Monday, April 16, 2018

An Introduction to the Fourth Season


Twilight Zone: Season Four (1963)
Rod Serling in a promotional
image from the fourth season.

“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.” 

            Any long-running television series experiences a certain amount of flux when transitioning from one season to the next. Until this point The Twilight Zone was fortunate in that it suffered little foundational change among its production crew or the creative team assembled around series creator Rod Serling. The relatively smooth transitions between the first three seasons resulted in sustained critical success and high creative quality. Everything which followed the third season, however, was characterized by attrition, turnover, and uneven creative quality. There was still quality material to be seen in the show’s final two seasons but consistent quality became a thing of the past.
            The Twilight Zone previously experienced an expected amount of transitional challenge before the rough period between seasons three and four. The basic parameters for survival placed upon the series by CBS were that the ratings not dip too low and that the show maintained sponsorship in a timely manner. Though never a ratings winner, the series enjoyed a strong and loyal following which kept it in the top portion of the middle pack. The one area in which the series struggled was in maintaining a sponsor. While many other series enjoyed consistent sponsorship for years, The Twilight Zone inexplicably found itself scrambling to acquire sponsorship at the end of each season. As such, the series frequently dodged cancellation at the eleventh hour. At the end of the third season, however, this recurrent problem finally resulted in a (temporary) series cancellation.
            In the late spring of 1962 The Twilight Zone found itself without a sponsor. In the midst of scrambling to acquire the necessary sponsorship to produce a fourth season, the series was abruptly removed from the CBS production schedule, replaced by a new comedy series, Fair Exchange. The heretofore invisible specter of CBS executive James T. Aubrey (1918-1994) descended upon Rod Serling’s award-wining fantasy series with the decisive action for which his reign over the network would later be characterized. Aubrey assumed the role of President of CBS in December, 1959 and relinquished it in 1965. Thus, his control over the network spanned nearly the entirety of The Twilight Zone’s broadcast run. Aubrey disdained dramatic anthology programs and was peeved by the fact that Serling’s production was virtually untouchable as long as it remained within those two aforementioned parameters. Aubrey was convinced that television audiences desired simple stories told with recurrent characters. Inane sitcoms, many produced on bizarre or ludicrous narrative foundations, became the principal product offered by CBS during Aubrey’s reign, a reign admittedly characterized by a ratings domination not seen before or since.
Time has largely proven Aubrey correct in his assessment of the television viewing audience, but the implementation of Aubrey’s simplified style of repetitive programming, characterized by his two most famous triumphs, Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies, came with enormous creative and intellectual cost to the medium. The viewer seeking intelligent, creative, or unusual programming was quietly running out of options.
            One of Aubrey’s first courses of action upon assuming the role of President at CBS was to axe the dramatic anthology series Playhouse 90 at the end of that series’s fourth season in 1960. Despite solid ratings and a shelf of Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Awards, Playhouse 90 was ground under the wheels of Aubrey’s vision for the future of CBS programming. At the end of its third season, and again despite solid ratings and a shelf full of Emmy, Golden Globe, and Hugo Awards, The Twilight Zone suffered the same fate. Though the series would return due to the immediate failing of the series Aubrey chose to replace The Twilight Zone, the inopportune timing of the cancelation fundamentally disrupted the creative course of the series, resulting in a continued period of transition from which the series would never recover.
            Aubrey replaced The Twilight Zone with the insipid and ironically titled hour-long sitcom Fair Exchange. The series starred Eddie Foy and Victor Maddern as army buddies who allow their teenaged daughters to switch households. Twenty-seven episodes were produced for the series before it died an early death in late 1962. With the return of Twilight Zone in January, 1963, Fair Exchange finished out its broadcast run at a different time and in truncated form until March, 1963. As the fate of Fair Exchange became apparent, Aubrey was forced to ask Rod Serling to return and produce another season of The Twilight Zone in order to replace the series which had previously replaced it.  
            Numerous changes were required to bring the series back as a mid-season replacement in 1963. The name of the series was changed to simply Twilight Zone and it was moved from its customary Friday night slot to a Thursday night slot which Serling surmised lost the series a considerable amount of its younger viewership. Ironically, this marked the time in which Twilight Zone marketing material, particularly Twilight Zone books, shifted marketing efforts toward younger readers (viewers).
More fundamental was the change imposed by the series functioning as a replacement for the hour-long Fair Exchange. Twilight Zone now had to fill an hour-long slot in the CBS schedule. CBS observed rival network NBC extend the similar anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents to an hour-long format with The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and mistakenly assumed Twilight Zone could be expanded with comparable success.
Twilight Zone’s new hour-long format was met with hostility by a number of current and prior creatives involved in production as well as most of the series viewership. The attitude toward the fourth season is little different today and the hour-long episodes still struggle for acceptance among viewers of the series. Most syndication packages do not include the fourth season episodes and popular streaming services such as Netflix avoid offering the fourth season altogether. Only recently during the SyFy channel’s annual Twilight Zone marathon and on the smartly programmed retrospective channel MeTV can the fourth season episodes be seen outside of the many Twilight Zone home video packages.
The initial and continued backlash against the hour-long format is almost entirely the result of the fact that, for better or worse, Twilight Zone is a series characterized and judged by its twist endings. The hour-long format made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the series to construct effective twist endings. Realizing this, the writers on the series generally did not attempt to replicate the story format of the half-hour shows but instead adapted the series to the traditional four-act drama successfully exhibited for years on prestige dramatic programs. The widespread rejection of the fourth season is more the pity since it allowed the show’s principal writers, many of whom were novelists and thus suited to the longer format, to create stories with greater levels of characterization and greater narrative complexity without the burden of relying upon a twist in the tale.
The fourth season boasted some of the finest offerings from the principle writers of the series, exhibited in such episodes as Richard Matheson’s “Death Ship,” Charles Beaumont’s “Miniature,” Earl Hamner’s “Jess-Belle,” and Jerry Shol’s “The New Exhibit,” the latter ghost-written under Beaumont’s byline. One wonders whether these dramas had been presented on a different program would their qualities be better recognized today. In many ways, the Twilight Zone label was a burden on the hour-long episodes due to viewer expectations engineered by episodes from the prior three seasons. Not unreasonably, and despite the change in format, viewers expected more of the same. Series creator Rod Serling, who wrote many memorable dramas for the live anthology programs a decade earlier, had the most trouble adapting to the longer format. Episodes such as “The Thirty Fathom Grave,” “No Time Like the Past,” and “The Parallel” feel very much like padded half-hour episodes, a quality Serling himself acknowledge in later interviews. Serling did, however, create an enduring episode in “On Thursday We Leave for Home” and interesting material in the anti-prejudice episode “He’s Alive,” the underrated comedic episode “The Bard,” and with “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” his adaptation of Malcolm Jameson’s story “Blind Alley.”  
            Many creators associated with the series have gone on record dismissing the achievements of the fourth season. Serling ironically stated that viewers “could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desliu Playhouse.” The Twilight Zone essentially began as an episode of Desilu Playhouse when Serling’s “The Time Element” was produced on that program in 1958. Though he had not directed a Twilight Zone episode since “The Invaders” during the second season, Douglas Heyes refused to return to the series to direct an hour-long segment. Ironically, Heyes left The Twilight Zone in part to direct hour-long segments of NBC’s similar series, Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff. When asked by interviewers, Richard Matheson, who contributed two scripts to the fourth season, one very good, one not-very-good, repeatedly lamented the failings of the hour-long format.  
The half-hour format did have at least one inherent advantage in terms of production. The short shooting schedule required for each episode meant that the same production crew could handle virtually every episode of the series. With the expansion to an hour-long format, and an eight day production schedule per episode, it was impossible to maintain this level of consistency. New crew members were brought in to alternate with the regular production crew retained by the series. The most significant change was that Emmy Award-winning cinematographer George T. Clemens was only able to film half of the hour-long segments. At Clemens suggestion, veteran cinematographer Robert W. Pittack was brought in to film the remaining segments. Pittack previously substituted for Clemens on the third season episode “Person or Persons Unknown” and would remain with the series into the fifth season, photographing such episodes as the sumptuous “Night Call” and the fan-favorite “Living Doll.” Other new crew members included Associate Producer Murray Golden, Assistant to the Producer John Conwell, Assistant Directors Ray de Camp and John Bloss, Art Directors John J. Thompson, Paul Groesse, and Edward Carfagno, Editors Edward Curtiss, Richard W. Farrell, Eda Warren, Everett Dodd, and Al Clark, and Set Directors Frank R. McElvy and Don Greenwood, Jr.
New writers also appeared on the series, the most significant of which was the invisible arrival of Jerry Sohl (1913-2002). Sohl was a novelist and occasional short story writer of both science fiction and mainstream material. His teleplays saw production on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits, and Star Trek, among others. Sohl was a fringe member of the Southern California Group and a close friend of Twilight Zone writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. By the spring of the 1963, Charles Beaumont began exhibiting the symptoms of the early-onset Alzheimer’s disease which ended his writing career and took his life in 1967 at the age of 38. Though Beaumont produced some of his finest material for the fourth season, including the episodes “In His Image,” “Miniature,” and “Passage on the Lady Anne,” he was unable to complete many of the writing assignments to which he had previously committed. Several of Beaumont’s friends stepped in to complete Beaumont’s assignments, finishing work on magazine articles, screenplays, and teleplays. These writers often worked for no credit and no compensation in order that the money from the assignments benefit Beaumont’s family. Jerry Sohl arrived on Twilight Zone with “The New Exhibit” and continued by writing two fifth season episodes, “Living Doll” and “Queen of the Nile,” all under Beaumont’s name. There is still some dispute about how much, if any, collaboration occurred between Beaumont and Sohl on these Twilight Zone episodes, but it is reasonable to assume that Sohl wrote the entire scripts from ideas developed with Beaumont. His “Queen of the Nile” is a virtual remake of Beaumont’s first season episode “Long Live Walter Jameson.”
The fourth season also produced writer John Furia, Jr’s disappointing comedy episode, “I Dream of Genie,” and a new version of Reginald Rose’s 1955 Studio One drama “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” complete with a new ending written especially for its appearance on Twilight Zone.  

