Episode list

Stop Susan Williams The Secret Empire The Curse of Dracula Air date
1 "Chapter 2: The Silent Enemy" "Chapter 3: Plunge Into Mystery" "Chapter VI: Lifeblood" February 27, 1979 (1979-02-27)
2 "Chapter 3: Jungle Death Trap" "Chapter 4: Prisoner of the Empire" "Chapter VII: Blood Stream" March 6, 1979 (1979-03-06)
3 "Chapter 4: Thundering Doom" "Chapter 5: The Mind Twisters" "Chapter VIII: Demons of the Dark" March 13, 1979 (1979-03-13)
4 "Chapter 5: Deadly Descent" "Chapter 6: Seeds of Revolt" "Chapter IX: Depository of Death" March 20, 1979 (1979-03-20)
5 "Chapter 6: Watery Grave" "Chapter 7: Attack of the Phantom Riders" "Chapter X: Sepulchre of the Undead" March 27, 1979 (1979-03-27)
6 "Chapter 7: Cauldron of Fire" "Chapter 8: Sizzling Threat" "Chapter XI: Threshold of Eternity" April 3, 1979 (1979-04-03)
7 "Chapter 8: River of Blood" "Chapter 9: Mandibles of Death" "Chapter XII: Where Angels Fear to Tread" April 10, 1979 (1979-04-10)
8 "Chapter 9: Wheels of Destruction" "Chapter 10: The Last Gasp" "Chapter XIII: Sealed in Blood" April 17, 1979 (1979-04-17)
9 "Chapter 10: Terror from the Sky" "Chapter 11: Return to Chimera" "Chapter XIV: Thirst for Death" April 24, 1979 (1979-04-24)
10 "Chapter 11: The Villain Revealed" "Chapter 12: Powerhouse" "Chapter XV: Pleas of the Damned" May 1, 1979 (1979-05-01)
11 "Chapter 12: Crypt of Disaster" "Chapter 13: Partisans Unchained"
"Chapter 14: Escape to the Stars"

See also


  1. "Cliffhangers: "Stop Susan Williams"". 2005-02-15. Retrieved 18 March 2012.



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