|The Twilight Zone|
|Created by||Rob Serling|
|Theme music composer||Marius Constant|
|Opening theme||"Dramatic Twilight"|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons|| Original series: 5|
First revival: 3
Second revival: 1
|No. of series|| Original series: 156|
First revival: 65
Second revival: 44
|No. of episodes|| 156 episodes|
(List of episodes)
|Original channel|| CBS (1959–64, 1985–89)|
|Related shows||Tales of Tomorrow|
The Twilight Zone is an American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. Each episode (156 in the original series) is a mixture of self-contained drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, or horror, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist. A popular and critical success, it introduced many Americans to serious science fiction and abstract ideas through television and also through a wide variety of Twilight Zone literature.
The program followed in the tradition of earlier shows like Tales of Tomorrow (1951–1953)—which also dramatized the short story "What You Need"—and Science Fiction Theatre (1955–1957), as well as radio programs such as The Weird Circle, X Minus One, and the radio work of Serling's hero, dramatist Norman Corwin.
The success of the series led to a feature film, a radio series, a comic book, a magazine, and various other spin-offs that spanned five decades, including two "revival" television series. The first ran on CBS and in syndication in the 1980s, the second ran on UPN from 2002 to 2003. In 2013 TV Guide ranked it #4 in its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.
Throughout the 1950s, Serling established himself as one of the more popular names in television. He was as famous for writing televised drama as he was for criticizing the medium's limitations. His most vocal complaints concerned censorship, which was frequently practiced by sponsors and networks. "I was not permitted to have my senators discuss any current or pressing problem," he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics.
"The Time Element" (1958)Edit
CBS purchased a teleplay in 1958 that writer Rod Serling hoped to produce as the pilot of a weekly anthology series. "The Time Element" marked Serling's first entry in the field of science fiction.
PlotEditMany years after the end of World War II, a man named Peter Jenson (William Bendix) visits a psychoanalyst, Dr. Gillespie (Martin Balsam). Jenson tells of a recurring dream where he tries to warn people about the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor, but in his dream the warnings are disregarded. Dr. Gillespie insists that time travel is impossible given the nature of temporal paradoxes. Jenson finally reveals that he was actually in Honolulu on December 7th, 1941. While on the couch, Jenson falls asleep once again and Japanese planes flying overhead shoot and kill him. In Dr. Gillespie's office, the couch Jenson was lying on is now empty. Dr. Gillespie goes to a bar where he finds Jenson's picture on the wall. The bartender tells him that Jenson had tended there, but was killed during the Pearl Harbor attack.
With the "Time Element" script, Serling drafted the fundamental elements that would distinguish the series still to come: a science-fiction/fantasy theme, opening and closing narration, and an ending with a twist. But what would prove popular with audiences and critics in 1959 did not meet network standards in 1957. "The Time Element" was purchased only to be shelved indefinitely, and talks of making The Twilight Zone a television series ended.
This is where things stood when Bert Granet, the new producer for Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, discovered "The Time Element" in CBS' vaults while searching for an original Serling script to add prestige to his show. "The Time Element" (introduced by Desi Arnaz) debuted on November 24th, 1958, to an overwhelmingly delighted audience of television viewers and critics alike. Over six thousand letters of praise flooded Granet's offices. Convinced that a series based on such stories could succeed, CBS again began talks with Serling about the possibilities of producing The Twilight Zone. "Where Is Everybody?" was accepted as the pilot episode and the project was officially announced to the public in early 1959. "The Time Element" was not aired on television again until it was shown as part of a 1996 all-night sneak preview of the new cable channel TVLand.
Original series (1959-1964)Edit
- Main article: The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)
The series was produced by Cayuga Productions, Inc. a production company owned and named by Serling. It reflects his background in Central New York State and is named after Cayuga Lake, on which Cornell University is located.
Aside from Serling, who wrote or adapted nearly two-thirds of the series' total episodes, writers for The Twilight Zone included leading authors such as Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, Earl Hamner, Jr., George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Reginald Rose, and Jerry Sohl. Many episodes also featured new adaptations of classic stories by such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Jerome Bixby, Damon Knight, John Collier, and Lewis Padgett.