            There were indications that Rod Serling was ready to quietly end the series after the third season. The continuous effort required to produce the anthology series took an enormous toll on Serling, resulting in physical and creative exhaustion. As Serling stated in a short essay, "My Beliefs About the Real Twilight Zone," published after the series ended: "Doing a television series involves a back-breaking, frustrating schedule. Doing a dramatic series has a special difficult quality all its own. You have your own problem doing a show like this as often as you do them but to try to create qualitative, consistently good shows each week for five years is next to impossible." 
            Serling not only hosted the series and wrote the vast majority of the scripts but also assisted in script approval, casting, and various other aspects of day-to-day production. At the news of the series cancellation, Serling accepted a one-year teaching residency at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, instructing undergraduates in Mass Media and Dramatic Writing courses. When news of the series renewal reached him, Serling was unwilling to abandon his teaching residency and return to California to oversee production on another season of Twilight Zone. Serling remained remotely involved, continuing to write scripts and approve the additional scripts required to round out the season. Serling also took a step back from writing Twilight Zone tie-in material, a task he performed during the first three seasons, producing paperback Twilight Zone collections for Bantam Books. To capitalize on a new marketing strategy which targeted younger readers, Twilight Zone moved over to the parent company of Bantam Books, the hardcover publisher Grosset & Dunlap, with a goal to issue new illustrated hardcover Twilight Zone books. Serling had not the time to write the material and veteran pulp fiction author Walter B. Gibson (The Shadow) was brought in to adapt a number of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone scripts into short stories as well as create new stories for the books. These volumes were published as Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (1963) and Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited (1964). The books were later issued in paperback and in an omnibus hardcover edition.  
            An equally enormous problem for the continued production was the departure of producer Buck Hougton, a largely unsung player who ensured the efficiency of production which characterized the first three seasons of the series. Houghton could not afford to wait the several months required to renew the series at CBS and, largely on the advice of industry colleagues, moved on to a role as producer of The Richard Boone Show, taking a handful of Twilight Zone production crew members along with him. 
            With Serling in Ohio and Buck Houghton gone, CBS brought in veteran producer and director Herbert Hirschman (1914-1985) to oversee production on the fourth season. Hirschman began his career as a script reader at RKO and moved into television in 1951 directing episodes of the anthology series The Web. Hirschman brought a wealth of experience to Twilight Zone learned over many years directing episodes of anthology series such as Studio One and Playhouse 90, as well as in various television production roles since 1955. Hirschman previously crossed Rod Serling’s path when Hirschman was the Associate Producer on the Playhouse 90 production of Rod Serling’s “Velvet Alley.” Hirschman’s directing career ended on Earl Hamner’s long-running autobiographical television series The Waltons.
            The multifaceted talents of Hirschman served the series well in Serling’s temporary absence. Hirschman’s creative drive resulted in the design and construction of the visual montage which opens the fourth and fifth seasons. This opening sequence is likely the most famous of the season openings and is one which was retained and updated for Twilight Zone: The Movie and served to inspire the opening segments of both Twilight Zone revival television series. Hirschman’s experience as a director also allowed him to shoot any necessary retakes which would otherwise have required the episode’s director to return to the set several days after principal production. Hirschman also directed all of Rod Serling’s season four hosting segments. Since Serling was based in Ohio during 1963, his infrequent returns to Los Angeles meant that Hirschman and cinematographer George T. Clemens had to shoot Serling’s hosting segments, including the preview segments, in batches of four or five at a time and against only a plain gray background. Some of these hosting segments were filmed weeks before production began on the episode in question. This was a method previously used by Alfred Hitchcock on his series, though the Hitchcock segments were far more creative.
            Hirschman understood that with the format change the deck was stacked against him and he was determined to produce quality hour-long material worthy of the Twilight Zone name. As such, Hirschman could be demanding in terms of quality and often let Rod Serling know that the scripts the series creator was turning in could be improved. Serling, who was teaching full-time, writing the screenplay for Seven Days in May, and writing teleplays for Twilight Zone did not always respond well to Hirschman’s goading, resulting in more than a few arguments between the two men. Whether this less than congenial working relationship resulted in Hirschman’s quick exit from the series remains unknown but after only twelve fourth season episodes, Hirschman departed the production. A transitional episode, “No Time Like the Past,” was overseen by Associate Producer Murray Golden.
            Veteran producer Bert Granet (1910-2002) was brought in to complete production on the fourth season. Granet’s relationship with Serling was more amicable, going back to 1958 when Granet served as producer on the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse overseeing production on Rod Serling’s “The Time Element.” Granet began his career writing screenplays in the 1930s before moving into film production in 1944 with Bride by Mistake. Granet moved into television production in 1955 with The Loretta Young Show and served as producer on such series as The Walter Winchell File and Kraft Mystery Theater. Granet remained with the series well into the fifth season, overseeing production on such well-regarded episodes as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “The Masks,” before giving way to the show’s final producer William Froug, a move which virtually ensured the end of the series.
            For now, however, Twilight Zone was embarking upon a new path with a shortened name, a longer format, a new time slot, new producers, and with its creator two thousand miles away. Longtime contributor Charles Beaumont, soon the victim of a tragic decline, would start the new season with a compelling adaptation of his short story “In His Image.”

