Category Archives: Uncategorized
Serling’s Apology to Carol Burnett for Twilight Zone’s “Cavender is Coming”
Some Twilight Zone fans might give Season 3’s “Cavender is Coming” a passing grade, but good luck finding anyone who ranks it among their top favorites. Its critics included Rod Serling himself, who actually apologized to star Carol Burnett for how it turned out.
It’s true that Serling was notoriously hard on his own work, but he seemed particularly disappointed in this episode. As I’ll explain in greater detail in a future post, it was intended as a pilot for a new series that would have featured weekly appearances by co-star Jesse White. But when CBS passed on it, Serling wound up using it on the Twilight Zone.
Given his opinion of it, though, it’s a wonder he didn’t simply shelve it. As he told Burnett in a letter dated May 3, 1962 (three weeks and one day before the episode aired):Read the rest of this entry
We’re Getting Closer to Having a Statue of Rod Serling in His Hometown — and You Can Help
What does Rod Serling mean to you?
Perhaps you’re a writer who finds his work inspiring. In fact, you may have even started writing in the first place because of Rod Serling. A lot of people who follow my Serling Twitter page tell me that.
Maybe you’re an actor or a producer whose imagination was sparked by The Twilight Zone, and your career path was lighted years ago by the man who penned such classics as “The Midnight Sun,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” to name only a few of his many beloved scripts.
Or, like so many others, you simply enjoy science fiction and fantasy, and you can trace your love of the genre back to watching the Zone.
Whatever your particular circumstances, we share that bond: a love of Serling’s work, and a deep and abiding respect and admiration for the man himself. So let me ask you: Do you think he deserves to have a statue dedicated to him in his hometown of Binghamton, NY, home of the carousel that we see in “Walking Distance”?
I’m sure every Serling fan would agree that he merits such an honor. Well, I’m glad to say an effort to get such a statue made is underway now — and you can help.Read the rest of this entry
“Which of Those Two is Now?” Famed Physicist Asks Twilight Zone-ish Question
You can’t just park your brain in neutral when you’re a Twilight Zone fan. Sure, some episodes are just a lark, but more often than not, your assumptions will be challenged and your horizons expanded — though always in an entertaining way. We wind up looking at our world differently.
Or even, considering the sci-fi trappings of many classic episodes, beyond our world.
I couldn’t help thinking of this aspect of the Zone when I first heard an Alan Parsons album called The Time Machine. It starts with the title track, then segues into a one-minute piece called “Temporalia.” Instead of singing, though, we get some narration from an Oxford professor named Frank Close, who is a famous particle physicist.
Against a backdrop of music that sounds like we’re drifting through space, Close says:Read the rest of this entry
“Hatred is Not the Norm”: For a 1964 Multi-Faith Civil Rights Rally, Serling Pens “A Most Non-Political Speech”
One of the most gratifying aspects of being a Rod Serling fan is that you never have to separate the man from his work. He was a gifted writer, yes, but he was also an amazing human being — a man of high ideals who used his talents to try and make the world a better place.
I was reminded of that yet again when one of his daughters — Anne Serling, author of “As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling” — tweeted this meme:
You may be wondering the same thing I did: What was the event? Was this quote part of a longer address? And why did Dick Van Dyke read it?
I can answer two of the three, thanks in part to Anne herself. It was part of a multi-faith civil rights event called “Religious Witness for Human Dignity,” and it featured a keynote address by Martin Luther King Jr. And the quote above was from a 1,000-word address that Serling penned especially for the event.
Unfortunately, I don’t know why he didn’t deliver it himself, and neither does Anne. But when you read the address itself in full — which is the point of this post — you’ll see that he obviously poured his heart into it. It’s full of his unique mix of clear-eyed realism and unflagging optimism.Read the rest of this entry
Spotlight on Season 4: “No Time Like the Past”
What if you could change the past — not just in your personal life, but on a global scale by stopping something horrible?
That’s the central conceit of Twilight Zone‘s “No Time Like the Past,” and it’s an intriguing one. I’ll give it a full review at a later date, but for now, I want to focus on one scene in particular. Even if you’re not a fan of this episode (and not many fans give it high marks), I think we can appreciate what Rod Serling was saying — or more accurately, condemning — about halfway through the story.
For those who haven’t seen it (check here if you want to see how to watch it first), or haven’t seen it in a while, the story concerns a man named Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews). He has a time-travel machine, and to his credit, he wants to help mankind, not just himself. So he travels back to three key moments earlier in the 20th century: the day Hiroshima, Japan, was bombed; a day when Adolf Hitler made a pre-World War II public appearance in Berlin, Germany; and the day the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed, one of the events that led the U.S. to enter World War I.
Driscoll’s intention is to stop these events. He’s convinced that the modern world, which he detests, could be changed for the better if he succeeds. Yet each time he fails. Convinced the past can’t be changed, he decides instead to go to a quiet little town called Homeville, Indiana, in 1881, to live out the rest of his life.Read the rest of this entry
Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “The Hitch-Hiker”
“Do as much — or as little — as necessary.”
A boss of mine told me that once. My job as an editor entailed taking articles written by technical experts and rendering them into layman-friendly English. Some of these experts were terrible writers. Others were quite good. Many were in between.
The trick was not to do less than you had to, but also not to do more. If it was a solid piece, don’t do a rewrite job simply to justify your existence. Leave the good stuff intact.
I don’t know if anyone expressly taught that lesson to Rod Serling, but he clearly understood it. In my series of posts exploring his Twilight Zone scripts adapted from other writers’ work, I’ve seen stories where he did a lot, ones where he did a little, and others that fall somewhere in the middle.
