Storytelling: Then and Now
He has just released what he calls “a movie full of monsters and blood and gore.” But The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard singled out everyone’s favorite sci-fi/fantasy anthology series for praise in a recent interview with the Twitch film website.
Q: Do you think storytelling in TV is better than when we were kids?
A: Well, I mean just look at The Twilight Zone. Those guys were pumping out tons of episodes a year of amazing quality. They would laugh at us today with our 22-episode schedules. Even when the special effects were cheesy, the stories, more often than not, were great.
Twilight Zone, of course, was a labor of love for creator Rod Serling, who worked long days with a very talented crew to ensure that the series offered “extremely polished films,” as he put it. But Goddard has put his finger on another aspect of the series that isn’t always highlighted: It offered not only quality, but quantity.
Today, we’re used to TV series having 22-episode seasons. Some, in fact, air even fewer episodes: The Walking Dead, for example, aired a highly successful 13-episode Season 2 earlier this year. But that wasn’t the norm back in the early 1960s. Seasons typically ran longer, and it wasn’t unusual for hit series to air new episodes on major holidays.
The only season of Twilight Zone to air fewer than 20 episodes was the 4th (18 episodes) — and that was when the series was expanded to an hour and run as a mid-season replacement. The more-famous half-hour seasons (1, 2, 3 and 5) averaged over 30 episodes a season, with one season (the 3rd) getting up to 37 altogether.
When Goddard says “pumping out tons of episodes a year of amazing quality,” he isn’t exaggerating in the slightest.
All that work took its toll on Serling, who frankly admitted to feeling burned out as the series wore on (which explains why the 4th and 5th seasons weren’t as uniformly excellent as the first three). But that work also left us a great legacy of thoughtful entertainment — entertainment that continues to inspire young filmmakers more than half a century later.
For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.
Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!