Friday, October 02, 2009


No, this is not a Crapblogging Post.

If the name Marius Constant - the guy who made the above title a part of our popular culture - does not ring a bell, how ’bout this one? Rod Serling.

“Ah!” you say as the recognition dawns. That all-too-familiar theme music...

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance; of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into... The Twilight Zone.”

It was fifty years ago today that “The Twilight Zone” made its debut on CBS. The network suits were nervous: selling them on the idea of an anthology show grounded in science fiction, fantasy, and the supernatural was a difficult undertaking, but somehow Rod Serling succeeded. The rest, as they say, is history.

Twilight Zone
Still photo from “The After Hours,” a first-season TZ episode starring Anne Francis.

The show’s original run was five years. The familiar Marius Constant guitar-and bongo “doo doo doo doo” musical intro didn’t appear until Season Two, replacing the first year’s eerie Bernard Herrmann theme.

I’m pretty sure my first exposure to the show was during its fourth season, the one season in which the episodes were a full hour long. And I remember how I felt that little frisson of terror from time to time, as the scarier episodes bumped up against my tender fifth-grade sensibilities.*

I loved it.

Plenty of now-recognizable names were in the credits. Some were relative unknowns when they were on the show; others were popular character actors. Burgess Meredith. Agnes Moorhead. William Shatner. Robert Redford. Ed Wynn. Jack Klugman. Jonathan Winters. Fritz Weaver. Martin Balsam. Charles Bronson. Martin Landau. Buster Keaton. Dick York. George Takei. Nehemiah Persoff. David Opatoshu.

Many of the original episodes - there were 156 in all - seem dated now, even the stuff of parody. That’s to be expected when a show has infiltrated the popular culture as deeply as has TZ. But many still hold up well... even some that have an all-too-well-known trick ending. And there has never been anything else quite like it, not even the brief two-and-a-half season revival in the mid-1980’s.

So tip a glass in salute to Rod Serling’s fifty-year-old brainchild. Somehow or other, I don't expect “Lost” to be celebrated - or even remembered - in like wise half a century from now, do you? And I’ll bet you can think of a few favorite ’sodes - tell us about ’em in the comments!

And now for that Twilight Zone moment: Rod Serling was born on Christmas Day in 1924, almost 85 years ago. He died in 1975 at age 50... the same age reached today by his famous creation. Doo doo doo doo!

*Note: SWMBO avoids watching The Twilight Zone to this day, mainly on account of one episode that scared the crap out of her when she was a little girl.

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