Friends, in the nearly nine years that I’ve had the pleasure of writing for the Retroist, I am pretty positive that I’ve never held back my absolute love of the work of Rod Serling. Granted that mostly comes about through the Saturday Frights podcast episodes dealing with The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery – but if you could take a look at my personal library you wouldn’t be too surprised to see that I have a good handful of books on Serling himself. Early in my youth, I’m talking High School here, I had a dream of becoming a film Director and one of those reasons was because of the writing of Serling, I found him to be an amazing personality to read about with his vision of what television and film could and should be. A moral man who gave it his all – waging something akin to a war with the television sponsors and studio heads of the day. Aspects of that are touched upon in this 1968 interview originally broadcast on WETA-TV, provided by the Library of Congress – A Conversation with Rod Serling.
If there was an opportunity, a realm if you will where once a year we were allowed to have dinner with five people, alive or passed on – Rod Serling would always have a seat at that table. I have shared this before but when I was a kid, my Father was gracious enough to tell me a bedtime story – even after working 12 hour days in a steel factory. The thing was he was so tired he didn’t want to read me anything… so he would in fact tell me stories that originated from The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery or The Outer Limit episodes. Not that he told me this of course – you can imagine my surprise when in High School, Twilight Zone episodes started to be shown in syndication in my neck of the woods and I realized that 99% of the time I knew what was going to happen – it was a wicked case of deja vu I can assure you.
An interesting fact is that Rod Serling was a fan of radio – especially in his youth when he would listen to the shows of Arch Oboler, the creator of Lights Out, a series we have visited on more than one occasion for the Retro Radio Memories podcast. I think those excellent radio dramas helped to shape his writing style – although with Serling he made sure to always speak his mind and the truth in whatever he happened to be writing. Even if in the case of The Twilight Zone he had to alter certain aspects to fly his message under the radar of the censors, corporate sponsors and TV executives.
Serling will always be associated with his creation of The Twilight Zone and for good reason as it STILL is an exceptional landmark in anthology television. Over 156 episodes – spanning five seasons – Rod Serling showed us the darkness within us all as well as the very best of Humanity. And while I will quickly admit that not every episode is a classic – Serling and his team of writers and showrunners succeeded more than they failed. There have been a few attempts over the years to resurrect the series – with their own success and failures to be fair – but now the esteemed Jordan Peele is set to debut his version of The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access beginning on April 1st. I say this in all honesty that I have never felt that Serling’s vision has been in more capable hands than with Peele – as I believe this new trailer demonstrates.