-JP


Grateful acknowledgement is made to Marc Scott Zicree for information contained in The Twilight Zone Companion. 

Notes: 
-An added feature for the individual credits of each episode is the listing of character names along with the names of the actors/actresses.
-Another new feature is a short episode preview shown along with Rod Serling's preview segments.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Buck Houghton: The Unsung Hero of the Fifth Dimension


"The producer has to be sensitive to the human condition, to the human feeling about things, because you are in a sensory art. You are working in an art form depending on human feeling and on human reactions."

-Buck Houghton



Buck Houghton:
The Unsung Hero of the Fifth Dimension

by Brian Durant


Tall, soft-spoken, with a deep, sandy voice, Buck Houghton was an atypical Hollywood producer. A film or television producer’s job is to make sure that the production is completed on time and within the allotted budget. How they go about accomplishing this varies from producer to producer. Given the demanding schedules and stressful work environment, most resort to an attitude of stern authority while on set so that everyone remains on their toes. Houghton was unique in that he possessed a creative sensibility that many producers do not. He knew the people he was working with were the best in the world at what they did so he let them work with as little interference as possible, checking in from time to time to make sure everyone was on the same page. He was a calm and reassuring presence on the set and for the first three seasons of Rod Serling’s celebrated fantasy series he instilled in the entire cast and crew a creative and professional freedom that is rare in television. In short, Buck Houghton was The Twilight Zone’s unsung hero. And without him the show would not be the same.

Archible Ernest “Buck” Houghton, Jr. was born in Denver, Colorado on May 4, 1915. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was eight years old. While in high school he worked as a stagehand on several Cecil B. DeMille films. After graduating from UCLA, where he majored in English and Economics, Houghton was hired as a script reader for Val Lewton—after simply writing Lewton a letter and asking for the job despite his limited experience—and later as a story editor for Selznick International Pictures. To supplement his income, Houghton took jobs at Paramount Studios working first in the mail room and later in the casting and budgeting offices. With the onset of World War II, he took a position at the Office of War Information, making training films for the military. After the war he took a job at RKO Studios as an assistant to producer Jack Gross who was making films for Houghton’s former employer, Val Lewton. This allowed Houghton to be on set during the filming of several classic Lewton films including The Body Snatcher (1945), Isle of the Dead (1945), and Bedlam (1946).

After four years at RKO, Houghton took a position at MGM Studios. In 1951 he became the story editor for Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars working under well-known producer William Self and his production company, Meridian Productions. Self would play a key role in The Twilight Zone’s success years later. In 1952 Houghton first became a producer on the short-lived series China Smith which starred future Twilight Zone actor Dan Duryea. Over the next seven years he worked on a handful of series including Wire Service (starring Twilight Zone actor Dane Clark), Yancy Derringer, and Man with a Camera starring still another Twilight Zone actor, Charles Bronson. He also worked on a 1955 film directed by Leslie Goodwins called The Paris Follies of 1956 (also released as Fresh from Paris) featuring acts from Frank Sennes’s famous Moulin Rouge Night Club. On these early projects Houghton was credited as associate producer A.E. Houghton, Jr.

In 1959 William Self, now a newly-promoted CBS executive in charge of development, was assigned to help produce the pilot episode of a new fantasy series created by Rod Serling called The Twilight Zone. Self met with Serling and, after he voiced his doubt in the young writer’s first two teleplays, the two agreed on a half-hour script called “Where is Everybody?” about a man with amnesia who finds himself in a deserted town. The pilot was a hit and CBS greenlit the series. Serling asked Self to stay on as producer given his widespread knowledge of the industry. But Self chose to stay in his position at CBS. Instead, he recommended a producer who had worked on several projects for Meridian Productions named Buck Houghton. He also recommended other names including production manager Ralph W. Nelson, director of photography George T. Clemens, assistant director Edward Denault, and several others who had already worked with Houghton. This familiar work environment not only made it easier on Houghton, who was still relatively new to his role as producer and was taking on a highly publicized project, but it is likely a factor in why the show was a creative success right from the start. Serling hired all of Self’s recommendations and production began in the summer of 1959.

With Serling contractually obligated to write around seventy-five percent of the show’s episodes, the task of finding material that would comprise the remainder of the episodes fell largely on Houghton who was not an avid fan of fantasy and science fiction. Regardless, he was able to spot the right material when he saw it. This was his major contribution to the show. While his talents were mostly as a businessman, Houghton knew artistic quality when he saw it. And he knew whether it would translate well on the screen and which actors and directors to call upon to make that happen. “The first few episodes shape the series,” Houghton writes in his 1991 guide to the industry, What a Producer Does: The Art of Moviemaking (Not the Business). “In [Serling’s] first few scripts, his instincts led him to a pattern that he and I soon agreed upon as the bottom-line basis for buying stories.” He lists the seven criteria he relied on when purchasing material for the show. First, he says, the characters should be ordinary and the problem facing them must be resonant of the fears or desires of the audience even if the circumstances of the story are impossible in the real world. Also, allow only one miracle or imaginative circumstance per episode. More than one, he says, and the audience grows impatient. And probably most significant to the show’s success: mere scare tactics do not work. The focus should always be on the characters. This is the characteristic that most noticeably separates The Twilight Zone from other science fiction and horror programs. Its objective was to comment on the human condition. The horror elements grew from there.

Houghton was also responsible for hiring the right actors and director for each episode, approving set locations, resolving any grievances or personal conflicts among the cast and crew, overseeing the edit of the rough cut and approving the finished product, making sure everyone got paid, communicating with network executives, and seeing that everything ran efficiently so he could bring the episode in on time and under budget. He was usually doing all of this while balancing several episodes at once, each in a different stage of production. It was Houghton’s idea to shoot on the MGM backlot because he knew their extensive prop department would save both time and money.

In 1960 Houghton received a Producer’s Guild Award for Best Produced Series from the Producer’s Guild of America for a remarkable first season. He managed to keep the show afloat for the next three seasons-101 episodes-with the quality of creative content remaining, for the most part, as fresh as it felt at the beginning. Near the end of the 1961-62 season, CBS, under the leadership of President James T. Aubrey, changed the show’s time slot from Friday night at 10:00 pm to Wednesday at 7:30 pm, the middle of the primetime lineup. After getting wind of this, Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, who had sponsored the show since the end of the previous season, decided not to renew their contract for the upcoming fourth season. They didn’t believe the show would fare very well in its new spot as it was surrounded by westerns and situational comedies. Unable to secure a new sponsor in time, the show found itself off the air.

Although there was talk that the show might be brought back at some point, Houghton decided that he could not risk potential unemployment waiting to find out. He also decided that it would be a wise career choice to prove that he could be successful outside of the celebrity of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. Another reason still, was the talk of expanding the show to an hour which he was definitely not in favor of doing. So after being offered a position at Four Star Productions, Houghton left the show. His replacement was producer Herbert Hirschman who would stay for only twelve episodes before being replaced by Bert Granet near the end of the fourth season. In an interview with television historian Steven Bowie in 1998, Houghton said that Serling later asked him to return to produce the show’s fifth season—this was likely around the time that Hirschman left. Houghton was apparently on board with the idea but CBS ruled in favor of Granet instead.

Four Star Productions was formed in 1952 as the brainchild of actor Dick Powell. The company produced mostly television programs and is responsible for shows like Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rifleman, Honey West, The Big Valley, and Four Star Playhouse, among others. In 1963 actor Richard Boone had grown weary of playing gunfighting poet of the west Paladin in the iconic series Have Gun – Will Travel and left the show to pursue something new. The result was The Richard Boone Show, an ambitious half-hour dramatic anthology series which aired each week on NBC. The show featured the first televised repertory theatre company in which a rotating group of actors played different characters each week. Boone served as host and he also directed and appeared in many episodes. The show featured numerous former members of The Twilight Zone’s production crew.

The series was produced by Four Star and Houghton was hired to oversee production. To aid him in getting such a highly publicized project off the ground was revered American dramatist Clifford Odets. Odets had signed on to write four original teleplays for the show in addition to acting as script supervisor—the project would be his last, however, as he died suddenly in August of 1963. Despite critical acclaim—a Golden Globe Award and several Emmy nominations—and an immensely talented roster of writers, directors, performers, and production staff, the show was not able to find an audience and ended in 1963 after only twenty-five episodes. After the death of founder and president Dick Powell in January of 1963, Four Star Productions appeared to be unraveling and Houghton left the company.

He worked almost exclusively in television throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. After The Richard Boone Show he served as producer on the short-lived World War II series Blue Light, created by Larry Cohen and Walter Grauman and starring Robert Goulet, and the subsequent feature film it inspired, I Deal in Danger (1966). Although he continued to find steady work in television, serving as producer on several made-for-television films and a handful of well-known and less well-known series including Lost in Space, The High Chaparral, Harry O, Executive Suite, and Hawaii Five-O, Houghton never found another long-term position in the industry and in the last decade of his career he turned his attention toward feature films.

In 1982 Houghton served as producer on the film The Escape Artist which starred Griffin O’Neal and Raul Julia. The film was directed by Caleb Deschanel with a screenplay by Melissa Mathison and Stephen Zito from the novel by David Wagoner. Francis Ford Coppola served as executive producer and the film was released by his company, Zoetrope Studios. Houghton and Coppola were close friends for many years. Houghton made a brief cameo as a senator in The Godfather Part II (1974) and a quote from Coppola appears on the cover of Houghton’s book. The Escape Artist is also notable as the last screen appearance of television icon Desi Arnaz. Houghton also produced the cult horror films Eternal Evil (1985) starring Karen Black and The Wraith (1986) with Charlie Sheen. His final role as producer was on the CBS film Spring Awakening in 1994.

Although he preferred to remain on the business side of the industry, Houghton did occasionally see his own work make it to the screen. The Internet Movie Database lists seven writing credits for various series including Big Town, Four Star Playhouse, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Nichols, Mission: Impossible, and Project U.F.O. 

Houghton was not involved in the Twilight Zone reboot which aired on CBS from 1985 to 1987. Although he was not in favor of reviving the series he was always careful not to criticize the show’s creators as he realized that they were making a very different show than the one he and Serling had made simply by default. “I think they should have started another series,” he told interviewers Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier in 1987. “It’s counterproductive to say you’re going to remake Back to the Future or Mutiny on the Bounty because remakes generally don’t work. There’s some self-consciousness that goes into the remaking process that is self-defeating.” He made similar statements about Twilight Zone: The Movie after seeing the bizarre set designs and elaborate special effects while on the set of director Joe Dante’s segment which was based on Serling’s season three classic “It’s a Good Life”—Houghton makes a brief cameo in Dante’s version.

Houghton’s career as a television producer inspired both of his children to seek careers in the industry as well. His daughter, Mona Houghton, who played the little girl on the sidewalk in Serling’s season three Twilight Zone episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” went on to write for several television series during the 1970’s and 80’s. His son, Jim Houghton, who also appeared on The Twilight Zone during season three as a town rough hand in Montgomery Pittman’s “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” has enjoyed an enormously successful career first as an actor (Knot’s Landing) and then as a writer (Tales from the Darkside, The Young and the Restless). He has received two Writer’s Guild of America Awards.


In 1991 Silman-James Press published What a Producer Does: The Art of Moviemaking (Not the Business), a step-by-step outline to being a producer of film and television in the elusive machine that is Hollywood. Running through a list of important bullet points, Houghton dedicates each chapter to a different aspect of the producer’s job from buying source material to hiring the cast and crew to marketing the finished product, explaining how each step differs from television to film. Since its original publication the book has become a standard of the industry and its straightforward approach makes it as relevant as it was twenty-five years ago. The book is dedicated to Serling’s memory.

After retiring, Houghton’s health began to decline. Suffering from a combination of emphysema and ALS, Houghton died in Los Angeles on May 14, 1999. He was 84.




Grateful acknowledgement is made to:

What a Producer Does: The Art of Moviemaking (Not the Business) by Buck Houghton (Silman-James Press, 1991)

The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree, second edition (Bantam, 1989)

“Buck Houghton: Ghosts of Twilight Zone’s Past” interview with Houghton conducted by Randy and Jean-Mark Lofficier (Starlog #115, February, 1987)

The Twilight Zone Definitive DVD Collection, Season 1 (Image Entertainment, 2004)

“Notes from Buck Houghton” by Steven Bowie (The Classic TV History Blog, November 6, 2009), retrieved April 7, 2018


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"The Changing of the Guard"

Professor Ellis Fowler (Donald Pleasence) and the
students of the Vermont Rock Springs School for Boys
“The Changing of the Guard”
Season Three, Episode 102
Original Air Date: June 1, 1962

Cast:
Professor Ellis Fowler: Donald Pleasence
Headmaster: Liam Sullivan
Mrs. Landers: Philippa Bevans
Artie Beachcroft: Tom Lowell
Bartlett: Russell Horton
Dickie Weiss: Buddy Hart
Graham: Bob Biheller
Butler: Kevin O’Neal
Boy: Jimmy Baird
Boy: Kevin Jones
Thompson: Darryl Richard
Rice: James Browning
Hudson: Pat Close
Whiting: Dennis Kerlee

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Robert Ellis Miller
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merril Pye
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Keogh Gleason
Make Up: William Tuttle
Assistant Director: E. Darrel Hallenbeck
Casting: Robert Walker
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: Stock
Optical Effects: Pacific Title
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagles Clothes
Filmed at M.G.M. Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling
“Next week on the Twilight Zone, Mr. Donald Pleasence, visiting us from Broadway, brings his exceptional talents to a very special program. The story of an aging schoolmaster who finds some faith, some hope, and some mending glue for a few shattered dreams. But he finds it in that strange manner unique in the shadow regions of the Twilight Zone. Next week Donald Pleasence stars in “The Changing of the Guard.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Professor Ellis Fowler, a gentle, bookish guide to the young, who is about to discover that life still has certain surprises, and that the campus of the Rock Spring School for Boys lies on a direct path to another institution, commonly referred to as the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:

            Professor Ellis Fowler is an aging English teacher at the Vermont Rock Spring School for Boys, a position he has held for over half a century. After saying goodbye to his last class of the fall semester, Professor Fowler is summoned to the headmaster’s office before leaving for the winter break. The headmaster, a young well-to-do man, reluctantly informs the professor that the school’s board of trustees have voted not to renew his contract for the Spring. They feel that someone younger may be more beneficial to the students. Fowler is speechless. 
At home that evening, he flips through old yearbooks, remembering the hundreds of students who have graced his classroom. He wonders how many of his students remember him. He thinks of all the years he spent spouting poetry to bored, indifferent faces and feels foolish. He informs his housekeeper that he is going for a walk and wanders out into the night. After he leaves she discovers an empty gun holster in his desk drawer.
      Professor Fowler makes his way to the deserted school campus and finds himself in front of a statue of Horace Mann. He remarks to the statue that he has won no victory for humanity, in reference to the great educator's famous quote. As he raises the barrel of the gun to his temple, Fowler hears class bells ringing. Curious, he walks off to investigate. 
            He eventually finds himself back in his classroom, now empty. Before he has a chance to get a hold of his senses he sees a room full of students materialize out of nothing right before his eyes. He recognizes each of them. They are former students from various classes throughout the years, all of which are now dead. Each student tells him of the enormous impact that he had on their lives. The professor is moved to tears.
            He returns home in better spirits and tells his housekeeper that he is looking forward to retirement. He has made his mark and is ready to turn the reigns over to someone else. As he settles in for the night he hears Christmas carolers outside his window. He opens the window to find his students gathered on the lawn. They wish him a Merry Christmas and continue on their way. The professor closes the window and smiles, content with the victory he has won for humanity.


Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Professor Ellis Fowler, teacher, who discovered rather belatedly something of his own value. A very small scholastic lesson, from the campus of the Twilight Zone.”


Commentary:

            To close out the third season of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling penned this incredibly warm, moving story that seems to foreshadow many of the events that were to happen in his life in the coming years. While The Twilight Zone always held a dedicated fan base it was never a strong candidate when it came to ratings due likely to the fact that it was a fantasy program. The show lived in constant fear of cancellation and at the end of its third season, after failing to attract a new sponsor after the departure of Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, it finally found itself off the air. It would cease to broadcast new episodes for the next seven months until it was brought as a mid-season replacement, unseating the very program that had replaced it. This temporary hiatus would have a lasting impact on the show and its creators. Long-time producer Buck Houghton, faced with the possibility of sudden unemployment, would reluctantly leave the show as would other important figures of the show’s production crew including film editors Bill Mosher and Jason Bernie and assistant director E. Darrel Hallenbeck. As for Serling, the constant grind of writing the bulk of the show’s scripts as well as acting as host and executive producer had taken an enormous creative toll. At the end of the 1961-62 season he accepted a teaching at his alma mater, Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, thousands of miles away from Los Angeles, leaving incoming producer Hebert Hirschman with the task of resurrecting the show largely by himself. So when CBS did bring The Twilight Zone back in January of 1963 it may have resembled its former self in many ways but it was, without question, a noticeably different show.

I.

Rod Serling’s “The Changing of the Guard”

            When first viewing “The Changing of the Guard” the influence of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) is immediately noticeable given its celebration of the common man and the promise that no one goes unnoticed or unloved in life. The fact that this episode, which aired in June, takes place around Christmas is probably not a coincidence but a deliberate nod to Capra’s classic holiday film. It should come as no surprise that Serling would be influenced by a storyteller like Capra for his films possess the same brand of empathy found in much of Serling’s work. Capra believed in humanity and the overlying message found throughout his body of work is simply that every human being has value and therefore has the right to feel valuable. This maxim seems to have greatly appealed to Serling for much of his work concerns the forgotten members of society: the misunderstood alcoholic with a heart of gold, the convict who is unjustly punished, the aging man who has suddenly found himself in an unfamiliar world. Like Capra, Serling seemed to possess a genuine affection for these types of characters and often awarded them a second chance at life as he does for Professor Fowler here. The theme of moral forgiveness appears in many of his Twilight Zone scripts including “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” “The Night of the Meek” and “A Passage for Trumpet,” all Capra-esque episodes with unlikely heroes similar to Professor Fowler. But his dedication to the downtrodden of the world is found throughout his work from early teleplays like Requiem for a Heavyweight and Old MacDonald Had a Curve to episodes of his western series, The Loner, and even in several of his scripts for Night Gallery—an unapologetically macabre series—including the Emmy-nominated “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”
            Serling’s empathetic relationship with his lowly protagonists was more than just his preaching of the humanist gospel. Serling was, above anything else, an autobiographical writer. No matter the setting or premise of a story Serling’s personality was always present and many of his heroes were simply extensions of himself. It seems safe to assume that Professor Fowler represents many of Serling’s fears as a writer even though he would later claim that he felt this episode was too sentimental. These fears would only grow as he grew older. In the years after The Twilight Zone, as the counter-culture movement flourished and television began to change, Serling saw the medium that he helped create more or less move on without him. The live dramas of the previous decade were gone, The Loner was canceled after a single season, many of his series ideas went unrealized, Night Gallery turned out to be an unpleasant experience for him, and his career as a screenwriter never quite progressed the way his television career had. In later years he often told interviewers that his work would likely be forgotten and that to simply be remembered as a writer would be sufficient enough. Time has proven him wrong and the fact that he allows Fowler a second chance at happiness in an attempt to remind his fellow man to simply treat one another with dignity and respect is probably the hallmark of his career as a writer, one which earned him six Emmy Awards for writing, a record he holds to this day. Ironically, given his fame as a writer, his epitaph simply reads RODMAN E. SERLING, TEC5 U.S. ARMY, WORLD WAR II in reference to his military rank as Technician 5th Class in the United States Army.
             Poetry plays an important role in "The Changing of the Guard." But the poems Serling includes are not chosen at random nor were they poems everyone in a 1960's television audience would necessarily recognize. The first poem mentioned, recited in-full by Donald Pleasence in the first scene of the episode, is from English poet A.E. Housman's (1859-1936) 1896 collection A Shropshire Lad. "Poem XIII," commonly referred to by its opening line, "When I was One and Twenty," recounts a young protagonist's encounter with a presumably older, wiser man at the age of twenty-one who tells him that falling in love has consequences that are not repaired as easily as losing money or material possessions, advice the young protagonist ignores. One year later, now a victim of a broken heart, the speaker regrets his ignorance. Fowler's recitation of the poem to his young students reflects the old sage's advice to the protagonist and the theme of the poem also foreshadows Fowler's heartbreak at having the thing he loves most, teaching, taken away from him. Serling may also have included it in reference to Fowler's students who died young, as many of the poems in A Shropshire Lad pay tribute to English soldiers who lost their lives at a young age. As Fowler recites this to the class, the camera pans slowly across the classroom of boys, some fiddling restlessly, some staring vacantly into thin air, all naive and inexperienced like the protagonist of the poem. Pleasence gives a fantastic rendition of the poem and this ends up being a very powerful moment in the episode. 
          The two other poems Serling includes are mentioned during the second classroom scene and are recited by the ghosts of Fowler’s former students. The first is American minister Howard Arnold Walter’s (1883-1918) poem “My Creed,” commonly referred to by its opening line “I Would be True,” first published in 1906. Serling includes the first four lines which are read by Russell Horton who plays a young man who gave his life for the cause of medical research. The poem is a testament to being brave and honest in the face of adversity.
The last poem mentioned is John Donne’s (1572-1631) “No Man is an Island.” First published in 1624 in his collection of religious essays, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Donne actually wrote this as part of a much larger essay called Meditation XVII. The short passage that has become so famous is commonly referred to by either its opening phrase, “No man is an island” or its closing phrase, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” often recited as “ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” It basically suggests that every person is part of a larger fabric of humanity and therefore what effects one person’s life inadvertently effects all of humanity. The second half of the passage is recited here by actor Buddy Hart who plays Dickie Weiss, a Naval officer who was on-board the Arizona and became the first person killed at Pearl Harbor while rescuing his crew mates—Serling’s reference here is perhaps a little over the top but the message still resonates. Audiences at the time might have recognized Hart as he had a reoccurring role on Leave It to Beaver. He later changed his name to Buddy Joe Hooker and went on to enjoy an enormously successful career as a stunt coordinator. This last poem is probably the best known of the three mentioned in the episode and one Serling likely admired.
             Much should be said about Donald Pleasence's performance as Professor Ellis Fowler for it is as moving and honest as any the show ever saw. It should be noted that Pleasence was only forty-three at the time of filming the episode. He is not only given the task of convincingly portraying a man who is at least in his late seventies but he must then affectionately charm the audience into liking this old man so that they care about what happens to him. He manages to accomplish both jobs flawlessly. In order to appear physically older, Pleasence wore aging makeup and a facial hair prosthetic designed by MGM makeup artist William Tuttle, whose work is memorably featured in numerous episodes throughout the series. Even with the heavy makeup Pleasence fully realizes the transformation through physical mannerisms, altered speech patterns, and improvisational dialogue. He captures both the joy and gratification Fowler feels as a teacher and the bleakness and despair that washes over him after he is made to feel like his contributions were worthless. 
            This was Donald Pleasence’s first appearance on American television. He had already enjoyed success in his native England both on the stage and on the big and small screens. While he was known for being gentle and soft-spoken, Pleasence enjoyed playing malevolent characters. When he was cast as the bookish Professor Fowler, Pleasence had just spent an entire year playing the role of Davies, an incredibly unlikable character, in Harold Pinter’s play The Caregiver, first in London and then on Broadway. The role earned him a Tony Award nomination, the first of four, and he revived the role for a film version, The Guest, in 1963. Pleasence would make a name for himself playing seedy, vicious characters and enjoy a successful and highly prolific career in a variety of mediums. His film roles include The Great Escape (1963), Dr. Crippen (1963), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Escape to Witch Mountain (1975), Dracula (1979), and Escape from New York (1981). He was well-known among horror fans and appeared in numerous independent films, mostly anthologies, from American International Pictures, Amicus Productions and others including Circus of Horrors (1960), From Beyond the Grave (1974), The Uncanny (1977), and The Monster Club (1981). He appeared in episodes of One Step Beyond, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theatre and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Defection of Simas Kudirka in 1978. The two roles he is most known for, however, are Bond villain Ernest Stavro Blofeld in You Only Live Twice (1967) and as Dr. Samuel Loomis in the original Halloween film series. Before becoming an actor Pleasence served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force during World War II and was taken captive by German forces after his plane was shot down over France. He remained a prisoner of war for almost two years before being released. Pleasence died in 1995 at the age of seventy-five.
           Making his only contribution to The Twilight Zone is director Robert Ellis Miller. Miller began his career in television directing many episodes of the live drama series of the 1950's as well as of The Donna Reed Show. In the late 1960's he made the transition to directing feature films, mostly romantic comedies, including Sweet November (1968), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and The Buttercup Chain (1970). Ellis does a fine job on "The Changing of the Guard" and he reacts to the performances of the actors really well, as in the aforementioned opening scene in which Pleasence reads the Housman poem. The scene between Fowler and the headmaster is also particularly moving. His most noticeable contribution to the episode, however, is the second classroom scene featuring the ghosts of Fowler's students. To "summon" the ghosts he has an image of the actors sitting at their desks with their heads down gradually appear onscreen. Once in real time, they pick up their heads and look directly into the camera, or directly at Fowler. This is before the audience is made aware of the well-meaning intentions of the ghosts and the effect is appropriately eerie and convincing. 

