Filming TZ’s “Where is Everybody?” Went Smoothly — Minus One Costly Mistake

Not many TV shows get off to a solid start. Even ones that go on to become classics need time to get the formula just right.

That wasn’t the case with The Twilight Zone. “Where is Everybody?” proved to be an ideal introduction to that land of shadow and substance. But that doesn’t mean it had a trouble-free production.

Just ask Earl Holliman. In a 1987 interview that’s excerpted in “The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia”, he recalled:

It was a joy to do, except the first day. It was very cold on the universal back lot, and it’s hard to do scenes all by yourself — you’ve got nobody to play off.

We were working very hard, starting early in the morning, and now it was dark. We were just about to quit when I heard the camera operator say “Uh-oh.” It seems that he had forgotten to do something, and we didn’t have one single useful foot of exposed film. That whole day was for naught.

I went home feeling terrible. It turned out I had a 102° fever. When you watch the pilot, you’ll see that I sound very hoarse in those first few scenes. That’s not character work, that was me being hoarse.

It took nine days to produce that inaugural episode. Even if you subtract that first, wasted day, it’s easy to see why it took more than a week to do. An enormous amount of care and effort went into making it, and you can see every dime of its $75,000 estimated cost right there on the screen. It’s really a short, high-quality feature film.

In a thank-you note to his leading man, Serling said, “Your performance was outstanding, full of dimension, shading, and a fantastic believability. In short, Holliman, you’re one hell of an actor!”

Hard not to agree, especially when you know that a production snafu made it a bigger job than he expected, and that he carried on while battling a high fever!


Ever wonder where Serling got the idea for the episode? Try this post. And did you know that “Where is Everybody?” almost didn’t have Serling’s narration? Try this post to hear what the opening credits would have sounded like, and hear a flub that Serling corrected before the episode was finalized.

For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook 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.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 05/15/2020, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. bibliomike2020

    How ironic! The first episode of a series famous for twist endings (even though this episode itself doesn’t have much of one) was plagued by a behind-the-scenes twist! Thanks for sharing this anecdote with us – I did not know it, and I’m ashamed to say I don’t know about “The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia,” either. (Zicree’s book I know — gave away my well-worn copy of the first edition, now own the second, and keep meaning to buy the third.)

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Mike! Zicree’s book (down to the third edition, which I checked before finishing this post) doesn’t mention this problem. Martin Grams’s book does, and so does Volume 1 of “As Timeless As Infinity”, which reprints the original script, but neither goes into any detail. This quote in the TZ Encyclopedia is the only reference I’ve seen with any detail. Love spotlighting these tidbits!

  2. It’s always good to learn a little more about these classics. I never thought about the “playing off” other actors. That would be hard, but he carries it well. I love the scene in the diner.

    • That’s one of my favorites, too. “Hash browns! Eggs, over easy!” Makes me hungry just hearing it. :) And yes, it’s funny — knowing how most actors love the spotlight, you’d think a virtual one-man show would be welcome, but I’ve heard others say it’s tough to act with no else, either.

  3. Reblogged this on blackwings666 and commented:
    Every so often I have to reblog a post from SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE -The best TWILIGHT ZONE blog around, in my opinion. This episode entitled WHERE IS EVERYBODY? was one of the first TWILIGHT ZONE episodes that I ever saw – a long, long time ago when I use to watch it on WPIX 11 in New York. This episode left quite an impression.

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