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, September 11th, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes happy birthday to character actor Earl Holliman, who turns 89 today. It was Earl who starred in the very first episode of the series – “Where is Everybody?” – portraying Mike Ferris, an increasingly desperate guy in a jumpsuit who can’t find anybody alive in the town he visits.
Talk about a cool episode with which to start a legendary series! Holliman brought every bit of his talent to this half-hour classic – and it was terrific to see him star in a show after so many years of playing the supporting player. After all, he was Robby the Robot’s second banana – Cookie the cook – in Forbidden Planet. But beyond that goofball role, Holliman had a big career in film, and then continued his work on the small screen in such television shows as Police Woman (as Lt. Bill Crowley opposite Angie Dickinson’s Sergeant “Pepper” Anderson). The very night that Holliman and The Twilight Zone debuted, October 2, 1959, he also starred in another debuting series – a western – Hotel de Paree.
For at least one evening in America, it was Earl Holliman Night. In the game of baseball, the leadoff man always sets the table for his team by getting on base anyway he or she can. In Earl Holliman’s case, he not only got on base, he rounded those bases in one of the greatest series debuts in history.