This time I’m taking a closer look at a real fan favorite from Season 1: “The Hitch-Hiker.” It provides an excellent example of Serling knowing when to stay out of the way.
Oh, he made some changes, as we’ll see — some rather key ones. But the story that unfolds before our eyes is very close to what unfolded before people’s ears when this tale first aired on radio almost 20 years earlier. (Spoilers ahead, so, if you need to, go here for ways you can see the episode first.)Read the rest of this entry
Meet Tracy Stratford, the Only Person Who’s Not Afraid of Talky Tina
Remember Talky Tina? If you’re a Twilight Zone fan, you do. The sweet-talking doll with the homicidal tendencies made quite an impression when she appeared early in Season 5.
Part of what makes Tina scary is that she’s nothing like Chucky or the other murderous playthings you may have seen on the big screen. She doesn’t run. You don’t see her waving a weapon around. She doesn’t even raise her voice. Heck, you can take a table saw to her neck, and she’ll act like you’re tickling her.
Erich Streator (Telly Savalas) learned too late how dangerous Tina could be. As the episode ends, even his gentle wife, Annabelle (that’s right, the name of the haunted doll in the Conjuring movies!) is being put on notice by her daughter Christie’s terrifying toy.
There’s really just one person with no reason to fear Tina: Christie. Indeed, Tina is her champion — to a fault.
So let’s get to know a little bit about Tracy Stratford, the girl who played Christie. This wasn’t her first appearance on The Twilight Zone. She’d already starred in another fan favorite: Season 3’s “Little Girl Lost.” Yep, she was the girl who fell out of bed and rolled into another dimension.
And interestingly enough, her character’s name in that episode … was Tina.
Here are some excerpts from an interview Tracy gave in 2018 about her unforgettable journey to that land between shadow and substance:Read the rest of this entry
Twilight Zone is Set To Leave Netflix June 30
I knew it was only a matter of when. But I was hoping that the legendary TV show that made time travel look possible would be streaming on Netflix for a lot longer.
Alas, The Twilight Zone is set to leave the streaming giant on June 30.
I wrote about this possibility in a blog post last year and also mentioned it in a recent post about how Netflix doesn’t carry the hour-long episodes of Season 4.
Check them out if you want to understand why the show is leaving Netflix. The fact is, this is most likely the decision of CBS, which owns Twilight Zone.
Sure, Netflix could be dropping TZ to save on licensing fees. But more likely, it’s a matter of CBS making it so that people have to subscribe to Paramount+ (formerly CBS All-Access) to get their fifth-dimensional fix.
I’m sure some fans will point out that TZ is still widely available — not only on Hulu, but on high-def DVD and Blu-ray. Plus you can catch reruns (albeit with cut scenes and ad breaks) on MeTV and Syfy.
That’s great — don’t get me wrong. But I want TZ to be as available as possible. As I’ve said before, convenience is king. And if any show, even TZ, isn’t readily available, then many viewers won’t make any extra effort to find it.Read the rest of this entry
Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “The Old Man in the Cave”
Not every Twilight Zone episode was a Rod Serling original. Many of them were, but two dozen of his 92 Zone scripts were based on stories by other authors.
As I’ve shown throughout my “Re-Zoning” posts, which compare the original stories to their Twilight Zone counterparts, sometimes Serling kept a substantial portion of what the author wrote. Other times, he kept only the basic idea and made so many changes that it became almost a new tale.
“The Old Man in the Cave,” which first aired on November 8, 1963, falls more into the latter category.
It’s the one about a man named Goldsmith (played by the ever-reliable John Anderson, in his fourth and final Zone role) who’s trying to keep a small band of survivors alive in a post-apocalyptic world — in the “tenth illustrious year after the bomb,” as one of them says. Yep, the Cold War obviously got hot and the nuclear holocaust happened. It’s now 1974, Serling tells us.
(As always, spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen this one before or it’s been a while, consider fixing that first, then coming back. This blog is open 24/7.)
So how does Goldsmith do it? With the help of an unnamed, unseen “old man” who appears to be a sort of oracle. He gives weather forecasts and makes crop recommendations to help the survivors avoid radioactivity. If anyone finds canned goods, he can tell whether or not they’re safe to eat. (Pro-tip: If it wasn’t canned “pre-bomb”, you might as well throw it out, no matter how ravenous you feel.)Read the rest of this entry
The Alchemy of a Twilight Zone: More Than Just “Unbridled Imagination”
I don’t consider this blog merely a place to fan over Rod Serling’s work. It’s that, make no mistake! But every now and then, I like to ponder why his signature series was such a success. Specifically, what made The Twilight Zone work?
So when I came across this long quote from Buck Houghton, the man who worked hand in hand with Serling to produce the first three seasons of TZ, I knew I had to share it:
“The Twilight Zone is a world that allows for things to happen that do not happen in real life: fantasies operate, wishes are fulfilled, life‘s loose ends are tied up, frustrations are resolved, discontents are played out, dreams come true, magic asked for is delivered. Unbridled imagination, working to the benefit — or destruction — of commonplace people.
The challenge, for the writer, of creating a true Twilight Zone story is to stretch, bend, and otherwise distort reality so as to tantalize the viewer, but never so far that it can’t snap back into focus at the last minute to provide a recognizable and satisfying irony or insight.
Therefore, the writer walks a fine line, mixing reality and unreality without falling into an attempt merely to shock, or to propose outrageous situations to finally have nothing to say to us.Read the rest of this entry