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The Twilight Zone First Episode, Earl Holliman; Where Is Everybody?
Road to Twilight Zone
How did the Twilight Zone start?
Rod Serling had been one of a small talented group of writers who were given minor publicity as "innovative televison writers". He was was becoming a very popular writer for Playhouse 90, and when he wrote Requiem for a Heavyweight, the doors were opened for Rod to go independent.
In 1959 Serling was devoting all of his time to developing a weekly series of science fiction and fantasy stories. It was a tall order to go from writing an occasional drama for Playhouse 90, to writing a weekly series.
During a 1959 interview with TV newsman Mike Wallace, Wallace asked' " You're going to be working very hard on The Twilight Zone that in essence, for the time being and for foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?"
Rod Serling Beginnings
Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, New York, on December 25, 1924. Shortly after his birth his family consisting of his parents and older brother, Bob, moved to New york where Rod's imagination and creativity flourished.
His brother Bob recalled that Rod was an extrovert who excelled in many things. He was happy, popular and extremely handsome. Bob and Rod spent many hours reading Amazing Stories, and Weird Tales together, and impersonating actors and movies they had seen at their local theater. Bob went on to become a successful novelist, writing The President's Plane Is Missing.
Upon discharge from the Army in 1946 Rod enrolled in College. He became manager of Broadcasting System's radio workshop where he wrote, directed and acted in weekly, full scale productions. That same year he met Carolyn Louise Kramer, a serious student of psychology, and they were married in 1948. Rod enthusiastically continued writing for radio shows, and his career was gaining momentum. He sold scripts to shows such as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Lux Video Theater, Kraft Television Theater, Suspense, and Studio One. These were his treadmill years, where Serling was developing his craft, and fine tuning his skills.
Rod wrote several stories for Playhouse 90, but Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1956 is what gave his name mainstream recognition. It was a 90 minute story that starred Jack Palance as Harlan "Mountain" McClintock, a ex fighter in decline. Palance was touching and believable in his part, as Keenan Wynn, and his father Ed Wynn, were excellent in the supporting cast. Requiem swept the 1956 Emmy Awards, winning for best single show of the year, best teleplay, best direction, best performance and art direction. A few years later Requiem for a Heavyweight was turned into a full length movie starring Anthony Quinn. Although the movie was good, the Playhouse 90 version was most definitely the best. It is worth looking up on Youtube.
After winning the Sylvania award and the Annual Award for Writing achievement, and numerous other accolades, the groundwork was set for Serling's pet project.
Requiem for a Heavyweight
The Twilight Zone
While CBS bought The Time Element, one of Serling's Twilight Zone style scripts, they were not enthusiastic about it and it was shelved for a while. After some arm twisting The Time Element was put on the production schedule of Deslilu Playhouse for the 1958-59 season. The show was heavily managed by Westinghouse, the show's sponsor, had script approval. The Time Element was a different kind of show, and Westinghouse insisted on an absolute ending. As anyone who has seen The Twilight Zone knows there are many possibilities that leaving the imagination turning. Westinghouse would have none of that, and Rod was unhappy.
Since The Time Element was written for Desilu Playhouse, it was now no longer Serling's property, and Serling would come up with another "pilot" for his show.
A contract was drawn up between CBS and Serling, and the first Twilight Zone episode was in production.
Earl Holliman in, Where Is Everybody?
Twilight Zone companion
Where Is Everybody?
In 1959 the very first Twilight Zone was titled "Where Is Everybody". The story was an amnesiac in an Air Force uniform wandering around and trying to remember who he is, and why there are no other people around. Although there is no sign of anyone else, he has an odd feeling that he is being watched. He eventually collapses in hysterics, and desperation while pushing the "walk" button of a stoplight over and over. In reality, the "walk" button is a panic button, and he is actually an astronaut-trainee strapped in an isolation booth in simulation of a moon flight. After 484 hours in the booth, he has cracked from sheer loneliness.
Serling was dissatisfied with Where Is Everybody because he had altered the script, possibly because of his experience at Playhouse 90. The ending is straight forward whereas originally it had a twist. The scene where he goes into a vacant movie theater and there is nobody taking tickets, so he reaches in and takes one. The original ending had the character, after realizing he was in an isolation booth and all of his ventures really did not happen, reaching into his pocket to find the ticket. It had that Twilight Zone creepiness, of "did he actually enter another dimension, and go to this place?" Kind of like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. That final twist was removed from the released version and it always bothered Serling.
The Twilight Zone lasted 156 episodes. Numerous classic episodes, most notably, Eye of The Beholder, have been copied in skits and dramas over the years. The series increased from half hour episodes to one hour for one full season, and then returned back to half hour shows. Rod Serling died at age 50 in 1975, and The Twilight Zone has developed a cult following, with festivals and reunions taking place around the country. Many of the surviving actors and actresses who played in The Twilight Zone make appearances to share their stories about Rod Serling, and the making of the episodes.
The Twilight Zone is rated as one of the Top Television Shows of The 1950s.