Mitch Horowitz on Rod Serling


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Serling definitely needs more recognition. His live TV play ‘Patterns’, 1955, was the only TV drama that was acted out twice, because of popular demand for it to be re-screened. Patterns is comparable to Death of Salesman for how savagely it cuts to the bone.

A strong statement I think can be said in Serling’s defense is that even if he did serve “as a pitchman for products from beer to socks to floor wax” that work has been almost entirely forgotten by everyone except Serling biographers. Not that there’s anything wrong with biographies, but the reason Serling’s life is of interest and worthy of study is because of The Twilight Zone, not because of his work as a pitchman.

He was a complex individual who did things that, at the time, might have seemed to be undermining his goal of improving humanity, but the legacy of The Twilight Zone has outlived the advertising he did. And maybe he hoped that would be the case.

This is probably addressed by Horowitz (I admit I need to RTFA and will), but since the snippet here focused so much on Serling selling “beer to socks to floor wax” I felt compelled to say it.

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Apart from anything else, Sterling’s voice and delivery were a thing of beauty - the voice of a man who looked into Fourth Dimension before breakfast, and for whom the vast gulfs of interstellar space were so many suburban lawns.

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Serling was a god. The Twilight Zone is still one of the best shows ever created.

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If Rod Serling had been too pure to refuse selling beer, socks, and floor wax his post anti-McCarthy, sci-fi fantasy, progressive 20th century morality tales never would have made it into the living rooms of 1950’s sleeping America. I wonder if the questions his stories raised had some influence on questioning the status quo and social changes of the '60’s by the kids who watched The Twilight Zone only a few years earlier.


Serling saw heavy WW2 combat int the Pacific and had PTSD the rest of his life. He was one of that generation of combat veterans that became writers without going to writing school.

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