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 (after commercials) segments featuring different storylines. During the series' run, three serials were featured - a mystery, a science fiction/western hybrid, and a horror story:
In an effort to recreate the movie serial experience, none of the three serials began with the first chapter. "Stop Susan Williams" began with Chapter II, "The Secret Empire" 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 eleven installments into a single two hour movie ("Curse Of Dracula" was also re-edited as two TV-movies for later airing).
"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 "in glorious black and white".
"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, at the time, the most expensive TV series ever produced 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 network soon tired of the financial burden and never let it build an audience. The fact that it aired opposite "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley", which were the #1 and #2 most popular shows in television at the time, certainly didn't help.
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.