Serling on Awards
Rod Serling won numerous major writing awards throughout his career, including six Emmy awards. Yet he was surprisingly unimpressed with such trophies.
Here’s what he told editor Linda Brevelle in what turned out to be his last interview (March 1975). She asked how he could top himself after being feted on so many occasions, and he replied:
Well, first of all, I’ve never really topped myself, because awards in themselves really don’t reflect major accomplishment. It’s kind of a strange, backslapping ritual that we go through in this town where you get awards for almost everything. For surviving the day you’re going to get awards. So I can’t suggest that those things represent any pinnacle of achievement.
If indeed they did, I suppose I’d be worried about how do I top myself. But if indeed I’m a household name, it’s a fortuitous event, really singularly undeserved, and caused by a whole lot of extraneous, fortuitous things that have occurred.
But again, it’s part of the business of really not caring about topping myself, because I really don’t care what’s going to happen. I think just surviving is a major thing. I’d like to write something that my peers, my colleagues, my fellow writers would find a source of respect. I think I’d rather win, for example, a Writer’s Guild award than almost anything on earth. And the few nominations I’ve had with the guild, and the few awards I’ve had, represented to me a far more legitimate concrete achievement than anything.
Emmys, for example, most of that’s bulls**t. Oscars are even worse. We have a strange, terrible affliction in this town. Everybody walks around bent-backed from slapping each other on the backs so much. It looks like arthritis, but it isn’t. It’s hunger for recognition. And it’s sort of like, well, I’ll scratch you this time if you’ll scratch me next time. That kind of thing.
And if that doesn’t convince you, consider the fact that Alfred Hitchcock never won a Best Director Oscar. Not once.
There’s no question that Serling deserved the awards he got, and more. But surely it matters more that his work is still read, watched and enjoyed so many years later. I’m sure he’d consider that — along with a Writer’s Guild award, of course — the only prizes really worth having in the end.