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Rod Serling died 30 years ago today: Where is Everybody? Scully?

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(Theme music will start playing real soon.)

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.

One day.

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

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Fine obit – a momentary flash, perhaps?

    I think the Twilight Zone’s effects go beyond television – the twist became the device for much of the genre – books, films, stories.

  • http://wisdomandmurder.blogspot.com Lisa McKay

    Not to mention the iconic theme music…

    Temple, not sure if you get the Sci-Fi Channel where you live, but occasionally they have Twilight Zone marathons, so you might want to keep an eye out. Also good were the original Outer Limits episodes, which aired sometime in the early ’60s.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Added the theme to draw you further in (and scare the begeesus out of you).

    Curse me now or curse me never. Sorry if you startled your work colleagues.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    People who have only encountered TZ reruns sometimes miss how good a short-story writer Serling was. (His stories were not published in magazines, but conceived and written as TV screenplays.) He also had an uncanny “eye” for other writer’s stories that would adapt well as a TZ presentation.

    The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories (Amazon 1567310656) is a collection of other-authored tales that shows clearly this uncelebrated talent. While the screenplay adaptations are printed in the The Definitive Edition, this book has the original version that caught Serling’s attention.

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    While there are some absolute TZ classics — “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” and the one with Burgess Meredith as the bookworm who survives a nuclear attack — there is also a lot of crap. Serling and his writers seemed to have a handful of ideas that they recycled endlessly — going back in time, going forward in time, etc. — and some topical issues they riffed on endlessly. It seems, week for week, like it was one or the other. I love the show, and it has played a huge role in my life as a TV viewer, but they weren’t all brilliant. The ideas really petered out in the last season.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Were you one of those who watched it when it orignally aired?

    And crap compared to …. ?

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Good job T, with the audio – Gives me what I need for my next quiz – an easy way to deliver audio for questions that need it

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Temple, no, I didn’t see it when it originally aired; I started watching when it was in syndication, repeated on a local station in the late 1960s. Since then, I’ve seen it endlessly in repeats. The bad episodes were as bad as anything else that was bad on television; the inspiration wasn’t always there, and Serling’s little civic lessons could get very simplistic. Same goes for “Night Gallery,” Serling’s TZ retread from the early 1970s; it had some wonderful stuff on it, and I looked forward to seeing it every week, but it was hard for him and his crew to keep up the quality.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Fair enough.

    Simple is what works often enough, though and people try and complicate plots with cute diversions. I’m going to start buying these DVDs and I’ll tell you if I agree.

  • http://www.magicjunk.com/blog/ Mark Sahm

    Perhaps the Twilight Zone connection would explain why Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear, eight years ago today.

  • KC

    “I’m going to start buying these DVDs and I’ll tell you if I agree.”—Temple Stark

    Man, I envy you getting to see those for the very first time.

    I’ve heard people say that he could get preachy, but imho he simply knew how to express himself thru storytelling. A lost art in T.V. probably more from a fear of stepping on toes and not lack of talent. It’s allowing a writer to tell the story within the story that often produces the best work.

  • Nick Jones

    There was a second, perhaps forgotten, run on network TV. It only lasted a season or so, but there were some classic episodes.

  • Morton D Barker III

    The best is yet to come. Have a nice day.

  • John

    Please!!!!! No show can compare. I bought all seasons on blu-ray. And I’m having a blast. Better than anything on tv now.

  • arlene rogerswilhite

    I grew up on TZ I lvoe it and still do, In fact watching it on Netflik as I write and listen…I love how you wrote your thoughts about it and just hadt osay thanks. I don’t usually comment on oopen pages but I think you did a great job. There is not anything that I beleive compares to TZ the writing the man Mr. Rod Serling. Genius. People ask me why I lvoe it so I tel them it stimulates my mind and helps me see lfie in a whole different light. Take care.