Twilight Zone's writers frequently used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment, as networks and sponsors who censored controversial material from live dramas were less concerned with seemingly innocuous fantasy and sci-fi stories. Frequent themes on The Twilight Zone included nuclear war, McCarthyism, and mass hysteria, subjects that were strictly forbidden on more "serious" primetime television. Episodes such as "He's Alive" or "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" offered specific commentary on current events and social issues. Other stories, such as "The Masks", "I Dream of Genie", or "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" were allegories, parables, or fables that reflected the moral and philosophical choices of the characters.
While Serling's appearances on the show became one of its most distinctive features, with his clipped delivery still widely imitated today, he was reportedly nervous about it and had to be persuaded to appear on camera. Serling often steps into the middle of the action while the characters remain oblivious to him, but on one notable occasion they are aware of his presence: In the episode "A World of His Own", a writer (Keenan Wynn) with the power to alter his reality objects to Serling's narration, and promptly erases Serling from the show.
In season two, due to budgetary constraints, the network decided—against Serling's wishes—to cut costs by shooting some episodes on videotape rather than film. The requisite multi-camera setup of the videotape format precluded location shooting, severely limiting the potential scope of the storylines, and the experiment was abandoned after just six episodes ("Twenty-Two", "Static", "The Whole Truth", "The Lateness of the Hour", "The Night of the Meek", and "Long Distance Call").
The original series contains 156 episodes. Unlike seasons one through three, season four (1962–63) consists of one-hour episodes. Season five returned to the half-hour format.
First revival (1985-1989)Edit
- Main article: The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series)
It was Serling's decision to sell his share of the series back to the network that eventually allowed for a Twilight Zone revival. As an in-house production, CBS stood to earn more money producing The Twilight Zone than it could by purchasing a new series produced by an outside company. Even so, the network was slow to consider a revival, turning down offers from the original production team of Rod Serling and Buck Houghton and later from American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
CBS gave the new Twilight Zone a greenlight in 1984 under the supervision of Carla Singer, then Vice President of Drama Development. While the show did not come close to matching the enduring popularity of the original, some episodes—including the love story "Her Pilgrim Soul" and J. Michael Straczynski's "Dream Me A Life"—were critically acclaimed.In a tribute to the original series, the opening credits has a brief wavy glimpse of Rod Serling.
Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)Edit
- Main article: Rod Serling's Lost Classics
In the early 1990s, Richard Matheson and Carol Serling produced an outline for a two-hour made-for-TV movie which would feature Matheson adaptations of three yet-unfilmed Rod Serling short stories. Outlines for such a production were rejected by CBS until early 1994, when Serling's widow discovered a complete shooting script ("Where the Dead Are") authored by her late husband, while rummaging through their garage. Serling showed the forgotten script to producers Michael O'Hara and Laurence Horowitz, who were significantly impressed by it. "I had a pile of scripts, which I usually procrastinate about reading. But I read this one right away and, after 30 pages, called my partner and said, "I love it," recalled O'Hara. "This is pure imagination, a period piece, literate—some might say wordy. If Rod Serling's name weren't on it, it wouldn't have a chance at getting made."
Eager to capitalize on Serling's celebrity status as a writer, CBS packaged "Where the Dead Are" with Matheson's adaptation of "The Theatre," debuting as a two-hour feature on the night of May 19th, 1994, under the name Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics. The title represents a misnomer, as both stories were conceived long after Twilight Zone's cancellation. Written just months before Serling's death, "Where the Dead Are" starred Patrick Bergin as a 19th century doctor who stumbles upon a mad scientist's medical experiments with immortality. "The Theatre" starred Amy Irving and Gary Cole as a couple who visit a cineplex, only to discover that the feature presentation is their own lives. James Earl Jones provided opening and closing narrations.
Second revival (2002-2003)Edit
- Main article: The Twilight Zone (2002 TV series)
A second revival was attempted by UPN in 2002, with narration provided by Forest Whitaker and theme music by Jonathan Davis (of the rock group Korn). Two of Serling's own teleplays were recycled. Broadcast in an hour format with two half-hour stories, it was cancelled after one season, although reruns continue to air in syndication, and have aired on myNetwork TV since summer 2008.
