“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”
The opening to the fantasy/science fiction series, is one of the most recognized intros in television history. “The Twilight Zone” was hosted by Rodman Edward Serling, a Central New York homeboy who was born in Syracuse, grew up in Binghamton, and raised his family in Interlaken as well as Los Angeles.
He was an American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, and narrator known for his live television dramas of the 1950s, especially the TV anthology, The Twilight Zone, which ran from 1959-64.
Interlaken will join a chorus of places around the region and country celebrating his work. The Board of Trustees of the Village of Interlaken issued a proclamation honoring the man and the artist. On Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. at the South Seneca Elementary School Auditorium, the Village Board is sponsoring two episodes of the Twilight Zone and a short biography of his life and work. Serling’s daughter, Anne, will share memories and thoughts about her dad. It is free and open to all.
The Rod Serling Memorial Foundation in Binghamton organized SerlingFest 2019 @60 TWZ in early October. The foundation promotes and preserves Serling’s contributions to the Arts and Humanities.
The Rod Serling Award for Advancing Social Justice Through Popular Media was inaugurated in 2018 at Ithaca College. The award honors a contemporary media professional who shines light on injustice and inequality through their work. Diane Gayeski, Dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, created this award in Serling’s honor.
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is said to be planning a new film, citing The Twilight Zone as his favorite TV series. It will be a scifi biopic that will incorporate some episodes of the original program.
Serling’s family on his wife Carol’s side goes back to the area before 1880 in what this hamlet used to be called, Farmer Village. When it incorporated in 1904, the Village of Interlaken was created. Her great-grandfather and grandfather built a cottage along the shore of Cayuga Lake. Rod and Carol spent nearly every summer at the cottage, raising their daughters and enjoying life on the lake, while Rod wrote.
The first episode of The Twilight Zone was broadcast Oct. 2, 1959, entitled, “Where is Everybody?” And the rest is a history of an imaginative portal to other worlds, with Serling writing 92 of the 156 episodes. Rod’s voice and musical ditty without words is recognized by nearly all of us.
Rod’s daughters, Jodi and Anne, and colleagues from Ithaca College participated in a round table conversation about their dad during the SerlingFest in Binghamton. It was an intimate and often funny conversation about the man and the enduring value and appreciation of his work.
Rod grew up through the Great Depression of the 1930s and became a paratrooper in World War II, earning a Purple Heart. After he was discharged, he used the GI Bill to pay for his education. He performed and wrote scripts for radio and television programs. Eventually, he took a chance and freelanced.
He was known as the “angry young man” of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism and war. Besides sharing stories of her life with a famous writer, Anne Serling tried to dispel myths about the man and her father in her book, “As I Knew Him: My Dad Rod Serling.”
Even fighting a “Good War,” World War II, would damage many once idealistic young men, turning them into victims of Shell Shock or Battle Fatigue, today known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rod Serling was eager to fight the good fight. He described his childhood as idyllic but the war broke him. And like most returning home from war, he adjusted and adapted to a renewed life.
Serling’s tales would be broadcast with a new technology: television. His imagination and experiences were guideposts as he navigated the spectrum of his life and told stories as he saw them.
Marc Scott Zicree had both an appreciative and critical eye to the series: “Sometimes the situations were clichéd, the characters two-dimensional, but always there was at least some search for an emotional truth, some attempt to make a statement on the human condition.”
Look for Part 2 on Thursday, Nov. 14.