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The Twilight Zone

This article is about The Twilight Zone as a franchise. For the original TV series, see The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series). For other uses, see Twilight Zone (disambiguation).
The Twilight Zone
1959 series logo
Creator Rod Serling
Original work The Twilight Zone
Print publications
Books Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary
Films and television
Films Twilight Zone: The Movie
Television series Original series (1959–64)
First revival (1985–89)
Second revival (2002–03)
Traditional Twilight Zone (pinball)
Radio programs The Twilight Zone (radio series)
Original music Composer: Marius Constant[1]
Theme park attractions The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Twilight Zone is an American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is a series of unrelated stories containing drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and/or horror, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist. A popular and critical success, it introduced many Americans to common science fiction and fantasy tropes. The program followed in the tradition of earlier shows like Tales of Tomorrow (1951–53), which also dramatized the short story "What You Need", and Science Fiction Theatre (1955–57), and radio programs like The Weird Circle, Dimension X, X Minus One and the radio work of one of Serling's inspirations, 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.[2]

Television history


As a boy, Rod Serling was a fan of pulp fiction stories. As an adult, he sought topics with themes such as racism, government, war, society and human nature in general. Serling decided to combine these two interests as a way to broach these subjects on television at a time when such issues were not commonly addressed.

Throughout the 1950s, Serling established himself as one of the most 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. "To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited."

"The Time Element" (1958)

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.


Several years after the end of World War II, a man named Peter Jenson (William Bendix) visits a psychoanalyst, Dr. Gillespie (Martin Balsam). Jenson tells him about a recurring dream in which he tries to warn people about the "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor before it happens, but the warnings are disregarded. Jenson believes the events of the dream are real, and each night he travels back to 1941. Dr. Gillespie insists that time travel is impossible given the nature of temporal paradoxes. While on the couch, Jenson falls asleep once again and dreams that the Japanese planes 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 he was killed during the Pearl Harbor attack.

William Bendix and Martin Balsam in "The Time Element"


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. However, "The Time Element" was purchased only to be shelved indefinitely.

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 24, 1958, to an overwhelmingly delighted audience of television viewers and critics alike. "The humor and sincerity of Mr. Serling's dialogue made 'The Time Element' consistently entertaining," offered Jack Gould of The New York Times. 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. It is available in an Italian DVD boxed set titled Ai confini della realtà – I tesori perduti. The Twilight Zone Season 1 Blu-ray boxed set released on September 14, 2010 offers a remastered high-definition version of the original Desilu Playhouse production as a special feature.[3]

Original series (1959–1964)

File:Rod Serling dictating script 1959.jpg
Rod Serling working on his script with a dictating machine, 1959

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 Ithaca College 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 avoided 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.

Despite his esteem in the writing community, Serling found the series difficult to sell. Few critics felt that science fiction could transcend empty escapism and enter the realm of adult drama. In a September 22, 1959, interview with Serling, Mike Wallace asked a question illustrative of the times: "...[Y]ou're going to be, obviously, working so hard on The Twilight Zone that, in essence, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?" 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)

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.[citation needed] In a tribute to the original series, the opening credits include a brief image of Rod Serling.

Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)

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 19, 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 where they discover that the feature presentation depicts their own lives. James Earl Jones provided opening and closing narrations.

Critical response was mixed. Gannett News Service described it as "taut and stylish, a reminder of what can happen when fine actors are given great words." USA Today was less impressed, even suggesting that Carol Serling "should have left these two unproduced mediocrities in the garage where she found them." Ultimately ratings proved insufficient to justify a proposed sequel featuring three scripts adapted by Matheson.

Second revival (2002–2003)

A second revival was attempted by UPN in 2002, with narration provided by Forest Whitaker. 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 revival

In December 2012, it was reported that Bryan Singer is developing and executive producing a third revival television series for CBS Television Studios. A writer for the series has not yet been chosen and the program has not yet been pitched to any networks. CBS, who broadcast the original series and first revival, is reportedly interested.[4][5][6][7][8] In February 2013, Singer told TG Daily that the project was still in development and that he hoped to direct the pilot and have a-list actors appear on the revival.[9] The following month, he told IGN that a writer with whom he had previously worked was in negotiations to join the revival and that he felt "passionate" towards the original series and the planned revival.[10]

Other media


Twilight Zone: The Movie is a 1983 feature film produced by Steven Spielberg. It starred Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, and the late Vic Morrow and Scatman Crothers.

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. Landis' episode became notorious for a helicopter accident during filming that caused the deaths of Morrow and two child actors.

Potential film

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning to make a new movie with Warner Bros., citing The Twilight Zone as his favorite TV series. 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.[11][12][13][14][15] One plot leaked from the script tells about a pilot who time-travels 96 years into the future.[16] Cloverfield director Matt Reeves was signed in 2011 to direct the movie, but left in 2012 to direct Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.[17] On August 16, 2013, Joseph Kosinski was announced to direct.[18] The studio hired Aron Eli Coleite to pen the screenplay for the film and will not be an anthology but use various elements from the “Twilight Zone” universe.[19]


In 1964, Ideal released a board game, The Twilight Zone Game, at the height of the show's popularity. The game consisted of a cardboard playing surface, four colored playing pieces, a colored spinning wheel, and 12 "door" playing cards.[20]

In 1988, Gigabit Systems, Inc. published a text adventure video game for Amiga and the PC. The game had various problems, for which players panned it.[citation needed]

In March 1992, Midway Games released a wide-body pinball game, Twilight Zone, based on the original TV series, as a Bally title. After his Addams Family pinball became the best selling pinball machine of all time, Midway gave designer Pat Lawlor creative control over the game, which uses Golden Earring's hit song "Twilight Zone" (1982) as its theme song. The game sold 15,235 units.[citation needed]

On September 17, 2014, Legacy Interactive and Spark Plug Games released a casual adventure game based on The Twilight Zone.[21]

Comic books

Western Publishing published a Twilight Zone comic book, first under their Dell Comics imprint for four issues, one in 1961 and three 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 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 were "Walking Distance", "The After Hours", "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", and "The Odyssey of Flight 33" and were released in December 2011. The other four were "The Midnight Sun", "Deaths-Head Revisited", "The Big Tall Wish" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?".[22]

Comics publisher Dynamite Entertainment ran a multi-issue series, written by J. Michael Straczynski and with art by Guiu Vilanova, beginning in December 2013.


