The Twilight Zone (1959)

The Twilight Zone (1959) Information

The Twilight Zone is an American science-fiction/fantasy anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consists of unrelated stories depicting paranormal, futuristic, kafkaesque, or otherwise disturbing or unusual events; each story typically features some sort of plot twist and a moral.

The series is notable for featuring both established stars (Joan Blondell, Ann Blyth, Buster Keaton, Burgess Meredith, Ed Wynn) and younger actors who became famous later on (Veronica Cartwright, Bill Bixby, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Duvall, Mariette Hartley, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Robert Redford). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show's 156 episodes. He was also the show's host and narrator, delivering monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. Serling's opening and closing narrations usually summarize the episode's events encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had entered the Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists.

In 1997, the episodes "To Serve Man" and "It's a Good Life" were respectively ranked at 11 and 31 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time; Serling himself stated that his favorite episodes of the series were "The Invaders" and "Time Enough at Last". In 2002, The Twilight Zone was ranked No. 26 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.


By the late 1950s, Rod Serling was a regular name in television. His successful teleplays included Patterns (for Kraft Television Theater) and Requiem for a Heavyweight (for Playhouse 90), but constant changes and edits made by the networks and sponsors frustrated Serling. In Requiem for a Heavyweight, the line "Got a match?" had to be struck because the sponsor sold lighters; other programs had similar striking of words that might remind viewers of competitors to the sponsor, including one case in which the sponsor, Ford Motor Company, had the Chrysler Building removed from a picture of the New York City skyline.

But according to comments in his 1957 anthology Patterns, Serling had been trying to delve into material more controversial than his works of the early 1950s. This led to Noon on Doomsday for the United States Steel Hour in 1956, a commentary by Serling on the total lack of repentance and defensiveness he saw in the Mississippi town where the murder of Emmett Till took place. His original script closely paralleled the Till case, then was moved out of the South and the victim changed to a Jewish pawnbroker, and eventually watered down to just a foreigner in an unnamed town. Despite bad reviews, activists sent a large number of letters and wires protesting the production.

Serling thought that a science-fictional setting, with robots, aliens and other supernatural occurrences, would give him more freedom and less interference in expressing controversial ideas than more realistic settings. "The Time Element" was Serling's 1957 pilot pitch for his show, a time travel adventure about a man who travels back to Honolulu in 1941 and unsuccessfully tries to warn everyone about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. The script, however, was rejected and shelved for a year until Bert Granet discovered and produced it as an episode of Desilu Playhouse in 1958. The show was a huge success and enabled Serling to finally begin production on his anthology series, The Twilight Zone.

Overview of seasons

Main article: List of The Twilight Zone episodes

Season 1 (1959"1960)

The Twilight Zone premiered the night of October 2, 1959 to rave reviews. "...Twilight Zone is about the only show on the air that I actually look forward to seeing. It's the one series that I will let interfere with other plans", said Terry Turner for the Chicago Daily News. Others agreed. Daily Variety ranked it with "the best that has ever been accomplished in half-hour filmed television" and the New York Herald Tribune found the show to be "certainly the best and most original anthology series of the year."

Even as the show proved popular to television's critics, it struggled to find a receptive audience of television viewers. CBS was banking on a rating of at least 21 or 22, but its initial numbers were much worse. The series' future was jeopardized when its third episode, "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" earned a 16.3 rating. The show attracted a large enough audience to survive a brief hiatus in November, during which it finally surpassed its competition on ABC and NBC and convinced its sponsors (General Foods and Kimberly-Clark) to stay on until the end of the season.

With one exception ("The Chaser"), the first season featured only scripts written by Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, a team that was eventually responsible for 127 of the show's 156 episodes. Additionally, with one exception ("A World of His Own"), Serling never appeared on camera except to announce the next episode, instead doing voice-over narrations. Many of the season's episodes proved to be among the series' most celebrated, including "Time Enough at Last", "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", "Walking Distance" and "The After Hours". The first season won Serling an unprecedented fourth Emmy for dramatic writing, a Producers Guild Award for Serling's creative partner Buck Houghton and the Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation.

