(Edward) Rod(man) Serling

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

(Edward) Rod(man) Serling 1924–1975

American scriptwriter, short story writer, dramatist, and producer.

Serling was one of television's most respected writers. He has been recognized for bringing the maturity and quality of stage drama to television during its early years and for offering provocative entertainment throughout his career. Serling's diverse works address a wide range of controversial issues, including prejudice and political corruption. Critics contend that Serling's iconoclastic attitude, which compelled him to tackle social topics neglected by his peers and to create memorable stories around them, helped move him to the forefront among writers of television's Golden Age.

Serling began selling scripts to radio as a college undergraduate. Like many other radio dramatists, he began to write for television during the early 1950s. In 1955 alone, twenty of his plays were produced on such acclaimed live television drama series as "Playhouse 90," "Studio One," and "Kraft Television Theater." It was on the last-named program that Serling's drama Patterns was first aired. A story of the inhumanity and ruthlessness involved in big business, it made Serling an instant success and won an Emmy Award. It was also the first drama to be repeated by a network in response to popular demand. Serling's best-known teleplay, Requiem for a Heavyweight, was broadcast on "Playhouse 90" in 1956. An account of the descent of a physically and spiritually defeated prize fighter, this drama was awarded an Emmy and, like Patterns, was later adapted for film. Serling won a Peabody Award for outstanding service in broadcasting for Requiem for a Heavyweight, the first time this award was given to a television writer. He won a total of six Emmys during his career, as well as several other awards for outstanding television writing.

Throughout the mid-1950s and 1960s, Serling impressed most critics with the consistently high quality of his work. He was less popular, however, with network managers and sponsors, whom he publicly criticized for their censorship of television scripts and writers. Serling believed that in order for television to function as an art form as well as entertainment, writers had to have the freedom to explore attitudes and draw conclusions regardless of whether the entire audience shared these views. Serling became known as television's "angry young man" for his zealous dedication to his beliefs, gaining the admiration of many of his contemporaries and helping set the tone for future television drama.

When the demand for live drama died at the end of the 1950s, Serling was among the few writers who successfully adapted to television's new demands. His series "The Twilight Zone," which aired from 1959 to 1964, exemplifies Serling's imagination and versatility. Combining elements of science fiction , fantasy, suspense,...

(The entire section is 668 words.)