Twilight Zone

Rod Serling Career: Rod Serling was an established writer before this show came to be. In his career he wrote over two hundred television plays . He was also a screenwriter for film and a playwright. For Twilight Zone and his other work he won a total of seven Emmys.

Concept: Twilight Zone began as an idea Serling had for a radio series. He told his agents about it and they pitched the idea to various networks. CBS was very interested and they approached Serling about making it a weekly television anthology series.

Production: CBS agreed to jointly produce the show with Serling's production company, Cayuga Productions. This made Rod Serling half owner of the show. He was also executive producer and one of the scriptwriters. Although he originally felt that writing for a weekly half-hour series was beneath him, $10,000 a script changed his mind. Serling ended up writing ninety-six of the s e ries' one hundred-fifty-seven scripts. Some he wrote in as little as a day, if the schedule demanded it. CBS and the sponsors decided the show needed a thread of continuity since there was a different plot with different actors each week. They began lo oking for a narrator, first an off screen voice, later an on screen presence. Their first choice was Orson Wells, but his price was too high. Serling stepped in and volunteered, making him half owner, producer, writer and narrator.

The Twilight Zone

Backdrop: The show premiered on October 2, 1959 with the episode, "Where is Everybody". It was a dramatic leap in television messages. Up until then, fifties' TV was filled with such shows as "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver". Normalcy was va lued. These shows had perfect characters with small problems that could be solved in one half-hour.

Concept: The Twilight Zone blew that whole idea out of the water. This show featured ordinary people in extraordinary situations. There was always a twi st ending which caused many people to call Serling the O. Henry of television. Each episode was basically a morality play. Sins such as vanity and greed were punished, while honesty and principles were rewarded. Some say the show's influence contribute d to the idealism of the sixties.

Plots: "The Silence" In this episode, a wealthy man bets a poor man a million dollars that he cannot keep silent for one year. It turns out that the rich man was not rich at all and did not have a million dollars, while the poor man had cut his own vocal chords in order to win the bet.

"To Serve Man" Nine foot creatures from space descend on the UN and leave a book. The title is decoded to read, "To Serve Man". Thinking that this illustrated the creatures' noble goals, Earthlings begin migrating to their planet. They soon find out that the book was a cookbook.

Immediate Effects Rod Serling: Rod Serling became the first writer ever known by his name, voice, face, and the title of his work.

Audience: After its premi ere, the show was moved to 10:00 Friday nights and became a cultural icon. Although it was aimed at intelligent adults, its greatest appeal was to young people. There were Twilight Zone parties where people would get together as a group to watch the show each week. The first thing everyone asked upon returning to school on Monday mornings was, "Did you see it?" There was no need to ask what "it" was. Many of the first letters received about the show were from parents requesting that they show it earli er so that their children wouldn't beg to stay up late to watch it.

Downfall: Although the ratings stayed high, the show was always on shaky ground with CBS. They never knew from one season to the next if they were being renewed. A steady stream of produ cers, writers, and sponsors were continually coming, then going, leading the show's cancellation. The last show aired on June 19, 1964.

Lasting Effects

Recognition: Twilight Zone is one of the most recognizable series of early television. It is still in syndication almost forty years after its premiere. It has been seen in over one hundred countries.

Influence: The show has influenced writers such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz., directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and TV shows such as "The Hitchhiker" and "Tales from the Crypt". Finally, the title, "The Twilight Zone" has entered the English language and has fallen into common usage.

Archetypes: Because of the style of the series, the fool, the temptress, and each of the other archetypes have appeared in various episodes.

Schema; Likewise, the schema can vary. Overall I'd say it was mythic, but depending on the script and main character, it could also be Ironic, Mimetic, Leader or Romantic as well.