Bernard Herrmann's original opening theme music lasted throughout the first season. For the final five episodes of the season, the show's original surrealist "pit and summit" opening montage and narration was replaced by a piece featuring a blinking eye and shorter narration, and a truncated version of Herrmann's theme.

Note: some first-season episodes have only been available for decades in a version with a pasted-on second-season opening. These "re-themed" episodes were prepared for airing in the summer of 1961 as summer repeats; the producers wanted to have a consistent opening for the show every week. During the original 1959/60 run, Herrmann's theme was used in every first season episode.

Season 2 (1960"1961)

The second season premiered on September 30, 1960 with "King Nine Will Not Return", Serling's fresh take on the pilot episode "Where Is Everybody?" based on a real-life 1958 news story of the discovery of a crashed World War II B-24 bomber in the Libyan desert. The familiarity of this first story stood in stark contrast to the novelty of the show's new packaging: Bernard Herrmann's stately original theme was replaced by Marius Constant's more jarring and dissonant (and now more-familiar) new guitar-and-bongo theme. The blinking eye was replaced by a more surreal introduction inspired by the new images in Serling's narration (such as "That's the signpost up ahead"), and Serling himself stepped in front of the cameras to present his opening narration, rather than being only a voice-over narrator (as in the first season).

A new sponsor, Colgate-Palmolive, replaced the previous year's Kimberly-Clark (as Liggett & Myers would succeed General Foods, in April 1961), and a new network executive, James Aubrey, took over CBS. "Jim Aubrey was a very, very difficult problem for the show", said associate producer Del Reisman. "He was particularly tough on The Twilight Zone because for its time it was a particularly costly half hour show....Aubrey was real tough on [the show's budget] even when it was a small number of dollars." In a push to keep the show's expenses down, Aubrey ordered that seven fewer episodes be produced than last season and that six of those being produced would be shot on videotape rather than film, a move Serling disliked, calling it "neither fish nor fowl". Two additional episodes filmed in the second season ("The Grave" and "Nothing in the Dark") were held over to the third season.

Season two saw the production of many of the series' most acclaimed episodes, including "The Eye of the Beholder" and "The Invaders". The trio of Serling, Matheson and Beaumont began to admit new writers, and this season saw the television debut of George Clayton Johnson. Emmys were won by Serling (his fifth) for dramatic writing and by director of photography George T. Clemens and, for the second year in a row, the series won the Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation. It also earned the Unity Award for "Outstanding Contributions to Better Race Relations" and an Emmy nomination for "Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Drama".

Season 3 (1961"1962)

In his third year as executive producer, host, narrator and primary writer for The Twilight Zone, Serling was beginning to feel exhausted. "I've never felt quite so drained of ideas as I do at this moment", said the 37-year old playwright at the time. In the first two seasons he contributed 48 scripts, or 73% of the show's total output. He contributed only 56% of this season's output. "The show now seems to be feeding off itself", said a Variety reviewer of the season's episode two.

Despite his avowed weariness, Serling again managed to produce several teleplays that are widely regarded as classics, including "It's a Good Life", "To Serve Man", and "Five Characters in Search of an Exit". Scripts by Montgomery Pittman and Earl Hamner Jr. supplemented Matheson and Beaumont's output, and George Clayton Johnson submitted three teleplays that examined complex themes. The episode "I Sing the Body Electric" could boast, "Written by Ray Bradbury." By the end of the season, the series had reached over 100 episodes.

The Twilight Zone received two Emmy nominations (for cinematography and art design), but was awarded neither. It again received the Hugo Award for "Best Dramatic Presentation", making it the only three-time recipient until it was tied by Doctor Who in 2008.

In spring 1962, The Twilight Zone was late in finding a sponsor for its fourth season and was replaced on CBS' fall schedule with a new hour-long situation comedy called Fair Exchange. In the confusion that followed this apparent cancellation, producer Buck Houghton left the series for a position at Four Star Productions. Serling meanwhile accepted a teaching post at Antioch College, his alma mater. Though the series was eventually renewed, Serling's contribution as executive producer decreased in its final seasons.

