The Serling Zone

By Jeff Little
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Picture if you will: a brilliant writer ahead of his time; a man who would alter television forever; a genius who would be responsible for some of the best-known stories of all time. You have just entered…The Serling Zone.

Rodman Edward Serling was born on Christmas Day, 1924 in Syracuse, New York and was raised in the small upstate community of Binghamton. Graduating high school in 1942, he then served as a U.S. Army paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II before attending Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

During his senior year at Antioch, Serling not only married Carolyn Kramer (who would remain his wife for the rest of his life) but won a television writing award that encouraged him in his further efforts. From there the Serlings moved to Cincinnati in pursuit of bigger dreams.

Through the early 50's Serling wrote various pieces for radio and TV before the airing of his breakthrough teleplay Patterns in 1955. Due to the popularity of the NBC telecast, Patterns became the first television program in history to be broadcast a second time.

Continuing to write highly-acclaimed dramas such as Requiem for a Heavyweight, Serling built a reputation as one of the finest writers television had ever seen. But praise alone was not enough to save him from the criticism and restrictions wielded by conservative thinkers who ran TV at the time.

Wisely turning to science fiction and fantasy writing in order to express himself by way of metaphor and parable, Serling found a platform from which he could express his views on controversial issues such as racism and general narrow-mindedness. But constrictions on his writing content would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life, forcing him to convey ideas through use of thinly disguised morality tales that became his trademark.

In 1957, CBS purchased a teleplay from Serling titled The Twilight Zone: The Time Element. Foolishly thwarting his plans to use the production as a pilot episode for an anthology series he had been planning, the network didn't air it until 1958.

After an overwhelming response to The Time Element, Serling assembled a group of talented writers and television pros including Buck Houghton, Charles Beaumont and Ray Bradbury. Employing himself as writer, narrator and primary creative force, Rod Serling was given the green light to produce a television series that would be called The Twilight Zone.

Becoming one of the most famous series of all time, The Twilight Zone became a landmark program that can still seen in re-runs today. It ran from 1959-1964, aired 156 episodes (92 written by Serling) and netted 3 Emmy awards for the prolific writer.

Attempts at remaking The Twilight Zone over the past many years have provided entertaining fare but have paled in comparison to the original. Without the genius of Rod Serling (whose later efforts would include television's Night Gallery and the big screen's Planet of the Apes) later incarnations of the legendary series failed to measure up.

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