Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Rod Serling

I didn't have time to mention in on Christmas Day, but I do want to mark the birthday of one of the earliest "literary" influences in my life, Rod Serling.  Serling was born on Christmas day, 1924, and died on June 28, 1975, at the age of 50 from complications suffered during the open heart surgery procedure he had undergone just two days earlier.  Most people, especially those my age, will remember Serling as the creator of one of the finest programs ever to grace CBS-TV, The Twilight Zone, but he was also an accomplished short story and screenplay writer.  The series ran for 156 episodes, over 90 of which Serling wrote himself, and his introductions to each of the shows became classic pieces of television history in themselves.

The Twilight Zone ran for five seasons, beginning in 1959, not too long after I turned eleven years old - the perfect age for someone to discover a series like that one.  Suddenly, I found myself paying attention to plot details and characters in a way I hadn't done before, probably because I was so fascinated by just how much could be packed into a show that lasted only 25 minutes or so.  And, too, I think these shows were my introduction to the concept of the "surprise ending," still one of my favorite literary devices (I thank Rod Serling for preparing me to be a huge O. Henry fan when I finally stumbled upon that great short story writer a few years later).  Rod Serling is, beyond doubt, one of the main reasons I am such an avid reader today.  He helped make me appreciate the world of stories and books, and I still can't get enough of either today.

Serling is a member of the Television Hall of Fame and I consider him to be one of the finest science fiction writers that I have ever read.  It is a real shame that the man, a heavy duty chain smoker, died so young from the damage all that smoking did to his heart.  Who knows what else he might have left behind?


  1. Oh Sam, this post brings back such memories for me. Sunday evening, the whole family in front of the TV with grilled cheese sandwiches. The only night of the week we were released from sitting down to a formal dinner.
    One of the most devastating episodes I recall had to do with a mousey little bank employee who happened to be in the vault when there was some type of nuclear disaster.
    He came out, peering through his uber thick glasses, to find his world in shambles but managed to get himself to the front steps of the New York Public Library, ecstatic to think he had all those books to himself. And you remember that one? I was about your age....

  2. Sally, I remember that one well - and it surprises me how many people who read a lot bring that episode up as the one they still remember best after all these years. I had just gotten my first pair of glasses a few weeks before I saw that one and it really made me think.

  3. I have very fond memories of being scared to death after watching one of the Twilight Zone episodes.

  4. I enjoyed those, too, Susan, but Night Gallery didn't seem to have the same impact on me that Twilight Zone had. It's probably because I was a bit older and more distracted when Night Gallery came along. I'm going to have to find some old episodes on NetFlix and reacquaint myself with some of those old shows.

  5. You're right Kathleen, some of those old shows could be pretty scary if you were a kid, but they painlessly taught me a lot about writing, plots, character development, surprise endings, too. They were huge for me.