With over 200 produced teleplays to his credit, Rod Serling was one of the
most prolific writers in television history. A complete videography can be
found in Gordon F. Sander's Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man.
The list below includes what is generally considered to be Serling's very best.
Titles which have entries on the Internet Movie Database are linked to it.
Not all of these productions are available on home video or DVD. Many
recorded programs have simply never been released, and countless other live
television productions are sadly lost to us forever: in that pre-videotape
era, the only way to record a program was by filming it directly off the studio
monitor with a motion picture camera (a format known as "kinescope").
Unfortunately, not all live broadcasts were recorded this way.
In-print titles are linked to either Internet Movie Database or Movies
Unlimited. Other sources for rare videos include Shokus Video
Live TV Era | Twilight
Zone Era | Night Gallery Era
- "The Strike." Studio One, CBS. Originally
aired 6/7/54. Powerful Korean war drama. Not available on video,
but the script is printed in Best Television Plays.
- "Patterns." Kraft Television Theatre, ABC.
1/12/55. The teleplay that won Serling his first Emmy and launched his
career. Richard Kiley, Ed Begley, and Everett Sloane star in this
incisive look at corporate culture, a benchmark of excellence in live
TV drama. Out of print, but may be available by interlibrary loan
through your library.
- "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Playhouse
90, CBS. 10/11/56. The story of washed-up boxer Mountain
McClintock (Jack Palance) is considered by many to be Serling's greatest
achievement. One of the most honored dramas in the history of the
medium, it won five Emmys and numerous awards for Serling: Emmy (hear his acceptance speech);
Sylvania; Writers Guild of America Award; Television-Radio Writers Annual
Award; and Harcourt-Brace Award. Serling was also honored with the
George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Award, the first time that award was
bestowed on a television writer.
- "The Comedian."
90, CBS. 2/14/57. Serling won his third Emmy for his caustic
adaptation of an Ernest Lehman novella about a two-faced television comedian
(Mickey Rooney in his first TV performance), who makes life hell for his
- "The Time Element." Westinghouse-Desilu Playhouse,
CBS. 11/24/58. A deluded man goes back in time to Pearl Harbor
just before the attack and tries to warn the Army. One of Serling's
first forays into science fiction, it convinced CBS to take a chance on a
new anthology series he had pitched to them: The
- "The Velvet
Alley." Playhouse 90, CBS. 1/22/59. A
follow-up of sorts to "The Comedian," about a television writer's
ascent and descent in the entertainment world.
- "The Rank and File." Playhouse 90, CBS.
5/28/59. A pungent look at union racketeering.
Serling wrote 92 of The Twilight Zone's 156 episodes and won two
Emmys for the show, one in 1960 and one in 1961. Just a few of the
acclaimed episodes are included below (and because so many program guides
websites are devoted to TZ, I have
not included synopses).
- "Walking Distance."
- "Time Enough at Last."
- "The Eye of the Beholder."
- "Five Characters in Search of an Exit."
- "To Serve Man."
- "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street."
- "A Stop at Willoughby."
- "Living Doll."
- "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up."
- "It's a Good Life."
The complete series is available on video and DVD from The
Twilight Zone Classic Sci-Fi Video Store, and from other distributors.
Or try the audiovisual department of your local public library.
OTHER TELEPLAYS WRITTEN DURING THIS ERA:
- "It's Mental Work." Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater,
NBC. 11/20/63. Adaptation of a John O'Hara story that won
Serling his sixth and final Emmy.
- "Slow Fade to Black." Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater,
NBC. 3/27/64. Shades of "Patterns," about a veteran
film producer (Rod Steiger) who is forced out of the business he helped
- Also during this time, Serling created and wrote a critically acclaimed
drama called The
Loner which lasted just a season. Set in the aftermath
of the Civil War, it starred Lloyd Bridges as a former Union soldier who
wanders the West helping those he encounters along the way.
- Night Gallery. World Premiere
Theater, NBC. 11/8/69. The classic pilot for Serling's horror
anthology show is a trio of episodes: "The Cemetery,"
"Eyes" (Steven Spielberg's first directing assignment), and
"Escape Route." The pilot is included in the DVD
release of Night Gallery's First Season.
Other acclaimed Night Gallery episodes written by Serling:
- "The Doll."
- "The Caterpillar."
- "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's
Bar" -- In an interview shortly before his death, Serling
considered this and Requiem for a Heavyweight to be his best work.
- "The Messiah of Mott Street.
- "Green Fingers."
- "Cool Air."
- "Camera Obscura."
first season of Night Gallery was released in August 2004, with subsequent
seasons to follow.
OTHER TELEPLAYS WRITTEN DURING THIS ERA:
- "A Storm in Summer." Hallmark
Hall of Fame, NBC. 2/6/70. Critically praised story of an
Elderly Jewish butcher (Peter Ustinov) who befriends a young black boy from
the ghetto (N'Gai Dixon). Serling was nominated for the Emmy but lost,
though Ustinov and the program won. In February 2000, Showtime aired a remake
of the program starring Peter Falk.
- During this time Serling wrote for a short-lived (and extremely obscure)
Aaron Spelling series called The
Rod Serling never achieved as much success in film as he did in television;
the two media are different and Serling excelled at the smaller form. He
did, however, have a few notable successes on the big screen. The
following list includes all the produced screenplays he wrote, or those for
which he provided the story. Each title is linked to the Internet Movie
Database, where full information can be found.
(1956). The director and most of the cast from the live television
version returned for Serling's big screen treatment, which fared well
critically but not financially.
- The Rack
(1956). Paul Newman in one of his first film roles, as a former POW on
trial for treason. Based on Serling's 1955 teleplay of the same name,
though the screenplay was written by Stewart Stern.
- Saddle the Wind
(1957). Serling's first western, adapted from a Thomas Thompson story.
- Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).
As in "Patterns," Serling adapted his own teleplay for the feature
version of "Requiem," but in the translation the entire cast was
revamped, replaced by Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, and
- The Yellow Canary
(1963). One of Serling's most bizarre (and worst) efforts, an
adaptation of a Whit Masterson novel about an obnoxious rock star (Pat
Boone!) who must rescue his kidnapped infant son.
- Seven Days in May
(1964). Serling scored perhaps his biggest success as a screenwriter
with this taut political thriller about a U.S. military plan to overthrow
the government. Based on the novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W.
Bailey II, and directed by John Frankenheimer.
- Let Us Continue (1964). Serling and William Froug collaborated on this United States Information Agency-commissioned documentary about the death
of John F. Kennedy.
- Assault on a Queen (1966).
Star Frank Sinatra hired Serling to write this ship heist picture, based on
Jack Finney's novel.
- Planet of the Apes
(1968). Serling and veteran screenwriter Michael Wilson fashioned
Pierre Boulle's novel into a cinematic classic.
- The Man
(1972). Serling's last major project, an adaptation of Irving
Wallace's novel about the first black man elected U.S. President (James Earl