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.
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 Susan George, Siân Phillips, 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, 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, science fiction or fantasy elements and instead takes place in entirely realistic settings (With the exceptions of the season one episode “William and Mary” and the season four episode “The Sound Machine”)
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.