Rod during the Twilight Zone era

VIDEOGRAPHY

SERLING'S  BEST  TELEPLAYS

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 and TVideo.


Live TV Era  |  Twilight Zone Era  |  Night Gallery Era  |  Filmography


THE LIVE TV 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."  Playhouse 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 entourage.  
  • "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 Twilight Zone.
  • "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.


THE TWILIGHT ZONE ERA

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 and 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 pioneer.

AND...

  • 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. 


THE NIGHT GALLERY ERA

  • 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."

The complete 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.

AND...

  • During this time Serling wrote for a short-lived (and extremely obscure) Aaron Spelling series called The New People

Rod behind bars

FILMOGRAPHY

SERLING'S  SCREENPLAYS

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.

  • Patterns (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 Julie Harris.
  • 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 Jones).


Last Update March 13, 2007

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