The Twilight Zone: The Article Never Submitted for Your Approval

Burgess Meredith, “Time Enough at Last,” Season 1, Episode 8. ©CBS Television Studios

Back in 2006, I started work on an article about the then-upcoming 50th anniversary of “The Twilight Zone” that I hoped to sell as a freelance piece. Research centered on watching all 156 episodes that aired throughout the TV series’ five-season run (Oct. 2, 1959 to June 19, 1964).

Despite significant effort, I never finished the story. I couldn’t get the writing where I wanted it to be, and I questioned whether I could land the caliber of publication I desired, given my lack of authority on the show.

Rod Serling. ©CBS Television Studios

I also realized that I wasn’t as much of a fan as I’d thought. Aside from the handful of really good episodes that have aired countless times in syndication, I found most of the rest to be lacking. Would anyone want to read, let alone publish, an article whose basic premise amounted to: Remember that show you loved? Turns out it wasn’t all that great.

Only in the Twilight Zone, perhaps.

Even so, the project often haunts me. I occasionally stumble across my notes and revised drafts and wish I hadn’t abandoned it.

My favorite part was the headline I’d crafted: Twist Again: After Five Decades, ‘The Twilight Zone’ Packs an Ironic Punch.

Some excerpts:

– In his opening monologue, Serling describes the Twilight Zone in dichotomies — fact and fiction, fear and knowledge — but casts it as a playground of ideas bound only by imagination itself. Whose? We don’t know, though the show, through the conveyance of syndication positions us as ….

– Whether it had an ethos, a pathos or simply a narrative elasticity is never fully stated or consistently mined. The program proved to be as innovative as it was derivative — a primetime show tackling issues of life, death, identity (personal and collective) and what it meant to be a human being in the modern age. Yet the program was an anthology when the format was quickly fading from popular favor.

– For my two cents, “The Twilight Zone” most resonates with storylines that could happen rather than the ones that could happen. With respect to science, Serling and his staff fell flat on just about every measure — the operation of an actual spacecraft, the presence of intelligent life on other planets and elsewhere in the universe and the …. Yet they also stumbled across some very genuine moments, points where human beings became caught between the “summit of man’s knowledge and the pit of man’s fear.”

Ed Wynn, “One For the Angels,” Season 1, Episode 2. ©CBS Television Studios

– Much of the dialogue is too clever by half, and the scripts often let the ideology override the story.

I intended this next, short paragraph to conclude the article, assuming I could make the setup/transition work in a way that felt natural and satisfying. In a surviving draft, I quoted the final line from an overtly sentimental episode entitled “One for the Angels,” starring Ed Wynn.

– Serling’s voiceover: “Couldn’t happen, you say? Probably not in most places. But it did happen, in the Twilight Zone.”

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