Serling novelized several of his original scripts, which were published in the anthologies Stories from the Twilight Zone (1960), More Stories from the Twilight Zone (1961) and New Stories from the Twilight Zone (1962); these have all been reprinted several times including in an omnibus, The Twilight Zone: Complete Stories (1980).

In 1995, DAW Books published the anthology books 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 50th anniversary of the series. It contains stories by 20 authors such as R. L. Stine and Timothy Zahn, and an introduction by Carol Serling.


Television series


Influence in popular music

Many musicians have written and performed music based on the Twilight Zone, including: 2 Unlimited,[citation needed] Anthrax,[citation needed] Average White Band,[citation needed] John Cale,[citation needed] Dr. John,[citation needed] David Dubowski ("To Serve Man"),[citation needed] John Fahey,[citation needed] Golden Earring,[citation needed] Michael Hurley,[citation needed] Iron Maiden,[citation needed] Mekong Delta,[citation needed] Van Morrison,[citation needed] Rush,[citation needed] Raymond Scott,[citation needed] Sly & Robbie,[citation needed] The Manhattan Transfer,[citation needed] The Residents,[citation needed] The Ventures,[citation needed] and John Williams.[citation needed]


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


Beginning in 2001, Gauntlet Press began publishing collections of original scripts from The Twilight Zone by Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Rod Serling. A ten-volume signed, limited edition series of all 92 of Rod Serling's scripts, authorized by his wife, Carol Serling, began yearly publication in 2004. Many of the scripts contain handwritten edits by Serling himself and differ in significant ways from the aired versions; most volumes contain an alternate version of a selected script. The script for "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" has been published into 7th grade reading books in the form of a play.

Stage productions

Live theatre productions of the original episodes can be seen in Los Angeles and Seattle, where Theater Schmeater has continuously produced a late night series, "The Twilight Zone – Live" with permission of the Serling estate, since 1996.

In 2009, Masquerade, A Chennai based theater group produced 'Dystopia', loosely based on the episodes "The Obsolete Man" and "Five Characters in Search of an Exit"[24]

In 2011, the Penn State University theatre group, No Refund Theatre, produced a stage adaptation of The Twilight Zone. It included the episodes "The Eye of the Beholder", "The Midnight Sun", and "Nothing in the Dark". It was directed by Anthony Arbaiza.

Theme park attractions

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a theme park attraction based on the original series. Designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, the attraction is located at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Tokyo DisneySea in Japan has a different version that does not carry on the Twilight Zone theme, except the 1985 version, due to cultural reasons and constraints in licensing for the Oriental Land Company, owner and operator of the Tokyo parks.

See also


  1. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "A Composer Best Known for a Creepy TV Tune". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Roush, Matt (February 25, 2013). "Showstoppers: The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time". TV Guide. pp. 16-17.
  3. ^ "The Twilight Zone DVD news: Official Season 1 Press Release". Retrieved 2013-04-02. 
  4. ^ "Bryan Singer To Spearhead ‘Twilight Zone’ Series Reboot For CBS TV Studios". Deadline. 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  5. ^ "Singer leads Twilight Zone reboot". 2012-12-20. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  6. ^ "Bryan Singer Developing New TV Version of The Twilight Zone". IGN. 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  7. ^ "X-Men's' Bryan Singer Prepping 'Twilight Zone' Reboot". 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  8. ^ "Bryan Singer Developing New ‘Twilight Zone’ Series For CBS". 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  9. ^ "Bryan Singer Hoping for an A-list cast for his Twilight Zone show". Total Film. Future Publishing Limited. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ Cornet, Roth. "What’s Happening with Bryan Singer’s Planned Twilight Zone Series Reboot?". Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  11. ^ Siebalt, Joshua (2008-07-25). "DiCaprio Behind Another Twilight Zone". Dread Central. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2008-07-25). "DiCaprio eyes 'Twilight Zone' remake". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  13. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (2008-07-25). "Leonardo DiCaprio eyes the 'Zone'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  14. ^ "DiCaprio eyeing Twilight Zone remake". OneIndia. 2008-07-26. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  15. ^ "Leonardo DiCaprio eyeing 'Twilight Zone' remake". 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  16. ^ "Plot Description For The Twilight Zone Movie Revealed". cinemablend. 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  17. ^ "Matt Reeves exits The Twilight Zone movie". Den of Geek. September 26, 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  18. ^ 'Tron' Helmer Joseph Kosinski to Direct 'Twilight Zone' Film (Exclusive)
  19. ^ ‘Twilight Zone’ Movie Gaining Momentum At Warner Bros. (EXCLUSIVE)
  20. ^ "Twilight Zone board game". Board Game Geek. 
  21. ^ "Information about the upcoming Twilight Zone Game". The Twilight Zone Game. 2014-11-17. Retrieved 2014-12-18. 
  22. ^ Greenberger, Robert (2008-12-28). "Review: 'Twilight Zone' Graphic Novels". ComicMix. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  23. ^ "The Twilight Zone Tribute". American Music Preservation. 
  24. ^ "Play time, folks!". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2009-09-02. 


External links