Season 4 (1963)

In November 1962 CBS contracted Twilight Zone (now sans the The) as a mid-season January replacement for Fair Exchange, the very show that replaced it in the September 1962 schedule. In order to fill the Fair Exchange timeslot each episode had to be expanded to an hour, an idea which did not sit well with the production crew. "Ours is the perfect half-hour show... If we went to an hour, we'd have to fleshen our stories, soap opera style. Viewers could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse", Serling responded. Herbert Hirschman was hired to replace long-time producer Buck Houghton. One of Hirschman's first decisions was to direct a new opening sequence, this one illustrating a door, eye, window and other objects suspended in space. His second task was to find and produce quality scripts.

This season of Twilight Zone once again turned to the reliable trio of Serling, Matheson and Beaumont. However, Serling's input was limited this season; he still provided the lion's-share of the teleplays, but as executive producer he was virtually absent and as host, his artful narrations had to be shot back-to-back against a gray background during his infrequent trips to Los Angeles. Due to complications from a developing brain disease, Beaumont's input also began to diminish significantly. Additional scripts were commissioned from Earl Hamner, Jr. and Reginald Rose to fill in the gap.

With five episodes left in the season, Hirschman received an offer to work on a new NBC series called Espionage and was replaced by Bert Granet, who had previously produced "The Time Element". Among Granet's first assignments was "On Thursday We Leave for Home", which Serling considered the season's most effective episode. There was an Emmy nomination for cinematography, and a nomination for the Hugo Award. The show returned to its half-hour format for the fall schedule.

Season 5 (1963"1964)

Serling later claimed, "I was writing so much, I felt I had begun to lose my perspective on what was good and what was bad." By the end of this final season, he had contributed 92 scripts in five years. This season, the new alternate sponsors were American Tobacco and Procter & Gamble.

Beaumont was now out of the picture entirely, contributing scripts only through the ghostwriters Jerry Sohl and John Tomerlin, and after producing only 13 episodes, Bert Granet left and was replaced by William Froug"?with whom Serling had worked on Playhouse 90.

Froug made a number of unpopular decisions; first by shelving several scripts purchased under Granet's term (including Matheson's "The Doll", which was nominated for a Writer's Guild Award when finally produced in 1986 on Amazing Stories); secondly, Froug alienated George Clayton Johnson when he hired Richard deRoy to completely rewrite Johnson's teleplay Tick of Time, eventually produced as "Ninety Years Without Slumbering". "It makes the plot trivial", complained Johnson of the resulting script, insisting he be given screen credit for the final version of the episode as "Johnson Smith". Tick of Time became Johnson's final submission to The Twilight Zone.

Even under these conditions, several episodes were produced that are well remembered, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "A Kind of a Stopwatch" and "Living Doll". Although this season received no Emmy recognition, episode number 142, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge""?a 1962 French-produced short film which was modified slightly for broadcast"?received the Academy Award for best short film in 1963.

In late January 1964, CBS announced the show's cancellation. "For one reason or other, Jim Aubrey decided he was sick of the show... [H]e claimed that it was too far over budget and that the ratings weren't good enough", explained Froug. But Serling countered by telling the Daily Variety that he had "decided to cancel the network". ABC showed interest in bringing the show over to their network under the new name Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves, but Serling was not impressed. "The network executives seem to prefer weekly ghouls, and we have what appears to be a considerable difference in opinion. I don't mind my show being supernatural, but I don't want to be booked into a graveyard every week." Shortly afterwards Serling sold his 40% share in The Twilight Zone to CBS, leaving the show and indeed all projects involving the supernatural behind him until 1969, when Night Gallery debuted.


Main article: List of The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) guest stars
Being an anthology series with no recurring characters, The Twilight Zone features a wide array of guest stars for each episode, some of whom appeared in multiple episodes. Many episodes feature early performances from actors who later became famous, such as Theodore Bikel, Bill Bixby, Lloyd Bochner, Morgan Brittany, Charles Bronson, Carol Burnett, Donna Douglas, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Constance Ford, Joan Hackett, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard, Martin Landau, Cloris Leachman, Jean Marsh, Elizabeth Montgomery, Billy Mumy, Julie Newmar, Barbara Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Janice Rule, William Shatner, Joyce Van Patten, Jack Warden, Jonathan Winters, and Dick York. Other episodes feature performances by actors later in their careers, such as Dana Andrews, Joan Blondell, Ann Blyth, Art Carney, Jack Carson, Gladys Cooper, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Cedric Hardwicke, Josephine Hutchinson, Buster Keaton, Ida Lupino, Kevin McCarthy, Agnes Moorehead, Alan Napier, Franchot Tone, Mickey Rooney, and Ed Wynn.

