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!