The Twilight Zone is an American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. Each episode (156 in the original series) is a mixture of self-contained drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, or horror, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist. A popular and critical success, it introduced many Americans to serious science fiction and abstract ideas through television and also through a wide variety of Twilight Zone literature.
The program followed in the tradition of earlier shows like Tales of Tomorrow (1951–1953)—which also dramatized the short story “What You Need”—and Science Fiction Theatre (1955–1957), as well as radio programs such as The Weird Circle, X Minus One, and the radio work of Serling’s hero, dramatist Norman Corwin.
The success of the series led to a feature film, a radio series, a comic book, a magazine, and various other spin-offs that spanned five decades, including two “revival” television series. The first ran on CBS and in syndication in the 1980s, the second ran on UPN from 2002 to 2003.
As a boy, Rod Serling was a fan of pulp fiction stories. As an adult, he sought topics with themes such as racism, government, war, society and human nature in general. Serling decided to combine these two interests as a way to broach these subjects on television at a time when such issues were not commonly addressed.
Throughout the 1950s, Serling established himself as one of the more popular names in television. He was as famous for writing televised drama as he was for criticizing the medium’s limitations. His most vocal complaints concerned censorship, which was frequently practiced by sponsors and networks. “I was not permitted to have my senators discuss any current or pressing problem,” he said of his 1957 production The Arena, intended to be an involving look into contemporary politics. “To talk of tariff was to align oneself with the Republicans; to talk of labor was to suggest control by the Democrats. To say a single thing germane to the current political scene was absolutely prohibited.”