Banishing Mistakes to the Cornfield: The Never-Ending Quest For Accurate TZ Info

Pop quiz: How many of The Twilight Zone‘s 156 episodes did Rod Serling write?

Not many people know off the top of their heads, but I can hear some of the more diehard fans calling out, “92!” And how right you are.

So imagine my surprise when I saw someone post an item in a TZ fan group on Facebook claiming that Serling had written 99. He then added something about what an amazingly high number that was, or how much work that represented.

Hey, anyone can make a mistake. I’ve seen a lot of them over the years. So even though I wanted to set the record straight, I didn’t want to embarrass the person who did it.

That’s why, when this sort of thing happens, I try to take a light tone and not act like a jerk. A good way to do that is to mix the correction with some genuine agreement or praise, so in this case, I said something like: “Actually, it was 92. But yes, what a workhorse Serling was! It’s incredible that he was able to write so much, and such high quality.”

If that’s all there was to it, I wouldn’t even be writing this post. Most people are like, “Oh, my mistake! Thanks.” But not this guy. He was like, nope, you’re wrong. It’s 99.

Now, I know for a fact that it’s 92. And not just because several expert sources (such as Marc Scott Zicree, the author of “The Twilight Zone Companion“) tell me so. I know it because I have literally counted each one. And by “literally”, I mean going down the list of episodes and going, “One … two … three … ” for each one Serling wrote.

I can’t imagine not doing that. Sure, it’s more work. Yes, it’s a bit time-consuming. But I really want to give people accurate information. And my desire to do that is stronger than the temptation to be lazy.

Besides, we’ve all seen how easily mistakes proliferate online. You don’t have to be a journalism major (as I am) to know it’s wise to check and double-check your information.

That brings me back to Mr. 99. Although I was determined to correct his mistake (especially since the initial commenters were saying, “Wow!” and things like that), I didn’t want to belabor the point. I figured it would be enough to send him a list of the episodes and tell him he could count the writing credits for himself. (Spoiler alert: You’ll count 92 for Serling.)

So I posted a link to the Wikipedia page listing TZ’s original episodes. You can probably guess what his reply was: Hey, anyone can edit a Wikipedia page. I know that, of course; I simply grabbed a handy link that I knew was accurate (at least on this point) because I had verified it myself.

But here — appropriately enough — was the twist. At some point he shared his source for the 99 figure: the Fandom.com page for Twilight Zone headlined “The Twilight Zone episodes written by Rod Serling.” And that page had a list of Serling’s episodes with a sentence at the top saying he’d written 99.

The irony was, the same guy who had just called Wikipedia an unreliable source had based his post on a Wiki page that was no more trustworthy than the one I had shared.

Things ended well in our discussion, by the way. He wasn’t happy about it, of course. I can’t blame him for that, but it didn’t turn nasty, as these discussions often do. Pride makes it hard to take a public correction well, which is why I try to do it nicely. But it still hurts.

Fortunately, we were smiling at the end, at least figuratively speaking. That’s why I’m not mentioning any names or providing any links. Speaking of links, though, I’m happy to say that Fandom page is correct now, and for a very good reason: I went on there and fixed it myself.

Amusingly enough, the math wasn’t even right by its own standards. It said 99 at the top, as I mentioned, but the list it provided added up to 96! And get this: It left out one of Serling’s episodes (Season 2’s “Dust”), but counted four stories that had been filmed again in the ’80s and ’00s reboots, and one reboot episode that had been based on a story outline by Serling.

Huh? Why count four episodes twice and throw in a story based on an outline? Especially when it says 99 out of 156.

So why share all this? It’s not to brag, believe me. As careful as I try to be, I mess up now and then too.

No, I share it because the experience really underscored for me the importance of making sure the information I come across is accurate. Mind you, I’ve been striving from day one to get it right. But in the early days, I was more apt to think it was enough to get a piece of information from one seemingly trustworthy source.

Nope. You need to double-check it. Heck, if you can, triple-check it.

The quotes that I share here and on my Twitter page, for example? I don’t simply copy them out of a script book or a book about the show. Sure, that may be my first stop. But I will go to that scene and play it, making sure that the wording is precise. (The only thing I ever edit for is space when absolutely necessary.) I’m determined to make sure every syllable is correct.

And when I make a mistake, I fix it as quickly as possible. I’m happy to say that it is rare, but that’s only because I hold myself to a very high standard. Serling certainly did, so it’s the least I can do as I celebrate and honor his great work.

Occasionally, I’ve discovered a misworded quote from the early days, so before posting the same wording again, I correct it and then delete the old tweets so they don’t circulate. (It’s remarkable how often my old tweets surface when people do a search for all things Serling.)

Or an anniversary date is wrong. In an interesting bit of timing, in fact, I discovered quite recently that I had been posting the wrong date for the premiere of Night Gallery’s “Fright Night.” The incorrect date (which I won’t repeat here) is almost two months before the actual date of December 10, 1972. Wiki’s got it right in this case, but IMDb has it wrong (which is where I pulled it from years ago without confirming it).

At least if I make a mistake here, I can easily fix it. That’s not possible on Twitter. Hmm, I wonder if there’s any chance Pedott — the peddler in Twilight Zone’s “What You Need” — could bring me a Twitter edit feature for Christmas?

***

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. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.

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 12/04/2020, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Howard Manheimer

    I have heard that he adapted some screenplays, or adjusted a story written by someone else, like a TELEPLAY by Rod Serling, which does NOT mean that he wrote it ORIGINALLY

    • Right. The bottom line is, TZ had 156 episodes, and 92 of those feature a script written by Serling (either original or adapted).

  2. Roger Scarlett

    Thanks for your journalistic professionalism, Paul. That is becoming a rare commodity these days, unfortunately.

  3. I always try to find a source other than a wiki site. When it comes to the Zone, I check here first.

  4. Melvin Jonczak

    Wow! Remarkable research; thank you!

  5. 😀 I appreciate all the research you do for this blog to keep it real and accurate.

    I just watched The Monsters are Due on Maple St. this morning. The message at the end is quite poignant. I believe that episode was written by Sterling. Correct me if I’m wrong!

    • Ha, as if I could refrain, right? xD You are indeed correct. Terrific episode. Some of Serling’s best writing. And thanks for the compliment, Deborah!

  6. Thanks for your attention to detail and accuracy!

  7. Oh, I feel your pain, Paul. I hate to correct others in public as well, but sometimes…well…you just feel the impulse to do so (and if you’re on a panel with that person…arrrghhh…). Most times I let it go, because, on the cosmic scale of things, it really doesn’t matter…people are gonna do what they do, and the good ones will listen, assimilate, research, and correct. And if you’re REALLY, REALLY lucky…even offer some form of an apology or “attaboy,” which can well serve as a veiled apology. The ones too tied to their egos and stunted emotional growth won’t and are spoiling for a fight. But I get it. I had to recently “address” a writer about something “they” wrote, because “they” were being too forceful about it…then, ironically, a few months later I found another post of “theirs” personally complaining about exactly what “they” were trying to portray “their self” as an expert in. What comes around goes around. It ain’t my journey anymore. But…every now and then, you just have to try to right a wrong cause your gut tells you to…so I commend you on your handling of the situation. Nice work! Keep all-things TZ honest my good man!

    • Thanks, Frank! Yeah, I let stuff go whenever possible, but in this case, I couldn’t bear to let bad info proliferate, so I felt I had to say something. And yes, you’re so right about what goes around! After all, consider how often we see that play out on Twilight Zone …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: