Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, October 2nd, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the very beginning of the series, which debuted on this day in 1959 with the unforgettable series premiere, “Where is Everybody?”
Nobody really knew what to expect when actor Earl Holliman, dressed in what looks like an auto mechanic’s jumpsuit, is seen wandering down a country road headed for what will be a deserted town. However, Rod Serling came to this show with a huge reputation in live television and three Emmy Awards for writing under his belt.
The Twilight Zone was unique programming because there was nothing to compare it to. It wasn’t a whiz-bang Saturday morning kids’ show about rockets and aliens, it wasn’t exploitive like 90% of the genre programming being released to movie theaters at the time – it was thought-provoking, emotional, intense, just plain weird at times, and completely memorable. “Did you see The Twilight Zone last night?” was probably a phrase that was uttered a million times a week on college campuses, around the water cooler, on subways and elevated trains, in buses and airplanes and ferry boats to Oakland. Decades before “appointment TV” became a catch phrase, TZ was it.
Here’s to the birth of the greatest television series of all time, and the day it came into the world and changed television as we know it.