II.

Rod Serling, Horace Mann, and Education

            The idea that Ellis Fowler is, at least to some degree, an extension of Serling’s personality is further solidified by the fact that Serling makes his hero an educator, at a school that prominently displays a statue of education pioneer Horace Mann, a hero of Seling’s and the founder of Serling’s alma mater Antioch College, where Serling would soon be a faculty member. Education was clearly important to Serling and he had a great admiration for teachers. He spoke fondly of the teachers who had made an impact on him creatively, particularly his public speaking teacher at West Junior High in Binghamton, Helen Foley. The two became lifelong friends and Serling even named the main character from his season one Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare as a Child” after Foley.
            Before becoming a writer Serling thought he wanted to be a teacher himself. After returning home from World War II, he enrolled in Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio as a physical education major. He soon changed it to language and literature. Serling found that writing offered a therapeutic outlet which helped him process the psychological trauma of combat and allowed him to learn more about himself. Serling saw Antioch as a haven of unrestricted self-expression, a place where he was encouraged to question things he felt were wrong with the world in which he lived. Not long after he began writing Serling became the head of the Antioch Broadcasting System’s radio program where he wrote, directed, and acted in weekly productions. In 1949 he made his first professional sale to the Dr. Christian radio show where his radio play “To Live a Dream” placed second in the annual script writing contest. In many ways Antioch was the place where Rod Serling the writer was born.
While still a student Serling came to admire the life of the school’s founder, American politician and education reformer Horace Mann (1796-1859). Mann was one of the first prominent advocates of universal, tax-funded public education. Born into poverty, he went on to graduate valedictorian from Brown University and held positions in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the United States House of Representatives. He was an early advocate of gender equality, state-funded mental health facilities, the separation of church and state, and an outspoken opponent of slavery. Education, however, was always his priority. “A republic,” he said, “cannot long remain ignorant and free, hence the necessity of universal popular education…such education is best provided in schools embracing children of all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds.” In 1853, Mann became the first president of Antioch College, the first non-sectarian, coeducational college in the United States. During Mann’s six years as president, Antioch became the first college to appoint a female to its faculty--with the same rank and pay as her male coworkers. Mann also kept tuition at a rate affordable for students, something that almost caused the school to close after the Christian Connexion withdrew its funding. The college enrolled students of all races, religions, and financial backgrounds. In his 1859 commencement address Mann delivered the phrase which he would forever be associated with and which Serling includes in “The Changing of the Guard.”

