For that reason alone, Amazing Stories could easily be considered an outlier, just like it was three-and-a-half decades ago. When the anthology series first hit NBC in 1985, the concept that Steven Spielberg would bring his love of storytelling to the small-screen made complete sense. The groundbreaking filmmaker was riding high off a string of back-to-back box office successes -- Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to be exact. Under the Amblin Entertainment banner, Spielberg was focused on telling inspiring big tales of adventure and wonder through a TV narrative.
At that time, the anthology format that originally became popular with 1960s programs like Rod Serling's Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits was once again connecting with audiences. In 1983, the Creepshow partnership of Stephen King and George Romero continued on the small screen with Tales From the Darkside. Just two years later, as Spielberg drew inspiration from Amazing Stories, the pulpy science fiction magazine of his youth, the first revival of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone hit CBS.
Amazing Stories ended up winning five Emmy Awards during its two-season run. Noteworthy filmmakers like Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Robert Zemekis (Back to the Future), and Brad Bird (The Incredibles), who made his directorial debut in 1987 with the show's only animated episode, "Family Dog," were able to hone their craft and experiment with the medium.
Critical acclaim can only go so far, though. And while the show boasted strong directorial talent and performances from actors like Kevin Costner, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and Tim Robbins, the series failed at connecting with audiences. Just two years after its premiere, NBC canceled the series. Amblin Entertainment's first foray into television had come to an end.
Amazing Stories was ahead of its time. Unlike today, small-screen programming used to be a place devoted to low-stakes entertainment. Whether it came in the form of police procedurals, daytime soap operas, or three-camera sitcoms, the most successful stories on TV ended up being the ones that could easily be described as comfort food for the masses.