You'll remember, of course, the dancing nudey lady, the tarot cards, the spinning gun, the roulette wheel, the demon's eyes lighting up and all of that hokum.* And what followed was quite the guessing game.
What was the twist in the Tale going to be? Who was going to end up trapped by their own silliness, or greed; or end up blown up, or stabbed, or killed in some horrible way? Usually you could guess them, but sometimes you couldn't.
It strikes me, bearing in mind the return of the Polish bogeymen and Princess Diana in the Express this week, that our friends in the tabloids are providing the antidote to Tales of the Unexpected - tales of the very much expected. Instead of trying to work out how the narrative arc would veer off in a surprising direction, they don't make you struggle with that puzzler. All you have to do is sit back, relax and let the story unfold exactly as you expect. It's reassuringly predictable. Quite a lot of the time it's not the whole picture, or slightly misleading, or very misleading, or completely wrong, or even deliberately misleading lies or concealing 'inconvenient little facts' to pursue an agenda or make the story sound more interesting than it really is.
However it arrives on the page, though, it's expected. The papers aren't there to challenge. They're not there to make you work your brain as hard as you might do, say, while watching a drama with a twist in the story that you might like to try and guess. In the world of the tabloids, there is no guessing. Guess who's paying?!?! You don't have to guess, you know. You're paying for everything, that's the way it works.
It's your taxes being spent on wastrels, miscreants, crims and single mums. That's the story and that's the way it will always be. Something has been banned, and it is Labour or health and safety, or the PC Brigade, who are to blame. Immigrants are pouring over here in record numbers, and siphoning off benefits while simultaneously stealing jobs from British workers somehow, and you can't do anything about it. Those are the stories that get written, whether or not they bear any relation to the truth.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't hate the readers of these publications. No-one could hold the readers in more contempt than the people who put the stories together. It's writing a fucking lazy load of shit, the same stories again and again and again with the details slightly rearranged, so that everyone can fold their arms and relax and say: Oh good, that's just as I expected.
There is of course one rather giant pitfall to all this, which you've probably already spotted. If I say that the papers keep running the same story again and again, and I keep writing stories saying that they keep running the same story again and again again and again, then I'm doing exactly what I'm accusing them of doing, aren't I?
That's one of the (many) reasons why I've given up the D**ly M**l for the past couple of weeks, though I'll write more on that later; it doesn't really do me any good to sink into the quicksand and write the same predictable, expected tosh day in and day out, even if I'm accurately reporting the fact that other people are writing the same predictable, expected tosh day in and day out.
Hopefully, there are enough distractions along the way to stop this all getting a bit stale. Every now and then I do something like saying that Jan Moir's written something good, just to stop getting into a rut or to fall into the same trap of churning out template stories as I think the tabloids have. I wish I could say it was easier to write about tabloids doing the unexpected, but it isn't.
But still, let's let the nudey ladies come dancing in from the corners and let the credits roll over the roulette wheel. As a reminder, if nothing else, that even unexpected things need familiarity. Not as much as Diana and the Bogeypoles, though - no-one needs that kind of familiarity, thanks very much.
* Those of you who remember none of this, you poor souls, and who are unfamiliar with the 1970s Sunday night treat that was Tales of the Unexpected, should speed over to TV Cream and from there on to YouTube, where there are a number of Tales on offer, from the woodenly acted and hilarious to the genuinely disturbing. My favourite of the latter category is Flypaper.