Do Not Go Gentle Into That Twilight: Rod Serling's Challenge to 1960s' Television Production
New Review of Film and Television Studies 6(3), 343-364., June 2008
Jonathan B. Kraszewski, Ph.D.
Department of Communication and the Arts
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) appeared after the American television industry completed a shift in the way it produced drama and transferred creative authority of the storytelling process from writers to producers. Rod Serling, a decorated dramatic writer from the 1950s, tried to control the situation by becoming a producer in order to protect his interests and those of writers around him from the onslaught of powerful producers. Serling allowed writers to mix fantasy with a variety of genres on The Twilight Zone in a way that enabled them to customize the level of character development, the narrative point of view and the generic identity of episodes on a script-by-script basis. These choices were reserved for producers in the 1960s. This essay offers a production history of The Twilight Zone through an analysis of unpublished correspondence between Serling, CBS, and the Ashley-Steiner Famous Artist talent agency housed in the Rod Serling Archive at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; these documents reveal Serling’s use of fantasy during the production of The Twilight Zone was a valiant effort to protect the creative authority of writers at the dawn of the 1960s.