When it comes to The Twilight Zone, it’s difficult to imagine a more iconic narrator than Rod Serling. With his immaculate black suit, slicked back hair, and soothing, monotone voice, Serling became synonymous with the beloved 1960s horror anthology. Beneath his serene demeanor, however, the Twilight Zone creator allegedly struggled with serious stage fright.
In Marc Scott Zicree’s book, The Twilight Zone Companion, Zicree claims that Serling didn’t adapt well to the spotlight.
In the early days of the series, Serling was, of course, the series’ writer and creator. As the show entered its second season, however, his hosting role was expanded to include a greater on-screen presence. For Rod Serling, acting as an on-camera host was a far more difficult task. The two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner could never quite get comfortable with the idea of performing for 20 million viewers.
“Rod was a very nervous man before the camera,” director Lamont Johnson said, according to Zicree. “When he had to do his lead-ins, he would go through absolute hell. He would sweat and sputter and go pale. He was terribly ill at ease in front of the camera.”
Rod Serling never shook his fear of the camera, but Johnson employed a few tactics to ease the narrator’s discomfort. His most useful trick? Pretending they weren’t filming at all. “I’d clown around with him and roll the camera without letting him know,” Johnson explained. “I’d say, ‘What was that you said?’ And he would sort of snap off the thing at me as though, ‘Smart ass, I’ll show you.’”
“The crew was with me on that,” he continued. “They’d shut up and be quiet, otherwise we’d never get a take under those circumstances.”
Who knew the Twilight Zone legend was the ultimate poster boy for the “fake it ’til you make it” approach?
Rod Serling’s Favorite ‘Twilight Zone’ Episode
Each week, Rod Serling invited us along on a journey to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. In each of these mind-bending journeys, viewers were entranced by ordinary people facing extraordinary, sometimes surreal, situations from time travel to alternate realities to encounters with extraterrestrial beings.
Out of the series’ 150-plus episodes, however, one stood out as Rod Serling’s favorite: “Time Enough at Last.”
Originally airing on November 20, 1959, the Season 1 episode remains one of the most beloved of the series. Written by Rod Serling, “Time Enough at Last” is among the most ironic and tragic episodes of The Twilight Zone.
The episode follows the story of Henry Bemis, a bookish, myopic, and socially awkward bank clerk. Henry faces constant criticism from both his boss and his wife for his passion for reading, which they see as a waste of time.
One day, while spending his lunch break in the bank’s vault, Henry is unexpectedly protected from a nuclear explosion that wipes out most of humanity. Emerging from the vault, Henry finds that he is seemingly the last person left alive. Though he’s initially struck with loneliness, he soon realizes that he now has “time enough at last” to read all he wants and gathers books from the remains of the public library.
As he settles down to read, however, fate intervenes (as it so often does in The Twilight Zone). Henry’s reading glasses fall and shatter, leaving him nearly blind. The episode ends with a devastated Henry, alone in the world and surrounded by books he can no longer enjoy.
To this day, “Time Enough at Last” remains a valuable cautionary tale about the importance of balance and the consequences of not appreciating what one has.
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