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Beyond the Zone with Tony Albarella

Tony Albaralla reviews obscure
productions from Rod Serling's career


  

Young Rod Serling tiptoes over cables during a live production at CBS-TV
Golden Age: A young Rod Serling tiptoes over
camera cables during a live production at CBS


The average person readily associates Rod Serling with his signature creation, The Twilight Zone. Some recognize him as the curator of Night Gallery. Those of you who are more familiar with Serling’s overall body of work know that he was one of a handful of writers responsible for what we now refer to as the Golden Age of Television.

You’ve likely screened some or all of Serling’s greatest live TV hits, Emmy-award winners like “Patterns,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” or “The Comedian.” Perhaps you’ve seen some of Serling’s screenplays, such as SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) or PLANET OF THE APES (1968), or lesser-known television efforts like “The Velvet Alley,” “Bomber’s Moon,” or “The Time Element.”

In this series of reviews, I’d like to focus on Serling’s more obscure work. His back catalogue, as it were, consisting of both pre- and post-Twilight Zone scripts and teleplays. These are the neglected Serling shows. The early ones, with rough edges, on which the writer cut his teeth, or late Fifties and early-to-mid Sixties teleplays that were obscured by the brilliance of The Twilight Zone, or examples from late in Serling’s life.

Tony Albarella
Tony Albarella

These unsung examples are no less worthy of analysis than are the more prominent Serling hits, but are – due to the transitory nature of pre-VHS television and a lack of availability – generally overlooked. They are screenplays and teleplays that exist, even to Serling aficionados, as little more than titles in the Rod Serling filmography. I’d like to shed a ray or two of sunlight on these sequestered treasures, for the edification of anyone who might care to explore the dusty corners of Serling’s legacy.

Please note that these critiques are based not on extrapolations from Serling’s written scripts but rather on actual screenings of the programs as they originally aired. The goal here is to examine each show in the format in which it was presented to audiences. Unless otherwise noted, the source for these screenings is either the Paley Center (with locations in New York City, NY, and Los Angeles, CA) or the audio/video archive of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation.

—Tony Albarella