By A.J. Serrano
The Twilight Zone was one hell of a television series. Stephen King once referred to the show as “damn near immortal” and it’s hard to disagree with his lofty praise. The series set a new standard for film and television writing, so much so that nearly every piece of entertainment that was produced after its 1959 debut is in some way indebted to Rod Serling’s show, including such titles as Star Trek, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Poltergeist, Blue Velvet, Donnie Darko and The Truman Show. Hell, the Serling estate should be collecting royalty checks from every one of M. Night Shyamalan’s films.
But the influence of the granddaddy show of them all doesn’t stop at horror and sci-fi. Even in the upcoming comedy Ruby Sparks, the most recent offering from the directors of the indie darling Little Miss Sunshine, Serling’s legacy is present. Ruby Sparks tells the story of Calvin, a young novelist with writer’s block who has the ability to will his characters into existence by way of his typewriter. Naturally, Calvin conjures up his idea of the perfect girl, only to find that literary love can be just as complicated as its real counterpart. Propelled by a whimsical premise and an all-star indie film cast, the nightmarish realm of the Twilight Zone seems like the very last place the writers of Ruby Sparks would turn to for inspiration.
Allow me to direct your attention to “A World of His Own,” the final episode of Twilight Zone‘s first season in 1959. The premise: playwright Gregory West, tired of his wife and the loneliness of his profession, develops the ability to bring his written characters to life. When he is caught by his wife canoodling with his new literary squeeze, West confesses his miraculous talent. “I describe any character I want and if I do it well enough, they come to life!” The episode also marks the first time Serling appeared onscreen, interacting with his own written characters in a clever if not overbearingly goofy moment of self-reflexivity.
It’s quite unbelievable to think that such a strange little television series could be the progenitor of most all of the entertainment we consume today. But in Serling’s world, the unbelievable and outlandish were commonplace, if not a necessity for telling a great story. I’m beginning to think the name Rod Serling should be included in every movie and show’s writing credits.