Home Television Drama Tales of The Unexpected

Tales of The Unexpected

1 9 7 9 – 1 9 8 8 (UK)
72 x 24 minute episodes

Anglia’s series of half-hour plays with a sting in the tale (and usually featuring well-known stars, many of them American) began in 1979 and was originally based on Roald Dahl stories.

Teleplays were eventually added by such masters of crime and suspense as Ruth Rendell, Julian Symons and Stanley Ellin.


One of the most memorable episodes was titled Royal Jelly (pictured above) which revolved around a mother (Susan George) who is concerned that her newborn baby is not thriving.

Her husband (Timothy West) is a beekeeper who is overly fond of his produce and has some novel ideas about how it could be put to use.

The debut episode The Man From The South featured an American sailor on holiday in Jamaica who became involved in a bizarre bet with Carlos (Jose Ferre), who loved to gamble. When the young man boasted about his cigarette lighter, Carlos offered him his car (a Jag) if he could strike his lighter successfully ten times in a row. But if he failed even once, Carlos would cut off his finger.

Other standout episodes included Lamb to the Slaughter where devoted and pregnant housewife Mary (Susan George) was preparing dinner when her policeman husband Patrick (Michael Byrne) returned home from work and told her that he was leaving her.

Mary had a leg of lamb from the deep-freezer to cook for their dinner but in a panic, she hit Patrick on the head and killed him. The investigating police concluded that Patrick was killed with a large, blunt object, but were baffled when the murder weapon could not be found – as Mary asked them to stay for a lamb dinner.

Smart performances by actors such as Derek Jacobi, John Gielgud, Rachel Kempson and Joan Collins gave added bite, but by the mid-80s the fund of good stories seemed to have run out and the series became ‘Tales of the Totally Predictable’ with a macabre ending just tacked on.

The sinister ‘Carousel’ theme music was by Ron Grainer.