Old School Americana & Nostalgia


The Pilot Episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ Wasn’t an Actual Episode of the Show

The Pilot Episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ Wasn’t an Actual Episode of the Show

When it hit TV screens across the United States, The Twilight Zone worked to bring episodes filled with wild stories. Some of these would involve strange aliens, diverse landscapes, and everyday people’s phobias. Rod Serling, the mastermind behind the series, welcomed viewers to the diverse universe where his stories would reside.

Longtime fans know that the episode Where is Everybody? starring Earl Holliman (later of Police Woman starring Angie Dickinson) is the first episode. Or is it? Hold on a minute. Well, Holliman begins to go around an abandoned town. No one is there. He wonders what is going on and where are the people. Holliman does a stellar job in this episode.

This one would set the table for The Twilight Zone to invade American homes, according to Slashfilm.

‘The Twilight Zone’ Gets Boost From Other Show

Yet here’s the catch: This episode technically was not the pilot for The Twilight Zone. Serling happened to sell the show to CBS off a success from another weird tale. And that one was going to appear on The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse with Desz Arnaz as host.

For that show, Serling sold The Time Element starring William Bendix and Martin Balsam. Bendix plays Peter Jensen, who is a patient in a psychiatrist’s office. He’s talking about his dream, where he goes back to Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 6, 1941. Each night, he tries to warn people of the impending doom on December 7. No one listens. Balsam spends time telling Peter that time travel is not real.

There’s just one problem. All the people that Peter speaks to actually did live, and die, on December 7. Viewer response to The Time Element was so good that CBS officials started looking at potential program options. And this is where The Twilight Zone finds a home on CBS.

When the show wrapped up after five seasons, viewers had seen a slew of up-and-coming actors and actresses. Of course, there were some at-the-time current stars on there. William Shatner had not become a household name (yet) but his turn on there is memorable. Buddy Ebsen, one of those established stars, appeared in an episode.

Carol Burnett and Veronica Cartwright also appeared in the episode. Burnett, of course, would have her own variety show in just a few years. Cartwright also would find herself on a CBS show, Lost in Space, a couple of years after her appearance.

The list of guest stars is a venerable who’s who of actors.