Having grown up with the Twilight Zone in re-runs, I’m a huge fan of Rod Serling, and I loved how he could set up an effective story that got you involved, and pulled the rug out from under you in half an hour.
Serling died in 1975, and in his fifty years he was very prolific, leaving a large body of work behind.
According to Museum.tv, Serling “was perhaps the most prolific writer in American television. It is estimated that during his twenty-five year career, from the late 1940s to 1975, over 200 of his teleplays were produced.”
I still haven’t seen everything Serling’s done, and it’s fun to discover lost Serling TV movies, episodes, or movies he wrote.
Serling first broke through writing for the live TV show Playhouse 90, where he wrote the legendary Requiem For a Heavyweight, Patterns, and The Velvet Alley, which was an autobiographical tale of a writer who makes it after years of struggle, and what success ultimately costs him.
I finally found this on YouTube, along with The Loner, Serling’s long lost western. I thought The Loner would never be found, but finally I’ve seen episodes uploaded to YouTube, and on bootleg lists.
The Loner starred Lloyd Bridges, and it was Serling’s western. A western by Rod Serling is too cool of an idea to resist, and I’m looking forward to diving into it, and seeing if it lives up to my expectations. With Lost being a phenomenon, a lot of attention came to the very obscure show The New People, which similarly had a bunch of young people trapped on an island.
Serling wrote the pilot, and J.J. Abrams told TV Guide he wasn’t aware of the show, but if he was he would have found some way to reference it on Lost, like one of the characters had a band in high school called The New People.
One lost Serling movie that I’m amazed hasn’t come out for home viewing is The Man, which got some attention again recently when Obama became our first African American President. The Man is about the first black President of the United States, with James Earl Jones playing the lead. It was directed by Joseph Sargent, who also directed the excellent action film The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 (the 1973 version, not the remake), and Colossus: The Forbin Project, and excellent sci-fi story of a computer taking over the world that one friend of mine thinks was the inspiration for Skynet in Terminator.
Several years ago, The Man went round to revival theaters, and as a press release for the revival screenings tells us, “In 1972, The First Black President of the United States’ might have been science fiction, especially with [a] script by Rod Serling, but not anymore! In the Obama era, was Serling ahead of his time?”
While Night Gallery, which Serling hosted from 1969 to 1973, was vastly inferior to The Twilight Zone, Serling also wrote some terrific episode of the show, and usually the best Night Galleries were Serling’s. (Unlike The Twilight Zone, where Serling had a great team of writers, the Night Galleries Serling didn’t write were often pretty lame.) The episode, “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar,” was acclaimed, and recently I stumbled on “The Diary,” which Serling also wrote. It’s vintage Rod, where a bad person gets what’s coming to them, and I thought I could easily guess the ending, it certainly would have been more predictable if Serling didn’t write it, but Rod pulled off another great twist I couldn’t predict.
As this story was being finalized, the news hit that the entire Twilight Zone series will be coming out on Blu-Ray on June 5. If you’ve got the $399.98 to spare, you can get all 156 episodes of the Zone in the best quality available. As the Hollywood Reporter also tells us, there’s also going to be the Twilight Zone: Fan Favorites Blu-Ray, which will have 19 beloved episodes from Serling’s greatest creation.
It’s too bad that Rod Serling died so young, because we need people like him to point out the ills of the world in a thoughtful and entertaining way. In the brief time he was here, he certainly left behind a terrific trove of stories, and I’m looking forward to finding more.