Character actors who appeared (some more than once) include John Anderson, John Dehner, Betty Garde, Sandra Gould, Nancy Kulp, Celia Lovsky, Eve McVeagh, Nehemiah Persoff, Albert Salmi, Vito Scotti, Olan Soule, Harold J. Stone, and Estelle Winwood. The actor who appears in the most episodes is Robert McCord, with 29 appearances (though 26 of those were uncredited).


Besides the legendary Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, other contributors to the music were Nathan Van Cleave, Leonard Rosenman, Fred Steiner, and Franz Waxman. The first season featured an orchestral title theme by Herrmann, who also wrote original scores for seven of the episodes, including the premiere, "Where Is Everybody?" The iconic guitar theme most associated with the show was written by the French avant-garde composer Marius Constant as part of a series of short cues commissioned by CBS as library music for the series. Used from season two onwards, the theme as aired was a splicing together of two of these library cues "Etrange 3 (Strange No. 3)" and "Milieu 2 (Middle No. 2)". Varèse Sarabande released several albums of music from the series, focusing on the episodes that received original scores.

Volume 1

  1. Main Title Theme " Marius Constant (:27)
  2. The Invaders " Jerry Goldsmith (12:57)
  3. Perchance To Dream " Nathan Van Cleave (9:52)
  4. Walking Distance " Bernard Herrmann (12:52)
  5. The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine " Franz Waxman (10:55)
  6. End Title Theme " Marius Constant (:42)
Volume 2

  1. Main Title Theme " Bernard Herrmann (1:11)
  2. Where Is Everybody? " Bernard Herrmann (11:19)
  3. 100 Yards Over The Rim " Fred Steiner (12:14)
  4. The Big Tall Wish " Jerry Goldsmith (11:52)
  5. A Stop At Willoughby " Nathan Scott (12:24)
  6. End Title Theme " Bernard Herrmann (1:05)
Volume 3

  1. Alternate Main Title Theme " Marius Constant (:38)
  2. Back There " Jerry Goldsmith (12:51)
  3. And When The Sky Was Opened " Leonard Rosenman (11:54)
  4. A World Of Difference " Nathan Van Cleave (11:48)
  5. The Lonely " Bernard Herrmann (11:09)
  6. Alternate End Title " Marius Constant (:54)
Volume 4

  1. Alternate Main Title " Bernard Herrmann (:28)
  2. Jazz Theme One " Jerry Goldsmith (9:12)
  3. Jazz Theme Two " Jerry Goldsmith (3:12)
  4. Jazz Theme Three " Rene Garriguenc (4:04)
  5. Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room " Jerry Goldsmith (8:16)
  6. Elegy " Nathan Van Cleave (8:14)
  7. King Nine Will Not Return " Fred Steiner (11:11)
  8. Two " Nathan Van Cleave (12:09)
  9. Alternate End Title " Bernard Herrmann (:43)
Volume 5

  1. Alternate Main Title #2 " Bernard Herrmann (:29)
  2. I Sing The Body Electric " Nathan Van Cleave (11:41)
  3. The Passerby " Fred Steiner (12:58)
  4. The Trouble With Templeton " Jeff Alexander (11:46)
  5. Dust " Jerry Goldsmith (11:33)
  6. Alternate End Title #2 " Bernard Herrmann (1:07)
Many of the above were included on a four-disc set released by Silva America. Varese also released a two-disc set of re-recordings of Herrmann's seven scores for the series ("Where Is Everybody?," "Walking Distance," "The Lonely," "Eye Of The Beholder," "Little Girl Lost," "Living Doll" and "Ninety Years Without Slumbering"), conducted by Joel McNeely. Alongside this release, Bernard Herrmann's score for the episode "Walking Distance" received another re-recording accompanying a new recording of his score for François Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Stromberg and released by Tribute Film Classics.

