Friday, July 4, 2014

Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone

On October 2, 1959, CBS broadcast the first episode of Rod Serling's series, The Twilight Zone. For the program, Serling fought hard to get and maintain creative control while maintaining the series was not science-fiction. It was fantasy. He hired scriptwriters whom he respected (such as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont). In an interview, Serling said the show's science fiction format would not be controversial with sponsors, network executives or the general public and would escape censorship, unlike his experienced with Playhouse 90.

Serling drew on his own experience for many episodes, frequently about boxing, military life, and airplane pilots. The Twilight Zone incorporated his social views on racial relations, somewhat veiled in the science fiction and fantasy elements of the shows. Occasionally, the point was quite blunt, such as in the episode "I Am the Night -- Color Me Black," in which racism and hatred causes a dark cloud to form in the American South, before spreading across the world.

The Twilight Zone aired for five seasons (the first three presented half-hour episodes, the fourth hour-long episodes and the fifth returned to the half-hour format). It won many TV and drama awards, and drew much critical acclaim for Serling and his co-workers. Though it had a loyal fan base, The Twilight Zone drew only moderate ratings and was twice canceled and revived. After five years and 156 episodes (92 written by himself), Serling grew weary of the series. In 1964, he decided to not oppose its third and final cancellation.
In 1965, he sold his 50 percent ownership rights of The Twilight Zone to CBS. His wife later claimed he did this partly because he believed his own studio would never recoup the production costs of the programs, which frequently went over budget.

The enclosed letters will be of amusement for fans of The Twilight Zone. Enjoy!


Danny said...

I suppose Serling never anticipated THE TWILIGHT ZONE having such a long afterlife. Sort of like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz selling I LOVE LUCY to CBS in the 1950s. At the time, it was thought they had made a great deal. Of course, those shows, like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, have made their costs back for CBS many times over, but who would have anticipated that? Lucille Ball said many years later that she and Desi Arnaz honestly never anticipated those LUCY episodes having any life beyond five, maybe ten years, at most.

Alexander Simon said...

“Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was anAmerican screenwriter, playwright, television producer, and narrator known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series,The Twilight Zone.”

In the next CBC TV Series Episode: “The Last Ticket Out.” is an adaptive Episode: ‘Time Cycle.’
Here, a man is accused of rare mind and is a grand wizard of resumes! Ted Efton; holds his lonely office in New Jersey; and has a cool fan for company and reads new clients needing work! “Sandra; read; me the new and wanting today.” Ted smokes a pipe ivory black and finds a new applicant is more than honest! The black-and-white is filming as Ted finds 10 more phoney resumes to tend with and scoffs, smoking! “Sandra; this Joe Black I need.” His education is is real American and needs a law firm. He is Hungarian and married too!”
Redd Williams eats his hamburger late in the night and finds his new interest is his lost son! Stolen!! Birds fly past his window late and tosses the remaining pieces for a bird starving! His fridge counts in a ticking motion explaining who is to be hired. Redd reviews his resume and falls in a slumber while birds gather ….
After, sleeping Redd meets his son for the first time and is disturbed! He finds that rare birds help his ‘lost’ son find work, too! Joe finds a column in the “Daily Times” in Chicago. He reads bad copy and wishes his Dad was present. More, birds gather and convey the news there! Chiming are two doves hark ling!!
In mystery the doves land inside; and find Joe angry for the Headline of the Times reads:
“Man died defending his wife today.”
Crying the two Doves fly to another area of murder.
Redd Williams is pronounced dead!
His last testament is his only son is not here at the funeral.
In, the last scene; Joe Black reads the “Daily Times;” as rain pours fierce and birds whet ‘race-to-and-by.’

Anonymous said...

Serling's THE TWILIGHT ZONE is literally the *only* tv show from the 20th century that is well-known to and liked by my young friends under 25 or so. Wonderful.

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