Category Archives: General

Serling Fest 2020: Coming to a Device Near You

Last year’s “Serling Fest” was a lot of fun. It was tough saying good-bye at the end, but hey, we knew we’d all be gathering in 2020, right?!

Ahem. Not quite. Like a trip to the Kanamit home planet, things haven’t turned out quite the way we were expecting.

We’ll be getting a Serling Fest, all right. But it won’t be the in-person, three-day extravaganza we’ve gotten in years past. It’ll be a one-day affair, and because of a certain Virus Who Shall Remain Nameless, it’s all online.

So there won’t be any reports from the front lines by Yours Truly, and no appearances either. But good news: Thanks to Nick Parisi, president of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, I don’t think anyone who wants to attend from the comfort of home will feel cheated at all. In fact, he’s put together a fantastic line-up. Check it out:

I’ve gotten a chance to see nearly all of these experts in person, and I can tell you from experience that they have some great insights and stories to share. This is going to be a lot of fun! Read the rest of this entry

Alfred Hitchcock Presents vs. The Twilight Zone

If you’d asked me when I was a teenager to name my favorite TV series, I’d have said The Twilight Zone. If you’d asked me to name my favorite director, I’d have said the man behind Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

I’ve seen the work of many more directors since then, and quite a few more TV series. If I were to list all of my favorites now, it would take a while. But you know what? My top answers are still the same today.

It’s hard to beat Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock. If anything, the intervening years have deepened my appreciation for their work. So it’s hardly surprising that they were behind the two most successful anthologies in the history of television.

That’s really saying something, by the way. The networks have never been crazy about putting anthologies on the air. They prefer to hook viewers with a strong situation and memorable characters — ones the audience can be sure will be there week after week. With an anthology, that’s impossible. Every episode brings a totally new cast and setup.

That calls for a lot of trust on the part of the audience. That’s why an engaging host is key. CBS was willing to take a gamble on Alfred Hitchcock Presents because the portly director’s fame would draw in curious viewers who had eagerly flocked to such thrillers as “Notorious”, “Strangers on a Train”, and “Rear Window”. Read the rest of this entry

Kirk Douglas: Spartacus Meets Serling

You can tell I’m a Serling fan. The first thing I thought of when I heard that Kirk Douglas had died wasn’t “Spartacus”, “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” or “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, as excellent as those films are. It was “Seven Days in May”.

The 1964 political thriller, about an attempted military takeover of the United States, isn’t as well-known as those other titles. But it has something they don’t: a script by Rod Serling.

I’ve been meaning to write a review of “Seven Days in May” for a while now. “Saddle the Wind” is the only feature film of Serling’s that I’ve blogged about so far, so I’ll have to put “Seven Days in May” on my short list and do it soon.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to highlight a completely different film of Douglas’s — one that has a personal connection for me, as well as ties to The Twilight Zone. It’s called “The Big Sky”. Read the rest of this entry

Where WAS Everybody? In Binghamton, NY, for “Serling Fest 2019”

“Serling Fest” could really be held anywhere, couldn’t it? After all, you can find fans of Rod Serling’s work all over the globe. But celebrating the 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone in his hometown of Binghamton, New York, on October 4-6, 2019, felt particularly appropriate.

All writers put pieces of themselves in their work, but Serling seemed to include more autobiographical touches than most. And his idyllic, pre-World War II childhood in this city near the northern border of Pennsylvania did much to shape his outlook.

When Gart Williams in “A Stop at Willoughby” feels himself inexorably drawn to a town “where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure,” it’s easy to imagine him thinking of the Binghamton of the 1930s and ‘40s.

The Binghamton of 2019 hasn’t fully recovered from the post-war manufacturing cuts that contributed to its economic decline, but many parts of it retain a certain bigger-than-a-small-city-but-not-quite-a-BIG-city charm. And because so much of its DNA can be found in Rod’s scripts, it was an ideal place to gather with other fans and toast his work. Read the rest of this entry

Preparing for “Serling Fest 2019” as The Twilight Zone Turns 60

Well, let’s enjoy a slice of virtual birthday cake today! Everyone’s favorite passport to the fifth dimension is turning 60.

“The Shelter”

Yes, on October 2, 1959, at 10:00 p.m., CBS aired “Where is Everybody?” It wasn’t an immediate hit, no, but it soon developed a devoted fan base. And once TZ hit syndication a few years later, the answer to that episode’s title was “in front of their television sets, of course”.