Broadcast history

Season Time slot
1 (1959"1960) Friday at 10:00 pm E.T.
2 (1960"1961)
3 (1961"1962)
4 (1963) Thursday at 9:00 pm E.T.
5 (1963"1964) Friday at 9:30 pm E.T.

Primetime Emmy Awards

The Twilight Zone was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards and won two.

  • 1959"1960 (presented June 20, 1960)
    • Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama: Rod Serling " Won
  • 1960"1961 (presented May 16, 1961)
    • Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Drama " Nominated
    • Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama: Rod Serling " Won
  • 1961"1962 (presented May 22, 1962)
    • Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama: Rod Serling " Nominated

In media


Most episodes continue to be broadcast in syndication. After the cancellation of the series, Serling sold his rights to CBS, unaware of what the future would hold in syndication, and the royalties he would have gained.

Episodes are broadcast nationally on the Syfy channel in the United States. They are regularly shown in late-night slots, and in marathons aired typically every year on New Year's Eve and Day and the Fourth of July. Syfy broadcasts are often re-cut to feature more commercials during the time slot.

Originally, there were five episodes not included in the syndication package. Three of those ("Sounds and Silences", "Miniature", and "A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain") were involved in plagiarism lawsuits. The other two, which have never been in syndication (both from season five), are "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (a French short film, aired twice per agreement with the filmmakers) and "The Encounter" (which was pulled after its initial showing).

DVD releases

The Twilight Zone was released on Region 1 DVD for the first time by Image Entertainment. The various releases include:

  • 43 volumes of 3 to 4 episodes each (released December 29, 1998 " June 12, 2001)
  • Five 9-disc Collection DVD sets (released December 3, 2002 " February 25, 2003)
  • Season sets: The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Collection (Seasons One through Five) (released December 28, 2004 " December 26, 2005)
  • The Twilight Zone: The Complete Definitive Collection (released October 3, 2006)

  • Treasures of The Twilight Zone (3 episode compilation released November 24, 1997)
  • More Treasures of The Twilight Zone (3 episode compilation released November 24, 1998)
  • The Twilight Zone: 40th Anniversary Gift Pack (19 episode compilation released September 21, 1999)
  • The Twilight Zone Fan Favorites (19 episode compilation announced for October 26, 2010 release)
Limited set

  • The Twilight Zone: Gold Collection, a 49 disc set of the entire series, released by V3 Media on December 2, 2002. Only 2,500 copies of this set were made.
Blu-ray Disc

  • Season 1 was released on Blu-ray 14 September 2010.
  • Season 2 was released on Blu-ray 16 November 2010.
  • Season 3 was released on Blu-ray 15 February 2011
  • Season 4 was released on Blu-ray 17 May 2011
  • Season 5 was released on Blu-ray 30 August 2011
  • The complete series was released on Blu-ray June 5, 2012.
UK Release

Freemantle Media released a box set for each season of The Twilight Zone on both DVD and Blu-ray over 2011 and early 2012. These sets received high praise and won an award from The Guardian for Best Special Features of 2011. These Blu-rays and DVDs are multi-region and so can be played around the world.


In 2002, producer Carl Amari licensed the rights to turn the TV series into a weekly radio drama series from CBS Enterprises and the Rod Serling Estate. The series features Stacy Keach in Rod Serling's role as narrator and each 40-minute audio drama includes a Hollywood celebrity in the starring role. Some of the stars include Jim Caviezel, Blair Underwood, Jason Alexander, Jane Seymour, Lou Diamond Phillips, Luke Perry, Michael York, Sean Astin, and Ernie Hudson. The episodes air nationally on hundreds of radio stations and Sirius/XM, and are available for download.

Online distribution

The iTunes (US) store began selling some episodes of the series in 2010, in both standard and high definitions.

In April 2011, all half-hour episodes (seasons 1"3 and 5) of the series became available on Netflix Instant Streaming.

The series is also available on Hulu.


The series has seen two revivals.

See also The Twilight Zone

See also

  • Science fiction on television

Related series

  • Night Gallery
  • The Outer Limits
  • Science Fiction Theatre
  • Way Out

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Twilight_Zone_%281959_TV_series%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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