Despite being a contemporary of the classic Twilight Zone television series, the journalism/true crime show Deadline (which aired 1959-1961) literally disappeared for over 50 years, forgotten in a New Jersey garage. Now all 39 episodes of the show have been unearthed and are available to see for the first time in decades… It’s as though the gods of Journalistic Honor waited until the right moment to remind us of a time when newspaper reporters were revered as heroes and the guardians of truth and justice.
With plots “ripped from the headlines”, each episode is introduced by host/actor Paul Stewart, casually sitting on the edge of a desk in a busy newspaper room. As typewriters clack behind him and editors urgently circle last-minute edits on proofs, Stewart solemnly introduces viewers to a sordid headline with a mystery attached… a mystery inevitably solved the diligent investigative reporting by a newspaperman. As each mystery is dramatized (one compact story per episode), the newspaperman (always said as one word) is always the star (and is often played by Stewart himself), going the extra mile to find out the truth, even if it means getting harassed, beat up, or even blinded (!!!) in the process! These roll-up-your-sleeves reporters are the clearly the heroes of the show. After all, it’s called… Deadline!
Perhaps it is a reflection of the era, but this show is solid and very watchable. I found myself whipping through the first of three discs of episodes, as dames got murdered by travelling salesmen, a teen smashed a chair over his aunt’s head because she wouldn’t buy him jeans, and a war vet turns to robbing banks, hoping for suicide-by-cop to deal with his PTSD for dropping a bomb that killed thousands. In other words, the stories are still interesting because they are timeless. The only difference is that people chain smoke in their offices, women sit around the house all day in housecoats, and the men, when off the clock, are dressed super-sharp in khakis and pressed white shirts with the sleeves rolled up.
I admit, Deadline gave me an extra thrill because, back in the day, I wanted to be a journalist because of stories like these. I find the distrust of reporters and the polarization of sensational media to be appalling. Finding out and reporting just the facts, ma’am, is not a bad thing. It’s too back that it takes a decades-old show to remind us that everything, by default, isn’t Fake News.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Extras include a trailer, trivia, a photo gallery, a featurette about journalism past and present, and an interview with broadcast journalism professor Joe Alicastro.