The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of TV

time well spent

Twilight ManI made my semiannual trek to my local comic book emporium, Earthworld Comics, this fall. On the shelf was a graphic novel The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by someone named Koren Shadmi. I perused it for about ten seconds and decided to buy.

The book, of course, is about the creator of the legendary television program the Twilight Zone. In my book collection is The Twilight Zone Companion, an episode guide. I only have two DVD sets of complete television series; one is The Twilight Zone.

And there is that time I met the Man. (I’ve mentioned that, right?)

I found The Twilight Man to be thoroughly reached. The book had about three dozen items in the bibliography. The art was quite decent. I read the 170-odd pages in a couple of hours, and it was time well spent. There were bits of Serling’s biography I did not know or had forgotten about.

Speaking ill of the dead?

From a three-star review in Amazon: “A lot of the information presented seemed very personal and came across as a bit off-putting knowing that this was written by someone after the person in question was already dead. I would hope much of this type of information came from interviews or people who knew Rod..”

Yes, there is nothing in The Twilight Man that was out of character or inconsistent with the books and articles that I had previously read. If you can find it, check out Rod Serling: The Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight Zone – a biography by Joel Engel.

About THAT book, I wrote: “The subject of the book was unable to be content with his life, believe his success, [or] be happy with his first writing critic, his wife Carol.” The Shadmi book shows Serling with those same insecurities.

I was motivated to buy The Twilight Man because 2019 is the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of Twilight Zone. Christmas Day would also have been Rod’s 95th birthday, though he didn’t get anywhere near reaching it.

Videos

Tell It To Groucho with Rod Serling (April 2, 1962). Rod plugs an Italian singer, leaves, but then returns

I’ve Got A Secret – 1972

Jack Benny Program – TWILIGHT ZONE LOST EPISODE –

Serling Fest 2019: Twilight Zone at 60

appearing live via satellite, BILL MUMY

Serling festTo commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone’s 1959 debut, the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation presents: SERLING FEST 2019: The TZ @ 60, a three-day celebration in Rod Serling’s adopted hometown of Binghamton, New York on the weekend of October 4-6, 2019.

I don’t usually do advertisements for ventures with which I’m not involved in this blog. It must be a function of hometown pride – New “BING” Getting Cooler By the Day, which is true. It’s also my close, personal relationship with the late writer/host; yup.

GUESTS

“Confirmed guests include Rod’s daughter, Anne Serling (author of AS I KNEW HIM: MY DAD, ROD SERLING); Mark Olshaker (co-author of MINDHUNTER, inspiration for the acclaimed Netflix series); Mark Dawidziak (author of EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Nicholas Parisi (author of ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK, AND IMAGINATION); and Martin Grams, Jr. (author of TWILIGHT ZONE: UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO A TELEVISION CLASSIC).

Also attending Serling Fest, “Arlen Schumer (author of VISIONS FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Reba Wissner (author of A DIMENSION OF SOUND: MUSIC IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Amy Boyle Johnston (author of UNKNOWN SERLING); and Tony Albarella (editor of AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: THE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF ROD SERLING).

“And appearing live via satellite (Saturday, October 5th), BILL MUMY (star of ‘It’s a Good Life,’ ‘In Praise of Pip,’ ‘Long Distance Call’ and LOST IN SPACE).” I saw It’s a Good Life in the past six months; it’s still startling.

VENUES

“On Friday, October 4th, the event will be held at various locations in Binghamton – to be announced. On Saturday, October 5th, the event will be at the Broome County Forum Theatre, and on Sunday, October 6th, go to the Helen Foley Theatre at Binghamton High School.

Ah, Binghamton High School, which was Binghamton Central back in my day. And Helen Foley, who was Serling’s drama teacher, was my public speaking teacher. I’m giving serious thought to attending at least part of this.

May rambling: lost in the crowd

Hating what you don’t understand

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Sharing Options From xkcd -This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

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MUSIC

Que Sera Sera – Doris Day

Mama – Clean Bandit

Believer – Bigfoot & Puddles

Everybody Wants To Rule The World – Mackenzie Johnson

Ottorino Resphigi’s The Pines of Rome

Grow – Sabrina Lentini

Danzas de Panama by William Grant Still

StillSane – Carolyne Mas

Alassio (In the South) – Sir Edward Elgar

I Eat Dinner (When the Hunger’s Gone) – Kate and Anna McGarrigle

Coverville 1261: Cover Stories for Billy Joel and Echo and the Bunnymen

The Story Behind The Twilight Zone Theme Song

The Simpsons’ “Upstate New York” song

When TWO bloggers, one who started in 1996 and the other in 2005 post this separately, who am I to argue?

