Rod Serling

Infobox Person
name = Rod Serling

caption = Rod Serling hosting "The Twilight Zone"
birth_date = birth date|1924|12|25|mf=y
birth_place = Syracuse, New York
death_date = death date and age|1975|6|28|1924|12|25
death_place = Rochester, New York
occupation = Screenwriter
spouse = Carol Serling (1948-1975) (his death)

Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was an American screenwriter, best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, "The Twilight Zone".


The second of two sons (his brother Robert J. Serling later became a novelist), Rod was born in Syracuse, New York to Samuel and Esther Serling, but was raised in Binghamton, New York, where he later graduated from Binghamton Central High School. He earned his B.A. in 1950 from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Though brought up in a Jewish family, Serling became a Unitarian Universalist. Serling's family had a summer home on Cayuga Lake, in New York's Finger Lakes region, which inspired the name "Cayuga Productions" for use on Twilight Zone productions. In a noteworthy speech delivered at Moorpark College, Moorpark California, on Dec. 3, 1968, Serling criticized loyalty oaths, the Vietnam war and social inequity.

Military service

Rod Serling served as a U.S. Army paratrooper and demolition specialist with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific Theater in World War II from January 1943 to January 1945. He was seriously wounded in the wrist and knee during combat and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Serling's military service deeply affected the rest of his life and informed much of his writing. Due to his wartime experiences, Serling suffered from nightmares and flashbacks. During his service in World War II, he watched as his best friend was crushed to death by a heavy supply crate dropped by parachute onto the field. Serling was rather short (5'4") and slight. He was a noted boxer during his military days. [ Rod Serling - Man From the Twilight Zone] "Clifton Unitarian Church; 2000".]

Early writing career

Biographers note that throughout his career, Serling was inspired by legendary radio and television playwright Norman Corwin. Both men would trace their careers through the WLW broadcasting franchise to eventually find homes at CBS, and both would be honored for weaving pivotal social themes into their scripts.

In 1951, Serling started to break into television by writing scripts for "The Doctor", "Fireside Theater", "Hallmark Hall of Fame", "Lux Video Theater", "Kraft Television Theatre", "Suspense" and "Studio One". He also worked for local Cincinnati TV station WKRC (Channel 12), where he wrote a series of live TV shows titled "The Storm". The program was a precursor to "The Twilight Zone", as was one of the scripts: "Requiem for a Heavyweight".

In 1955, "Kraft Television Theatre" presented another of Serling's scripts, the seventy-second to reach the air. To the Serlings, it was just another script, and they missed the first live airing. The name of the show was "Patterns" and it changed Rod Serling's life. "Patterns" dramatized the power struggle among a corporate boss, an old hand running out of ideas and energy, and a bright young executive being groomed to take the older man's place. It was a huge hit, and was re-aired the following week, which was nearly unprecedented at the time. The script established Serling as a rarity: a television playwright.

More acclaimed teleplays followed, including "The Rack", about a Korean War veteran and the effects of torture, the legendary "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (from CBS's "Playhouse 90" series), and several others, some of which were adapted to the big screen. "Requiem," like "Patterns", was honored as a milestone in television drama. The installment's producer, Martin Manulis, noted in a PBS biography of Serling that after the live broadcast, CBS chairman William S. Paley called the control room to tell the crew that the show had advanced TV by 10 years. The show's director, Ralph Nelson, wrote and directed a television drama four years later for the "Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse" about writing "Requiem for a Heavyweight" called "The Man in the Funny Suit", in which Serling appeared as himself.

Tired of seeing his scripts butchered (removing any political statements, ethnic identities, even the Chrysler Building being removed from a script sponsored by Ford), Serling decided the only recourse for avoiding such artistic interference was to create his own show.

"The Twilight Zone"

In 1959, CBS aired the first episode of a groundbreaking series, "The Twilight Zone." Serling fought hard for creative control, hiring writers he respected (such as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont) and launched himself into weekly television. He stated in an interview that "the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike the earlier "Playhouse 90". [cite web|url=|title=Roasting Rod Serling|accessdate=2008-01-01] In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context.

