The many dimensions of Rod Serling
From its humble beginnings, science fiction grew and developed during the 20th century to become a fundamental literary genre, supported by radio, film, and television. Numerous movies and shows became part of popular culture, and also inspired more than one later technological advance.
Many of the authors of science fiction texts and audiovisual productions had Jewish origin, an intellectual and spiritual heritage that had a powerful influence on the works they left for posterity
Rodman Edward Serling was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1924. He was the son of Samuel Serling and Esther Cooper, middle-class Jews; his father had a small family market, and when the Great Depression bankrupted him, he worked as a butcher.
Rod was an outgoing child who could not stop talking, acting, singing and interpreting the things he had seen in the movies or read in magazines, “to the point of driving my parents into hysteria”, as his brother Robert would later tell. Of course, at school he was always the center of attention, and he acted in the school theater.
On the same day that he graduated from high school, Rod enlisted in the army as a paratrooper, in the middle of World War II. He was assigned to the Pacific front; While fighting in the Philippines, he was injured in one knee, and saw many of his companions die. These physical and emotional injuries affected him, and for the rest of his life he had nightmares. To give way to the need to express her feelings, she studied Language and Literature.
While studying, Serling took part in the university’s radio workshop and worked for various stations writing, directing and acting. He prepared many stories that he sent to various media, although most of his proposals were rejected. Finally, in 1949 he won second place in a script contest, after which he sold others, and the following year he ventured into the nascent medium of television.
However, the work did not satisfy him, as he had to write publicity texts and work strenuous hours. That was the “heroic age” of television, before the videotape, when the programs were made live. Only during the nights did he write scripts of his own liking that he sent to the big networks, but they were also often rejected. Finally, in 1955 Serling achieved his first success with the drama Patterns, cast in space Kraft Television Theater. The show had a high audience, received rave reviews, and Serling was suddenly inundated with contracts.
At last he was able to live comfortably from his job as a screenwriter, but now he was bothered by the censorship imposed by the big networks and, above all, by advertisers: commercial interests prevented touching sensitive topics, or even mentioning words that might suggest a competitive product As a result, television was full of conventional stories, bland comedies, and generally pedestrian productions.
Serling grew weary of such pressures forcing him to change his scripts. One day in 1957 he dusted off a story he had written shortly after graduating from college, titled The Time Element, and sent it to the CBS network as a proposal for a series of his own that he titled The Twilight Zone, denomination that then was given to the dangerous moment prior to the landing of a military plane, when the pilot could not see the runway.
The Time Element it was about an individual who had premonitory dreams about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and tried to warn everyone, of course without succeeding; the story had an unexpected ending, which later would be characteristic of The Twilight Zone.
The story was received with skepticism by CBS, but it was finally produced and had good public and critical results. This decided the chain to sign a contract with Serling for a season of The Twilight Zone, which first aired on October 2, 1959.
Serling’s idea was that each episode would be independent and the program would accommodate the many stories that occurred to him; most of the scripts were written by himself. Although today many chapters may seem naive and predictable, at that time the series broke with so many formulas that it caused a strong impact, and a few episodes are considered true classics.
Serling broke the paradigms of television with his iconic series.
On The Twilight Zone —Which in Spanish received the name of The unknown dimension– normal people are suddenly interrupted in their daily lives by unusual, inexplicable or terrifying situations. Each episode has some moral, or an implicit reflection on human nature; Issues such as ambition, loneliness, justice, the passage of time, and nostalgia seem to be issues of particular concern to Serling. The stories are almost always located in the “present” (United States circa 1960), but the action can also be set in the Wild West, World War II, early 20th century, or the future. Many of the chapters belong to the science fiction genre, and robots and aliens are usually present. Serling himself used to appear at the beginning or end of each chapter to make a comment.
Coming Soon The Twilight Zone became a cult series inside and outside the United States. Famous actors and actresses worked on the show, including Buster Keaton, Jean Marsh, Ida Lupino, Ed Wynn, Burgess Meredith, Lee Marvin, Dean Stockwell, and Mickey Rooney. Also part of the cast were young figures who would later be recognized in film and television, such as Robert Redford, Roddy McDowall, Martin Landau, Carol Burnett, Cliff Robertson, Charles Bronson, Peter Falk, Burt Reynolds and James Coburn.
The Twilight Zone It ran for five seasons, until 1964, when the ratings dwindled and Serling decided it was time to end it. Serling later worked as a scriptwriter for other series and unit programs, and even acted in several, already becoming a living legend on television. He died of a heart attack in 1975, at the young age of 50.
The Twilight Zone It was produced again with new stories in the 1980s and 2000s, and now in 2019 it has just been reborn with the same premises: the everyday suddenly meets the amazing and unexpected, but there is always some lesson. The fact that the new generations continue to use the expressions Twilight Zone-Twilight ZoneAnd even if you acknowledge the series’ haunting theme song 60 years after its premiere, it’s a tribute to Rod Serling’s timeless creativity.
Marc Scott Zicree (1989). The Twilight Zone Companion. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press.