The Twilight Zone was a made-for-TV drama created by the great Rod Serling in 1958. Mr Serling had been influenced by many great radio programs such as Tales of Tomorrow (1951–53) and Science Fiction Theatre (1955–57). He continued in this tradition and added the visual aspect of television. The first Twilight Zone episode aired on October 2, 1959. Who can forget the well-dressed gentleman who came out smoking a cigarette with a preview of what we were about to watch? Classic!
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A Little About Rod Serling
Rod was a huge fan of Pulp Fiction stories and gobbled up any books and articles he could find. At the same time, he was incredibly interested in themes about social issues such as racism, society, war, psychology and government. All of these ideas combined made his writing immensely deep. It’s very hard to find any writers who were as creative in this way.
“The Time Element” (1958)
Before producing The Twilight Zone, CBS purchased a story from Rod Serling called “The Time Element”. They commission Rod to turn it into a full length TV movie, which aired in 1958. This movie was the pilot to the famous sci-fi series that would follow. The film starred William Bendix and Martin Balsam. It’s theme is about time travel and the main character’s ability to predict his own death during the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The Twilight Zone series was produced by Rod Serling’s own production company called “Cayuga Productions Inc”. It was named after “Cayuga Lake” where Mr Serling resided
Rod Serling made many writing contributions to the show but other brilliant authors such as Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner, Jr, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Reginald Rose, Ray Bradbury, and Jerry Sohl also made the show great
The writers for The Twilight Zone used Science Fiction as a vehicle to discuss important socials issues. By doing this, they avoided censors, who largely left sci-fi shows alone. There couldn’t possibly be any controversial political ideas in sci-fi right? Wrong! To this day, these messages are profound and powerful
Crazy Camera Work
Some of the most artistic camera angles were used by The Twilight Zone’s crew. Keep this in mind the next time you watch any episode. It really is quite remarkable! An example can be seen below where the camera is looking through the bottom of a glass card table at the main characters. Pretty creative
When The Twilight Zone series began filming, they shot it on film. In season 2, however, budget cuts forced them to start shooting on video tape and the lackluster quality can clearly be seen in the work. After 6 episodes, they went back to using film after the adamant Rod Serling demanded they cease using video tape. He was right!
Why Did The Twilight Zone Get Cancelled?
After writing 92 of the 152 Twilight Zone episodes over 5 seasons, Rod Serling felt that he was running out of ideas and some of the content he had created in season 5 seemed to repeat earlier themes. Aside from this, the CBS network wanted to change the name of the show and have it focus more on simple horror stories. Rod Serling had no interest in that, so after 5 magnificent seasons, the show came to an end
The Twilight Zone Trivia
- A Twilight Zone movie was produced by John Landis and Steven Speilberg in 1983. The great actor Vic Marrow lost his life after a helicopter blade decapitated him. The film was narrated by Burgess Meredith
- Producers tried to revive the series in 1985 but after 3 seasons, it was canceled. It just wasn’t the golden age of sci-fi TV any more
- In 1993, a made-for-TV movie called Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics was released. It featured two of Rod Serling’s works. The narrator was the great James Earl Jones, who also hosted the movie
- Mr Serling invited viewers to submit scripts and he receive over 1,500! He read over 500 of them and two were actually used
- Rod Serling wanted voice actor Richard Egan to do the narration but when Egan reported that he was not available, Rod did it himself
- After naming his show, Rod found out that “The Twilight Zone” was a term already used by US Air Force pilots. It means crossing over from a day sky to a night sky above the earth
- Desi Arnaz was technically the first host of The Twilight Zone. It was DesiLu Productions that produced the show. Thank goodness Rod Serling took control and hosted himself