Obviously, we’re speaking of Rod Serling. And it seems somewhat appropriate with today being election day to shed a little light on the other side of this man. It’s not widely known, but Rod was most vocal concerning the censorship practiced by sponsors and networks. "I was not permitted to have my Senators discuss any current or pressing problem," he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics. "To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited."
Twilight Zone's writers used science fiction as a vehicle for social comment; networks and sponsors who had infamously censored all potentially "inflammatory" material from the then predominant live dramas were ignorant of the methods developed by writers such as Ray Bradbury for dealing with important issues through seemingly innocuous fantasy.
Frequent themes included nuclear war, mass hysteria, and McCarthyism, subjects that were strictly forbidden on more "serious" prime-time drama. Episodes such as "The Shelter" or "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" offered specific commentary on current events. Other stories, such as "The Masks" or "The Howling Man," operated around a central allegory, parable, or fable that reflected the characters' moral or philosophical choices.
Despite his esteem in the writing community, Serling found The Twilight Zone difficult to sell. Few critics felt that science fiction could transcend empty escapism and enter the realm of adult drama. In a September 22, 1959, interview with Serling, Mike Wallace asked a question illustrative of the times: "You're going to be, obviously, working so hard on The Twilight Zone that, in essence, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?"
The top photo is one I shall remember always. It was late in the evening. My parents had already gone to bed, so I was all by myself in the living room. I remember this episode opened in a hospital room with a patient lying in bed, her head covered in gauze bandages. You could hear the doctors telling her that they tried their best to make the operation work, but they wouldn't know the outcome until they removed the bandages.
The story progressed with the girl telling everyone she was just tired of being ugly and wanted to be normal, like everyone else. Well, you can pretty well guess, or remember if you saw it, that when they removed her bandages and the viewer saw a beautiful face, it was surprising to hear the doctors apologize for not being able to make the surgery successful. Then the camera moved to the doctors and nurses for the first time. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I saw them. Yikes! Time for bed.
Today's video contains over nine minutes of a great pilot promo that Rod did back in 1956. It's quite interesting. I hope you take the time time watch it.