60 years of The Twilight Zone

On October 2, 1959, the TV show “The Twilight Zone” made its debut in the USA. It lasted until 1964 for a total of 5 seasons. In the following decades it had various revivals with the second version broadcast between 1985 and 1989, the third version in the 2002-2003 season and the most recent one started in 2019.

“The Twilight Zone” was born from an idea by Rod Serling, who reached success as a screenwriter during the 1950s and decided to produce his own show in order to maintain creative control. The show mixed science fiction, fantasy, horror and other elements that can hardly be labeled and was strongly characterized by episodes with a moral and a surprise ending, in some cases with memorable perspective reversals.

From the beginning, “The Twilight Zone” received the favor of critics and the first season received various awards but the ratings results were initially poor. The situation improved over the months, leading to a renewal.

The second season brought more critical successes and other awards but also more budget limits. Rod Serling, who had written almost all the episodes of the first season with Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, started using other writers. Despite the difficulties, the show was renewed for the third season.

In the third season Rod Serling’s contributions dropped a bit due to the impossibility of continuing to be at the same time the executive producer, the main screenwriter, and the host. The season won only the Hugo award but the show was renewed again.

The fourth season was the most anomalous of the show because the format was modified passing from a duration of the episodes from half an hour to an hour. The decision was taken by CBS and the production staff didn’t like it because the new length of the episodes didn’t fit the type of stories typical of “The Twilight Zone”. The episodes were only 18, about half compared to those of the previous seasons, to compensate for their duration’s doubling. It was a season different from the others but despite the problems the show was renewed again restoring the duration of the episodes to half an hour.

The fifth season had production problems due to different opinions between William Froug, who had become a producer to take some work off Rod Serling’s shoulders, and some authors. Various episodes are still considered high level but weren’t enough to save the show again so it got canceled at the beginning of 1964.

“The Twilight Zone” was an anthology series so the cast changed with each episode. Some actors participated in various episodes and many of them were young actors who later became famous. It never had extraordinary ratings but the show’s style gave birth to a cult around it. It stimulated the audience imagination like very few others.

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