It’s hard to believe six decades have elapsed since it premiered. Sure, fashions have changed, cars don’t have fins on them anymore, and special effects have grown by leaps and bounds. But when it comes to the stories themselves, The Twilight Zone feels as fresh today as it did then.

Maybe even more so. Its themes — the pull of nostalgia, the fear of the unknown, the evils of racism, the allure of conformity, among others — seem timeless.

“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”

If anything, it’s more relevant now than it was then. It’s easy to imagine that Rod Serling and his fellow TZ scribes DID have the time-travel devices they sometimes wove into their stories. Read the rest of this entry

The Carousel That Helped Inspire Twilight Zone’s “Walking Distance”

The Twilight Zone, as every fan knows, is home to many wild settings that exist only in our imaginations. But one of the most magical is very real: the carousel in Rod Serling’s hometown of Binghamton, NY.

No, the much-beloved episode “Walking Distance” wasn’t actually filmed there, but this is the very carousel that Rod rode as a child. His nostalgia for that simple ride led him to feature a carousel rather prominently in the conclusion to that bittersweet story.

The carousel (which you can read more about at this link) still works. It even got a facelift in 2011 that included some TZ-inspired artwork by Cortland T. Hull in the panels above the horses. Here they are, snapped by yours truly on a visit to Binghamton. Can you recognize all the episodes? (Click any pic to enlarge it.) Read the rest of this entry

Serling Fest 2018: Celebrating TZ — and More — in Rod’s Hometown

My disappointment over Syfy ditching the July 4th marathon was, I’m happy to say, fairly short-lived. On July 5, I hit the road for “Serling Fest 2018” in Rod’s hometown of Binghamton, New York.

It was a first for me. I’d never been there before.

Surprised? I don’t blame you. Considering how long I’ve been fanning publicly over Serling’s work (starting when I set up my Twitter page in September 2010), you’d think I’d have visited long before now. But the timing or the money (or both!) was never right — until now.

It was a long drive (four hours one-way), but well worth it. It’s one thing to read about Serling’s childhood experiences, or to view pics online. It’s another to walk the streets he did and reflect on the fact that you’re in the very spot where, for all intents and purposes, The Twilight Zone was born.

Read the rest of this entry

Saving “Almost Human”

I’ve been running this blog for almost three years now, but I’ve never written about anything other than the works of Rod Serling. Until today.

I’m making an exception because I don’t just believe in the past when it comes to high-quality science fiction. I believe in the future as well. And for my money, the series Almost Human is a prime example of that future.

almosthuman

I’m not putting it on a par with The Twilight Zone, which is in a class by itself. But Almost Human is a show that can make you laugh and make you think. Most of all, it’s a show that keeps you entertained.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time excoriating Fox for cancelling it, or making a detailed case for keeping it. I urge you to check it out on Hulu or iTunes or whatever service or site you use to watch TV shows. Read the rest of this entry

A Self-Imposed “Silence”

Rod Serling, as fans of The Twilight Zone well know, was a master of dialogue. Veteran actors such as Jack Klugman (“A Game of Pool”) often spoke of what a treat it was to act out one of his scripts, which were filled with pithy observations and stinging critiques.

Interesting, then, that he also wrote an episode titled “The Silence.” It concerned a memorable wager: Stay silent for a year, and win $500,000.

The Silence2

Of course, in real life, the silent treatment isn’t quite as hard to coax from some people. They’ll do it for any number of reasons.

So when the hashtag #ReasonsWeStoppedTalking popped up on Twitter recently, I thought of several TZ-related conditions that might prompt the cold shoulder. I huddled with my intrepid “Gal Friday,” Wendy, and here’s what we came up with: Read the rest of this entry

Stopover in a Quiet Blog

“It’s a crazy thing about writers. You tell them you read their stuff, and all of a sudden their hearts stop.” — Rod Serling’s “The Velvet Alley” (1959)

I know that feeling well. Two years ago today, I decided that my Twitter page, @TheNightGallery, wasn’t enough of an outlet for this fan of all things related to Rod Serling and his legendary TV series, The Twilight Zone.

Anniversary Boss and Gal Friday bw

It was time to try my hand at blogging. The result? “Shadow & Substance”.

I wanted to branch out. To dive a little deeper into the reasons that Serling’s entertaining forays into the limitless land of imagination continue to attract viewers decades after they first aired. I couldn’t do that in 140-character bursts. Read the rest of this entry