Serling drew on his own experiences for many episodes, with frequent stories about boxing, military life and aircraft pilots, which integrated Serling's firsthand knowledge. The series also incorporated Serling's progressive social views on racial relations and the like, which were somewhat veiled by the sci-fi/fantasy elements of the shows. Occasionally, however, Serling could be quite blunt, as in the episode "I Am The Night — Color Me Black", where America's racism and hatred causes a dark cloud to form in the South before eventually spreading elsewhere. Serling was also progressive on matters of gender, with many stories featuring quick-thinking, resilient women, although he also wrote stories featuring shrewish, nagging wives.

The show lasted five seasons (four using a half-hour format, with one half-season using an hour-long format), winning awards and critical acclaim for Serling and his staff. While having a loyal fan base, the program never had huge ratings and was twice canceled, only to be revived. After five years and 156 episodes, 92 of them written by Serling himself, Serling wearied of the show. In 1964, he decided to let the third cancellation be final.

Serling sold his rights to the series to CBS. His wife later claimed that he did this partly because he believed the studio would never recoup the cost of the show, which frequently went over budget. In hindsight, this move proved to be a costly mistake.

The following is a list of "Twilight Zone" episodes written by Rod Serling.
*"Where Is Everybody?" (Season 1)
*"One for the Angels"
*"Mr. Denton on Doomsday"
*"The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"
*"Walking Distance"
*"Escape Clause"
*"The Lonely"
*"Time Enough at Last" (teleplay)
*"Judgment Night"
*"And When the Sky Was Opened" (teleplay)
*"What You Need" (teleplay)
*"The Four of Us Are Dying" (teleplay)
*"Third From the Sun" (teleplay)
*"I Shot an Arrow Into the Air" (teleplay)
*"The Hitch-Hiker" (teleplay)
*"The Fever"
*"The Purple Testament"
*"Mirror Image"
*"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"
*"People Are Alike All Over" (teleplay)
*"Execution" (teleplay)
*"The Big Tall Wish"
*"Nightmare as a Child"
*"A Stop at Willoughby"
*"A Passage for Trumpet"
*"Mr. Bevis"
*"The After Hours"
*"The Mighty Casey"
*"King Nine Will Not Return" (Season 2)
*"The Man in the Bottle"
*"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room"
*"A Thing About Machines"
*"The Eye of the Beholder"
*"The Lateness of the Hour"
*"A Most Unusual Camera"
*"The Night of the Meek"
*"Back There"
*"The Whole Truth"
*"Twenty Two"
*"The Odyssey of Flight 33"
*"Mr. Dingle, the Strong"
*"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"
*"The Rip Van Winkle Caper"
*"The Silence"
*"The Mind and the Matter"
*"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"
*"The Obsolete Man"
*"The Arrival" (Season 3)
*"The Shelter"
*"The Passersby"
*"The Mirror"
*"It's a Good Life" (teleplay)
*"Deaths-Head Revisited"
*"The Midnight Sun"
*"Still Valley" (teleplay)
*"Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (teleplay)
*"A Quality of Mercy" (teleplay)
*"One More Pallbearer"
*"Showdown with Rance McGrew"
*"To Serve Man"
*"The Little People"
*"Four O'Clock" (teleplay)
*"Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" (teleplay)
*"The Trade-Ins"
*"The Gift"
*"The Dummy" (teleplay)
*"Cavender Is Coming"
*"The Changing of the Guard"
*"The Thirty-Fathom Grave" (Season 4)
*"He's Alive"
*"No Time Like the Past"
*"The Parallel"
*"Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" (teleplay)
*"On Thursday We Leave for Home"
*"The Bard"
*"In Praise of Pip" (Season 5)
*"A Kind of a Stopwatch" (teleplay)
*"The Last Night of a Jockey"
*"The Old Man in the Cave" (teleplay)
*"Uncle Simon"
*"Probe 7, Over and Out"
*"The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms"
*"A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain" (teleplay)
*"The Long Morrow"
*"The Masks"
*"I Am the Night—Color Me Black"
*"Sounds and Silences"
*"The Jeopardy Room"
*"Mr. Garrity and the Graves" (teleplay)
*"The Brain Center at Whipple's"
*"The Fear"

"Night Gallery"

In 1969, NBC aired a Serling-penned pilot for a new series, "Night Gallery". Set in a dimly lit museum, the pilot film featured Serling (as on-camera host) introducing three tales of the macabre, unveiling canvases that would appear in the subsequent story segments.