"Be Ashamed to Die Until You Have Won Some Victory for Humanity."

Mann collapsed not long after the ceremony and died a few months later. Today he is considered a pioneering social activist and the father of American public education.
            It should come as no surprise that Serling was an admirer of Horace Mann for their principles are very much the same. Serling mentions Mann in his lectures and in several of his teleplays. In an early teleplay for NBC’s Hallmark Hall of Fame titled “Horace Mann’s Miracle” Serling recounts Mann’s struggle to keep Antioch from closing its doors in financial ruin after losing most of its funding. The half-hour drama aired on March 8, 1953. It was directed by Albert McCleery and stars Frank M. Thomas as Mann.
            Serling told interviewers at the time that his official title at Antioch would be “writer in residence.” During his brief time at the college from September, 1962 to January, 1963 Serling taught two classes. One was an open enrollment survey course for undergraduates called Mass Media. The other was an evening course called Writing in the Dramatic Form. Enrollment for this course was by invitation only and was intended for graduate students or individuals just beginning their careers as writers. Jeanne Marshall was an aspiring writer at the time and was a student in the evening class. She kept detailed notes of each class period, noting the films they watched, assignments they were given, and Serling’s book and film recommendations. If you are interested, all twenty-three pages of her notes are available on the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website. While Serling clearly needed a break from The Twilight Zone his choice for in-class viewing material suggested otherwise. Serling screened a variety of episodes of the show throughout the semester including “The Changing of the Guard.” Among the numerous books Marshall lists as recommended by Serling are Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, works by Gore Vidal and Paddy Chayefsky, and The Beardless Warriors by Richard Matheson. It should be noted that several of the students who attended the course, including Marshall, went on to make a career for themselves as writers. Serling even helped future television writer Sue Clauser sell her first two teleplays to Bonanza.
            Serling’s trial run as a teacher was short-lived. Not long after he moved to Ohio CBS green lit the fourth season of The Twilight Zone which would debut in January as a mid-season replacement. So in January of 1963 Serling and family moved back to California. This was not the last time he would don the teacher’s hat. Serling began to lecture at college campuses across the country. He held film screenings at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College in Hollywood where he would often screen episodes of The Twilight Zone. He was a founding member of the Famous Writers School. In the late 1960’s, Serling took another teaching position, this time at Ithaca College near his home in Ithaca, New York. He is said to have found this job peaceful and rewarding. He continued to teach at Ithaca until his death in 1975.

IV.

The End of Season Three

            The reason The Twilight Zone went off the air is because Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, who had sponsored the show since the beginning of the third season, chose not to renew their sponsorship due to CBS’s decision to move the show from its original time-slot of Fridays at 10:00 pm to Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. They did not think the audience would follow them to the earlier time and they were probably correct. The Twilight Zone was too weird to be placed in the middle of the primetime lineup next to westerns and situational comedies. When the show failed to find a new sponsor in time for production to begin on the fourth season they found themselves off the air. But this was not the first time the show had faced cancellation. A similar set of events had occurred at the end of the first season but popular demand managed to keep the show on the air. This time they weren’t so lucky.
            Unfortunately, many members of the show’s production crew found themselves at the risk of potential unemployment. Many could not afford to wait it out, so they submitted their resumes elsewhere. The show lost numerous members of its production crew, many of which had been there since the beginning. The biggest blow, however, was the departure of long-time producer Buck Houghton, who was a fundamental part of the show’s success. Unable to wait for a decision from CBS, Houghton accepted a position with Four Star Productions working on The Richard Boone Show at NBC. He had produced 101 episodes of the show, had won the award for Best Produced Series from the Producer’s Guild of America, and had helped create a landmark piece of television history. With so many new faces it’s no surprise that the show would look and feel different going into the fourth season and its seems appropriate that the new season have a different format and a different name—the show dropped the definite “the” from its title and would now be known simply as Twilight Zone.
            As for Serling, his time in Yellow Springs was not the rejuvenating getaway he had hoped it would be. Serling had the type of personality that had to remain in motion all the time. If he found himself with downtime he would invent another project for himself. In addition to his two classes at Antioch, while in Yellow Springs Rod was also writing the screenplay for Seven Days in May and writing scripts for Twilight Zone, which were now twice as long. He also had to fly back to Los Angeles periodically to film his onscreen introductions for the show and to meet with producer Herbert Hirschman. He also briefly hosted a movie series on WBNS in Columbus called 10 O’clock Theatre. So when he returned to Los Angeles in January he was still fatigued and frustrated which would unfortunately affect much of his writing for the show for the remainder of its existence.

IV.

Moving On

            Even if The Twilight Zone had ended after just three seasons Serling and company could have walked away from it with a sense of accomplishment. The 102 television episodes they produced in just under three years are some of the finest pieces of drama ever committed to film. “The Changing of the Guard” would have made an appropriate swan song to the series for it unabashedly embraces Serling’s sentimentalism and celebrates the value of human beings. But the show did continue. And despite the uneven quality of the fourth and fifth seasons, some fine episodes were still to come.


Grade: B


Grateful acknowledgement to the following:

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling by Anne Serling (Citadel Press, 2013)

The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (Second Edition, 1989)

The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR Publishing, 2008)

Rod Serling Teaches Writing: Jeanne Marshall's Seminar Notes, 1962-63 arranged and annotated by Jeanne Marshall; Rod Serling Memorial Foundation

“The Radio Career of Rod Serling” by Martin Grams, Jr.; Old Time Radio Researchers Group

“Fading into the Twilight Zone?” TV Guide (Summer, 1963); Rod Serling Memorial Foundation
  


Notes:
Illustration by Jim Harter which accompanied
Anne Serling's adaptation of
"The Changing of the Guard," from
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine
--Liam Sullivan also appeared in the season two episode “The Silence.”
--Russell Horton also appeared in the season five episode “In Praise of Pip.”
--Check out the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Twilight Zone alumni Orson Bean.
--“The Changing of the Guard” was adapted into a short story by Serling’s daughter Anne Serling which first appeared in the January/February 1985 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. It was reprinted later that year in two anthologies: The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories, published by MJF Books and edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Richard Matheson, and Charles G. Waugh and Young Ghosts, published by Harper and Row and edited by Isaac Asimov, Greenberg, and Waugh.


--Brian