Potential third revivalEdit
A future third revival attempt will be executive produced by Bryan Singer. It is currently in the early stages of production and it is unknown whether it will be released.
- Main article: Twilight Zone: The Movie
The film remade three classic episodes of the original series and included one original story. John Landis directed the prologue and the first segment, Steven Spielberg directed the second, Joe Dante the third, and George Miller directed the final segment. The Landis-directed episode became notorious for the helicopter accident during filming, which caused the deaths of Morrow and two child actors.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning to make a new movie with Warner Bros., as The Twilight Zone is his favorite TV series. However, unlike the first film, which was an anthology feature, it will be a big-budget, SFX-laden continuous story possibly based on classic episodes of the series such as "The Eye of the Beholder", "To Serve Man" or any of the 92 scripts written by Rod Serling, to which Warner Bros. owns the rights. One plot leaked from the script tells about a pilot who time-travels 96 years into the future.
In 1964, Ideal released a board game, simply titled The Twilight Zone Game, at the height of the show's popularity. The game consisted of a cardboard playing surface, 4 colored playing pieces, a colored spinning wheel, and 12 "door" playing cards.
- Main article: Twilight Zone (pinball)
A text adventure based video game of The Twilight Zone for the PC and Amiga was also published in 1988 by Gigabit Systems Inc. The game has been panned by players for various problems.
A new casual adventure game is in development based on The Twilight Zone. It's in development by Legacy Interactive and Spark Plug Games. It was released in 2012.
In 2008, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design partnered with Walker & Co. to create graphic novels based on eight episodes of the series through 2009. The first four (based on "Walking Distance", "The After Hours", "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", and "The Odyssey of Flight 33") were released in December 2011.
Western Publishing published a Twilight Zone comic book, first under their Dell Comics imprint for 4 issues, one in 1961 and 3 further issues in 1962, with the first two published as part of their long running Four Color anthology series as issue numbers 1173 and 1288, and then two further one shots numbered separately in Dell's unique fashion as 01-860-207 and 12-860-210 (numbered as 01-860-210 on the inside) respectively. Western then restarted the series under their Gold Key imprint with a formal issue #1, which ran 92 issues from 1962 to 1979, with the final issue being published in 1982.
Several of the stories were reprinted in their Mystery Comics Digest, which mentioned the title on the covers. A wide range of artists worked on the title, including Jack Sparling, Reed Crandall, Lee Elias, George Evans, Russ Jones, Joe Orlando, Jerry Robinson, Mike Sekowsky, Dan Spiegle, Frank Thorne and Alex Toth.
In 1990, NOW Comics published a new comic series with using the title logo from the 1985 revival. The publisher made great efforts to sign established sci-fi/fantasy writers, including Harlan Ellison, adapting his story "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich".
In 1995, DAW Books published Journeys to the Twilight Zone (16 stories edited by Carol Serling including Rod Serling's "Suggestion"), Return to the Twilight Zone (18 stories edited by Carol Serling including Rod Serling's "The Sole Survivor"), and Adventures in the Twilight Zone (24 stories edited by Carol Serling including Rod Serling's "Lindemann's Catch").
In September 2009, Tor Books published Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary, to mark the anniversary of the series. It contains stories by 20 authors such as R. L. Stine and Timothy Zahn; as well as an introduction by Carol Serling.
- Main article: The Twilight Zone (radio series)
Beginning in 2002, episodes of the original The Twilight Zone were adapted for radio, with Stacy Keach taking Serling's role as narrator and produced by Carl Amari of Falcon Picture Group. Each episode features a current Hollywood celebrity, including Jason Alexander, Blair Underwood, Lou Gossett, Jr., Michael York, Jim Caviezel, Jane Seymour, Don Johnson, Sean Astin, Luke Perry and others in the title roles. The series is broadcast on hundreds of radio stations from coast-to-coast and over Sirius/XM. The station list and episodes for download, including 3 Free episodes are available at the official website at www.twilightzoneradio.com