The Beatles off-white album

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What was your favorite episode?

The fantasy of every child — to have unlimited power against grown-ups — is made horrifyingly real.

clete robertsThe evil Tom the Mayor, who I used to like before I realized he was evil, asked:

What was your Favorite episode of MASH? Or Twilight Zone? Or Saturday Night Live? And what was your number one, favorite Movie of all Time? No lists pick one!

Evil, I tell you. But I’ll play along.

MASH: It has to be from the first eight seasons because the last three were retreads.

The Interview (season four, episode 24):

“Larry Gelbart left MAS*H at the end of the fourth season, having helped the show transition from smart-ass tomfoolery to something more frequently somber and daring. Gelbart went out on a series high: “The Interview,” in which real-life reporter Clete Roberts asks scripted questions about life in the Korean War and the cast (mostly) ad-libs responses, in character. Shot in black-and-white, with long takes for the more serious monologues and quick cuts for the jokes, “The Interview” is both unusual and exceptional.”

It was the first of the really oddball episodes used on the show.

Here it is on Vimeo
***
Twilight Zone: one of the two series I own on DVD

Oh, Amy the Sharp Little Pencil, interjected:

Yes, Twilight Zone! Is it the Helen Foley episode, because you went to Binghamton?

No, it’s not Nightmare as a Child from season 1. It’s It’s a Good Life (season four, episode 8):

“The fantasy of every child — to have unlimited power against grown-ups — is made horrifyingly real in 1961’s “It’s a Good Life.” Bill Mumy plays six-year-old Anthony Freemont, a boy with incredible psychic powers who holds everyone around him hostage. It’s sort of like Game of Thrones if little King Joffrey could simply think you out of existence for displeasing him. The adults tiptoe around the kid, but it never really matters, because he’s six, and six-year-olds aren’t particularly rational in the first place. That ever-present sense of menace exuded from the adorable face of Mumy is what makes things work.”

I think I related to this strongly because I was only eight years old at the time. When I watched Billy Mumy in Lost in Space four years later, I still found him a tad scary.

That episode is available on Hulu
***
Saturday Night Live: I watched it nearly religiously for 24 years, much more sporadically subsequently.

William Shatner (season 12, episode eight)

“The late ’80s represent a peak of professionalism; with solid pros like Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz in place and more or less sober, things were running as smoothly as they could be without the show becoming less-than-half live, the way it sometimes seemed to be under Dick Ebersol. These conditions must have been highly amenable to the guest performers, and Shatner used his hosting gig to launch a second (or third, fourth, somewhere in there) phase of his career by publicly announcing that he was in on the joke. He was greatly assisted by the Star Trek convention sketch (‘Get a life!’) contributed by a writer who established himself as one of the most distinctive behind-the-scenes comic sensibilities connected to the show since Michael O’Donoghue: Robert Smigel, whose “TV Funhouse” cartoons were often all that the show had to hang its hat on in the ’90s.”

I seldom thought of SNL as whole shows. Like most people, I do remember specific sketches. “Get a life” was perfect for a guy who worked in a comic book store, and attended conventions; in fact, I would leave FantaCo within a year of this episode. Coincidence?
***
Movie

One can have the “separating the artist from his personal life” discussion ad naseum.

For me, it’s Annie Hall, for reasons explained HERE.
***
Amy also asked:

My question. Hmmmm… OK, which Republican candidate do you think will drop out next? Not the strongest question, but you know me, hee hee hee.

See, I have NO idea why Jim Gilmore or George Pataki even gotten in. I’d have to think Jindal or Santorum go. Walker leaving gives Kasich more reason to stay to get that “centralist” governor vote that won’t support another Bush, though maybe there isn’t an audience, given his sagging poll numbers in New Hampshire.

Lindsey Graham I think wants to stick around until the South Carolina primary. Christie thinks too highly of himself to quit. Paul is enough of an anti-surveillance guy to think he distinguishes himself. Cruz and Huckabee are ideologues who want to stick around if/when Trump folds. And Rubio can fly under the radar as everyone’s second or third pick, and, arguably, most electable.