The Twilight Zone is a show that most people are at least somewhat familiar with. Whether they've seen the show, been on the Disney theme park attraction, or at the very least know the show by name, people remember The Twilight Zone.
However, few people actually know what happened behind the scenes of the show. Aside from one attempt at a biopic, Serling's story is yet to be told beyond a Wikipedia article and a few biographies.
Darkness Beneath the Surface
While the show has been praised for its incorporation of profound stories into a minuscule budget, the show constantly ran over said budget. Between this and writing each individual episode, Serling found himself under a mountain of stress which led to the addition of two writers for Season 3 (which he wrote less than a third of) and finally the selling of the rights over to CBS who produced the final two seasons and kept it in syndication for a time.
So low, that Serling would frequently have to overcome the obstacle of running over budget. Given the low budget, most episodes only take place in one location and most lack special effects of any kind — now a staple of the sci-fi genre. This became increasingly more difficult to combat as Serling became increasingly more reliant on other writers drafting scripts for shows.
This progressively increased especially in Season 3 before Serling sold the rights to the show over to CBS. The deal merited more funding for the show and Serling stayed on to executive produce and wrote some of the episodes for the remaining two seasons.
Serling put his everything into the show; it's not to say that he became a lazier writer as the show progressed — the work was just tiring for him. Between writing the show and running the studio that produced a show that frequently ran over budget, it took a toll on Serling over those three years. Selling the rights to CBS was their best option and Serling's wife has since stated that Serling's belief was that the studio would never recover the funds lost from constantly running over budget.
It's also not to say that the quality of the show dropped over the following seasons — that's just a matter of opinion. However, granting CBS the rights to the show warranted two failed attempts at reviving the series as well as a film produced by Disney and an accompanying ride, narrated by Mark Silverman. There is currently a third revival in development and you can find my examination of such a prospect here.
But Serling's career didn't end with The Twilight Zone, though neither did his tragic story:
A Painful End and the Start of a Legacy
Rod Serling continued his career with writing more stories, plays, and other various works while balancing it with teaching. He spent a year teaching at Antioch College and ended his career by teaching at Ithaca College from the late 1960's until his death in 1975. His subjects of teaching consisted of writing and drama; however his death at the age of 50 was a long time coming. Serling suffered from three heart attacks (one minor followed by two major) and could not be saved despite undergoing surgery days before passing.
Today, Serling is remembered for his numerous works and awards, most notably The Twilight Zone and co-writing the original Planet of the Apes film. He's also noted as one of few people to speak out on controversial ideas in a time when such an idea was discouraged.
The problems he touched on were important at the time and by viewing them today, we can see just how much or little has changed in the last 50 years. There will never be anyone quite like Rod Serling, but it's clear that his contribution to humanity and intellectualism is invaluable.