Rod Serling

Photo Credit: Rod Serling: Courtesy of King Features Syndicate 

The Father Of Modern Sci-Fi Television.
By Taylor Neumann, ReMIND Magazine

Rodman Edward Serling was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in New York and grew up in a family that encouraged his talents as a performer, with the young boy putting on plays in the basement and acting out parts from movies he’d seen. As he grew up, he became enamored with writing and with radio, which would define his career for the rest of his life.

After high school, Serling joined the Army and was sent to the Philippines. There, the death and violence he saw from both sides left him with nightmares and flashbacks and inspired strong political views. He received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the Philippine Liberation Medal for his service.

Upon leaving the Army in 1946, Serling enrolled at Antioch College in Ohio. He originally enrolled in physical education but changed his major to literature and involved himself in the theater and broadcasting departments. While in college, he achieved his first success as a writer, winning a scriptwriting contest for the radio program Dr. Christian. He continued to sell radio scripts after leaving school, but eventually became disenchanted with the medium. Instead, Serling decided to move to television and become a full-time freelance writer.

Into the mid ’50s, Serling wrote for dramatic anthology shows like Kraft Television Theatre, Appointment With Adventure and Hallmark Hall of Fame. His 72nd script, for Kraft Television Theatre in 1955, aired as the episode “Patterns” and immediately became a huge hit, changing Serling’s life practically overnight. Critics raved about the writing, and offers began flooding in for jobs.

As Serling sold more scripts, he struggled with the limits imposed on him by corporate sponsors, often changing his storylines significantly. He submitted a pilot to CBS for a new show, The Twilight Zone. That episode, “The Time Element,” was instead used for a different show, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, from Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. The twist ending, which would become a signature of Serling’s, generated so much positive response that the network greenlit his series.

On Oct. 2, 1959, The Twilight Zone premiered with its iconic science-fiction format. Serling drew on his own life experiences, including his military service, and incorporated some of his personal views on race and gender. The show aired for five seasons of 156 episodes, 92 of which were written by Serling himself.

After The Twilight Zone, Serling worked on other projects, including the television movie Carol for Another Christmas and the show Night Gallery. He also returned to radio in 1973 by hosting The Zero Hour (also known as Hollywood Radio Theater). He died in 1975 from a heart attack at the age of 50.

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