Before he created the Twilight Zone, Rod Serling was a major contributor to early television dramas. He wrote television scripts that were broadcasted on drama/anthology television series such as Playhouse 90 and Kraft Television Theater. His popular dramas explored social and political conflicts and personal decisions: Patterns (1955) was an intense drama about the corporate competition; Requiem for a Heavyweight, (1956) was about a washed up boxer; The Arena, (1956) about a young Senator trying to defend the honor of his former-senator father; and The Strike, (1954) about a Korean War Major facing an agonizing decision during battle.
Serling wrote a script about Emmett Till, a 14 year old African-American who, in 1955, was killed in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. Despite overwhelming evidence the all-white jury found two accused white males innocent. (They confessed to the kidnapping and murder after the trial.) The television networks, reacting to corporate pressure, had Serling re-write the script twice. The final product was well below Serling’s standards. Tired of fighting with the network censors, Serling realized that he could get his controversial and political themes broadcasted if he wove them into science fiction short stories. That is how the Twilight Zone was created.
The Twilight Zone ran for five seasons, from 1959-1965 on CBS. Serling wrote 99 of the 156 episodes. Seasons 1-3, and 5 were half-hour programs. Season 4 episodes were an hour long. The stories include futuristic tales, concerns with atomic war, time travel, new twists on historical events, as well as social-interpersonal conflicts. The episodes mirrored the social fears of that era. Watching this classic series is like opening a 50 year old American Culture time capsule. Many episodes concludes with an unexpected twist.
The Sy-Fy Channel (Time Warner Cable 59, Direct TV-244)) has had a New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon since 1995. This year’s marathon begins on Wednesday, December 31 at 8 AM, and runs until Friday, December 2 at 6 AM. The Marathon will feature 87 episodes.
The following episodes are either about government (or as Serling sometimes calls it “The State”) or social-political conditions that we are presently dealing with. I have included a short teaser (No spoilers) and the time of the episode airs, incase you want to view or record them. The links take you to the Wikipedia page about the episode.
Wednesday, December 31
8:00 AM—The Old Man in the Cave–(Food Supply Being Ruin By Chemicals –It is NOT about Fracking, although I’m sure Serling would have been against Fracking). 9:30 AM—The Little People—(One Person’s Power Over Others) 10:00 AM—Third From The Sun— (Atomic War) 3:30 PM—Number 12 Looks Just Like You—(The “State” and Conformity) 7:30 PM- –The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street—(An Social Experiment –A Twilight Zone ‘Essential’)
Thursday, January 1
12 Midnight—The Midnight Sun—(Climate Change)
2:00 AM—The Lonely—(Cruel and Unusual Punishment)
12:30 PM—The Obsolete Man—(The “State” and Conformity –A Twilight Zone ‘Essential’)
9:00 PM—To Serve Man—( All Governments Agreeing)
10:30 PM—The Eye of the Beholder—(The “State” and Conformity)
11:00 PM—The Shelter—(Atomic War)
11:30 PM—I Am The Night, Color Me Black— (Hate–written i n response to the JFK assassination)
Other, non-political key episodes in the marathon:
Wednesday 4:30 PM—Walking Distance–(You Can’t Go Home Again. A Twilight Zone Essential.)
Wednesday 5:00 PM—A Hundred Yards Over The Rim–(A Tribute to our Forefathers)
Wednesday 9:30 PM—Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Who Do You Believe? A Twilight Zone ‘Essential)
Wednesday 10:00 PM—A Stop at Willoughby (Corporate Pressure)
Wednesday 10:30 PM—The Hitch-Hiker (Fear, A Twilight Zone ‘Essential’)
Thursday 2:30 PM– It’s A Good Life (Who Is In Charge? A Twilight Zone ‘Essential)
Thursday 9:00 PM–Time Enough At Last (Be Careful of What You Wish For! A Twilight Zone ‘Essential)
Twilight Zone Episodes can by streamed from Netflix.
You can view most (if not all) Twilight Zone Episodes on Youtube.
There are numerous websites dedicated to the Twilight Zone and/or Rod Serling.
Twilight Zone Essentials, a two disc collection of the series’ 17 most memorable episodes.