The series, which premiered in December 1970 (its brief first season rotated as one spoke of a four-series programming wheel titled "Four in One"), focused more on gothic horror and the occult than did "The Twilight Zone". Serling, no longer wanting the burden of an executive position, sidestepped an offer to retain creative control of content — a decision he would come to regret. Although discontented with some of producer Jack Laird's script and creative choices, Serling maintained a stream of creative submissions and ultimately wrote over a third of the series' scripts.

By season three however, Serling began to see many of his script contributions rejected. With his complaints ignored, the disgruntled host dismissed the show as "Mannix in a cemetery". "Night Gallery" lasted until 1973.

While the series has its own cult following, it is not as successful as "The Twilight Zone" and is generally regarded as a pale shadow of Serling's previous series.


Serling wrote a number of short stories in the science fiction and horror genres, which were collected into three volumes of "Twilight Zone" stories (1960, 1961, 1962), two of "Night Gallery" stories (1971, 1972) and a collection of three novellas, "The Season to be Wary" (1968). Serling also released a collection of teleplays, "Patterns", in 1957. The collection included the teleplays for "Patterns," "The Rack," "Old MacDonald Had a Curve," and "Requiem For a Heavyweight".

A critical essay on Serling's fiction can be found in S. T. Joshi's book "The Evolution of the Weird Tale" (2004). Joshi emphasises Serling's moralism and the streak of misanthropy imbuing his work, and argues that, far from being merely rewritten scripts, many of Serling's stories can stand as genuinely original and meritorious works of prose fiction.

Later years

Subsequent to "The Twilight Zone", Serling moved onto cinema screens and continued to write for television. In 1964, he scripted "Carol for Another Christmas", a television adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". It was telecast only once, December 28, 1964, on ABC. [ [ Vinciguerra, Thomas. "Marley Is Dead, Killed in a Nuclear War", December 20, 2007.] ]

Serling wrote a number of screenplays with a political focus, including "Seven Days in May" (1964) about an attempted military coup against the President of the United States; "Planet of the Apes" (1968); and "The Man" (1972) about the first African American President.

Serling had taped introductions for a limited-run summer comedy series on ABC, "Keep on Truckin'", which was scheduled to begin its run several weeks after his death; these introductions were subsequently edited out of the broadcast episodes. He also wrote the pilot episode for a short-lived Aaron Spelling series called "The New People" in 1969.

Serling returned to radio in 1974 as the host of a new mystery/adventure series called "The Zero Hour". [ The Zero Hour Radio Log] ] The show aired for two years and Serling wrote several of the scripts. It failed to find a large audience due to its radio serial format and lack of promotion. [ History of Mutual Radio's Zero Hour] ]

Late in his life, Serling taught at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York where he resided for many years, and did voiceovers for various projects. He narrated documentaries featuring French undersea explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and (uncredited) performed the narration for the beginning of the Brian De Palma film "Phantom of the Paradise".

In 1975, Serling had two severe heart attacks before entering Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for heart bypass surgery. He had a third heart attack during the operation and died the following day, at the age of 50. He is interred at the cemetery in Interlaken, New York, an area of upstate New York featured prominently in some "Twilight Zone" episodes.

After his death, several Serling scripts were produced. In 1988, J. Michael Straczynski scripted Serling's outline "Our Selena Is Dying" for the 1980s revival of "The Twilight Zone", "Rod Serling's Lost Classics" (1994) was a TV movie based on a Serling script and an outline for another story (the latter was expanded and scripted by Richard Matheson), "In the Presence of Mine Enemies" (1997) was set in the Warsaw Ghetto, a science-fiction remake of "A Town Has Turned to Dust" (1998), and "A Storm in Summer" (2000) followed.

