Rod Serling, the incredible man behind the Twilight Zone, died at age 50 on June 28, 1975.
I don’t know how many people reading this watched the Twilight Zone as it aired originally for five years starting on Oct. 2, 1959. Certainly not me. I’ve seen maybe seven episodes in all. But each has stayed with me as a momentary white dwarf of concentrated briliance.
It’s one of those shows that in rare appearances arrests my attention to the point where cockroaches could be nibbling my toes and crawling across my fingers and I wouldn’t notice. And if I did, I’d just figure it was just some amazing qualitative effect of the show.
From what I can tell the show was completely and utterly way ahead of its time. It messed with your mind something delightful and it had to increase any person’s creativity and analytical thinking skills by about 30 or 40 IQ points.
X-Files is, I think, about as close as we have had to the show in modern times. The film “Big” also had elements of The Twilight Zone. Certainly the 2002-2003 UPN return of the Twilight Zone has the barest passing touch of similar class but it has none of the awe-inspiring feeling that watching a 45-year-old show brings – a show that had all these ideas first. Well, truthfully, mostly the authors whose short stories were adapted had the ideas first. However, Serling wrote many of the original 156 episodes himself.
The show was a simultaneous showcase for the small detail and, after a few moments thought, the big picture. “Twist” is the operative and repetitive word used to describe the change in direction away from convention. Anything capable of taking on convention with such understated power is to me the epitome of creative skill and knowledge.
The show, with the only insight I can provide (that would be 20/20 hindsight) seemed to be a show that worked on a whole different thought level – and therefore got a lot of controversial ideas past the networks in very devisive political times. 1959 to 1964 was, of course, the time when the idea of space flight really blossomed and children and adults began to wonder if they could make it into space themselves.
Rod Serling – a media star at the time – with dark humor etched in his voice, presented a show far beyond what anyone had a right to respect. I am not doing my pure wonderous joy justice here. At this moment I can think of no other show that would be a rival for the best of all time.
In the big picture of art, this small picture show has themes that have resonated loudly through all the decades since – and up to today.
See also the truly freaky tale of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s father Vic Murrow, decapitated while filming Twilight Zone – The Movie in 1982 (along with two child extras. Link
- Wikipedia’s Episode Guide; though it doesn’t go beyond the titles and the main actors. Link
- A fascinating interactive “time travel” episode guide. The intro page has almost nothing on it. Click words to get to the episode you may remember. If it happened at all. It could just be your nightmares coming back to life. Link