38 years ago today…

Earlier this week, we lost Richard Matheson, the wonderfully talented author and screenplay writer who gave us I AM LEGEND, BID TIME RETURN, and HELL HOUSE, as wells as scripts for STAR TREK, THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR, and the TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. He also contributed scripts or stories for 17 episodes of the TWILIGHT ZONE.

062413-Matheson-I-Am-Legend

Rod Serling died 38 years ago today, and fiction is still feeling the loss as sorely as it is feeling the loss of Richard Matheson, who died five days ago at the age of 87. When THE TWILIGHT ZONE won it’s second Emmy, Serling singled out Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson as the “gremlins” responsible for crafting the series’ stories, and said, holding up the award: “Come on over, fellas, and we’ll carve it up like a turkey.”

Publicity photo of Serling, 1959

Publicity photo of Serling, 1959

THE TWILIGHT ZONE was indeed a community effort (with later script contributions from Earl Hamner of THE WALTONS and FALCON CREST), but it would not have been anything at all if not for Serling. He was its head writer, executive producer, on screen host, and its creator. He established the show, in large part, because he felt he couldn’t take on the social issues of the day without having the network censors gut his material. With THE TWILIGHT ZONE, he sneaked it all past them in the trappings of fantastic fiction.

TheTwilightZoneLogoHe wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes, and when it was all over, he followed it up with NBC’s THE NIGHT GALLERY, which some bore similarities to THE TWILIGHT ZONE but veered more toward horror and the macabre. It’s pilot featured a segment directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. It was his directorial debut. Serling wrote a third of the scripts for this second series, and Matheson contributed two.

After the series ended, Serling taught at Ithaca College, but died of a heart attack on June 28, 1975 at age 50. His family lost a father and husband, and television has never been the same since.

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One Response to “38 years ago today…”

  1. Aslan's frau Says:

    Loved this post. You are standing on the shoulders of giants.

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