Awards and honors

During his lifetime, Rod Serling received six Emmys, and his biggest successes in writing include:
*"Patterns" (1955)
*"Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1956)
*"The Comedian" (1957)
*"A Town Has Turned to Dust" (1958)
*"The Velvet Alley" (1958)
*"The Twilight Zone" (1959 - 1964 television series)
*"Night Gallery" (1970 - 1973 television series)
*"Planet of the Apes" (1968 co-written with Michael Wilson)

Legacy in television

When casting for the role of the shady Mr. Morden for the television series "Babylon 5", creator J. Michael Straczynski chose Ed Wasser - who had played a bit part in the series' two-hour pilot TV movie - for the role because of his slick looks, charm, and vocal mannerisms reminiscent of a young Rod Serling.

Serling was ranked #1 in "TV Guide"'s list of the "25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends" (in the 1 August 2004 issue).

More than 30 years after his death, Serling was digitally resurrected for an episode of the TV series "Medium" that aired on November 21, 2005. The episode, which was partially filmed in 3-D, opened with Serling introducing the episode and instructing viewers as to when to put on their 3-D glasses. This was accomplished by using footage from "The Twilight Zone" episode "The Midnight Sun" and digitally manipulating Serling's mouth to match new dialogue spoken by impersonator Mark Silverman. The plot of the episode involved paintings coming to life, a nod to both "The Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery".

The annual Halloween episodes of "The Simpsons" have regularly featured parodies of classic "Twilight Zone" episodes. These episodes include "Treehouse of Horror", "Treehouse of Horror II", and "Treehouse of Horror XIV". "Treehouse of Horror IV" borrows the opening from Serling's "Night Gallery" and includes a segment based on a "Twilight Zone" episode.

Legacy in other media

Over the years, a number of pop/rock songs have included tributes and references to Rod Serling and/or "The Twilight Zone".
*In 1982, Dutch rock band Golden Earring scored a hit with a song titled "Twilight Zone".
*In 1979, the vocal group The Manhattan Transfer scored a big hit with "The Twilight Zone / The Twilight Tone" a jazz-rock variation of the classic Marius Constant theme from the television series (from their "Extensions" album; their promotional video clip even had lead singer Alan Paul standing beside a door floating in space, mimicking Rod Serling for the introduction.
*On "Threatened", a track from his 2001 album "Invincible", pop superstar Michael Jackson used samples of Rod Serling narrations from "The Twilight Zone" as introduction and conclusion to the song, as well as a montage of clips to make Serling rap in the middle section of the tune.
*"The Twilight Zone" was parodied in an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, in which the episode was themed for. It was called "The Billy Zone." During the show, you can see a cartoon version of Rod Serling, and ends up getting beat up at the end.

Canadian progressive rock music trio Rush dedicated their 1975 album Caress of Steel to the memory of Rod Serling. Lyricist and drummer Neil Peart and his (late) wife Jackie named their only child, a daughter, Selena, after the 'Our Selena is Dying' episode of The Twilight Zone. The band's follow-up 1976 smash album, 2112, featured the song, "The Twilight Zone" as a tribute to Mr. Serling and his work.

On April 5, 1993, Midway introduced "The Twilight Zone" pinball machine which featured a backglass portrait of Serling surrounded by his creations.cite web|title=Internet Pinball Database - Twilight Zone |accessdate=2007-02-15

In 1994, the Walt Disney World resort opened its premier free fall attraction titled "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" at the Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida. The ride places guests into a fabricated episode of "The Twilight Zone", where they are introduced to the story by Rod Serling. The story is that at the height of the Hollywood golden age, a famous landmark hotel holding a gala event is struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Passenger elevators carrying 5 guests mysteriously vanish after plummeting 13 stories, and the tower has stood derelict since that fateful night. Guests board "freight elevators" that carry them upwards and then laterally into the free fall shaft, where they visit the "5th Dimension" room which references the opening TV title sequence. (Footage from "It's a Good Life" was combined with voiceover work of impersonator Mark Silverman). It is a misconception that Serling's trademark cigarette is absent from his hand due to the family-friendly atmosphere of the ride, as it is actually absent in the original footage as well.cite web|title=Interview with Mark Silverman|date=October 2006||accessdate=2006-12-25 |url=]

A similar version of the ride appears in California at Disney's California Adventure. The ride differs in aspects of pacing and tone, generally considered much campier, but Serling is part of the attraction nonetheless. The Florida and California editions of the ride feature props from various "Twilight Zone" episodes.

Tokyo DisneySea has their own version of the Tower of Terror, however the "backstory" departs from the California and Florida versions, erasing all ties to "The Twilight Zone" including any reference, mention, or appearance of Rod Serling.

Disneyland Paris is scheduled to open their version of the ride in January 2008 and will feature Serling as well as retain "The Twilight Zone" theme. The Korean pop group SES recorded a song called "Twilight Zone" in 2001.

In an episode of Weird Science, The Twilight Zone is parodied in something called "Sci-Fi Zoned", going through similar experiences as some of the Serling's classics, such as Where Is Everybody. Chet plays the role of Rod Serling.

In an episode of Family Guy, the neighborhood argues over who stole the Golden Clam trophy in a manner similar to The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. Rod Serling then comes on screen narrating until Peter accuses him of stealing the trophy. Later, it is revealed that Brian had it the whole time. When Rod begins narrating again, Brian hits him in the back of the head with a shovel and presumably buries him in the yard.

In another episode of Family Guy, Peter drinks excessively, and after proclaiming that he's sure there will be no lasting effect, the camera zooms into Peter's brain. Only one brain cell remains, wearing glasses, who calls out and happily finds that he's alone with his books. Upon reaching for the first book, his glasses fall off and break, at which point the lone brain cell delivers Henry Bemis's famous line, "That's–that's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was, was all the time I needed... ! It's not fair!"

In an episode of Futurama, The Twilight Zone is parodied and it is called "The Scary Door." The Twilight Zone episode referenced is Time Enough at Last, Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith's character) is seen in a library. As he says there is time at last his glasses break. When he says he can read large print his eyes fall out. When he says he can read braille his hands fall off. Then he screams and his tongue falls out and then he becomes decapitated.

Other filmography

*"The Loner" (TV series)
*"Encounter with the Unknown" (1975) (narrator)
*Narrated many of "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" specials produced by Alan Landsburg in the 1960s and 1970s.

ee also

*Way Out


*DeVoe, Bill. (2008). "Trivia from The Twilight Zone". Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
*Grams, Martin. (2008). "The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic". Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links

*imdb name|id=0785245|name=Rod Serling
* [ The Rod Serling Museum - Binghamton, New York]
* [ The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation]
* [ Serling entry in Unitarian Universalist Biographical Dictionary]
* [ Rod Serling Archives at Ithaca College] The Rod Serling Archives consists of television scripts, movie screenplays, stage play scripts, films, published works by Serling, unproduced scripts, and secondary materials
* [ Rod Serling Conference at Ithaca College] An academic conference focused on studying the creative work of Rod Serling. The next one is scheduled for March 28-29. 2008
* [ An Interview with Carol Serling: 'Life With Rod']
* [ Rod Serling Archive at the Wisconsin Historical Society] Serling's papers consist of roughly 80,000 documents ranging from scripts to personal correspondence, including a folder of angry letters received by Serling.
* [ Rod Serling's Gravestone]
* [ Twilight zone and Serling's writings]
* [ "Writing for Television" by Rod Serling]

NAME= Serling, Rod
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Serling, Rodman Edward
DATE OF BIRTH= December 25, 1924
PLACE OF BIRTH= Syracuse, New York
DATE OF DEATH= June 28, 1975
PLACE OF DEATH= Rochester, New York

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