|The Twilight Zone|
|Created by||Rod Serling, based on his previous 1959 TV series|
|Narrated by||Charles Aidman (1985-87)|
Robin Ward (1988-89)
|Theme music composer||Jerry Garcia|
Marius Constant (original theme)
|Opening theme||Performed by Grateful Dead|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||65|
|Running time||45-48 min. (season 1) |
22-24 min. (seasons 2-3)
Persistence of Vision Productions
CBS Broadcast International
CBS Television Distribution
|Original network||CBS (seasons 1-2)|
First-run syndication (season 3)
|Original release||September 27, 1985 -|
April 15, 1989
|Preceded by||The Twilight Zone (1959-64)|
|Followed by||The Twilight Zone (2002-03)|
The Twilight Zone (1985) is the first of three revivals of Rod Serling's acclaimed 1959-64 television series of the same name. It ran for two seasons on CBS before producing a final season for syndication.
After the original Twilight Zone series ended in 1964, Rod Serling sold the rights to the series to CBS, which allowed for a revival of the show by the network. As an in-house production, they stood to earn more money producing The Twilight Zone than they could by purchasing a new series produced by an outside company. Even so, the network was slow to consider a revival, shooting down offers from the original production team of Rod Serling and Buck Houghton and later from American filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Their hesitation stemmed from concerns familiar to the original series: The Twilight Zone had never been the breakaway hit CBS wanted, so they should not expect it to do better in a second run. "We were looking at the success of the original series in syndication and the enormous popularity of the Steven Spielberg films," said CBS program chief Harvey Shepard. "Many of them (such as E.T. or Poltergeist) deal with elements of the show. Perhaps the public is ready for it again."
Despite the lukewarm response to Twilight Zone: The Movie, Spielberg's theatrical homage to the original series, CBS gave the new Twilight Zone a greenlight in 1984 under the supervision of Carla Singer, then Vice President of Drama Development. "The Twilight Zone was a series I always liked as a kid," said Singer, "...and at that point it sounded like an interesting challenge for me personally." These sentiments were seconded by a number of young filmmakers eager to make their mark on a series which had proved influential to their life and work--people like writers Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, Rockne S. O'Bannon, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, Paul Chitlik and directors Wes Craven and William Friedkin. Casts featured stars including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Season Hubley, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Jonathan Frakes, and Fred Savage.
New theme music was composed and performed by Grateful Dead with Merl Saunders, interpolating elements of the classic theme to the original Twilight Zone by Marius Constant (used in seasons 2-5). In addition, Grateful Dead would go on to provide incidental music for a number of episodes in the series.
Filling in for Serling (who had died in 1975) as narrator was Charles Aidman, himself the star of two classic Twilight Zone episodes. The Twilight Zone ran for two seasons on CBS. For most of the network run the series was one hour in length, but occasionally (and in a departure from the original series), presented two or three stories within the one-hour time slot. For part of season 2, the show presented half-hour episodes.
An additional third season of half-hour programs was produced in 1988 to "pad" the series' syndication package. Robin Ward replaced Aidman as the narrator of these Canadian-produced episodes. Unlike Serling (whose image appears fleetingly in the revival's opening credits), Forest Whitaker, host of the 2002 revival, and Jordan Peele, host of the 2019 revival, neither Aidman nor Ward appeared on screen.
The Twilight Zone debuted the night of September 27, 1985 to a generally warm reception: it would win its Friday-night time slot in four of its first five weeks. Episodes featured adaptations of stories by Harlan Ellison (whose "Shatterday" launched the new series), Greg Bear, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert McCammon, and Stephen King. A new batch of scripts was supplemented with remakes of classic Twilight Zone episodes like "Dead Man's Shoes", "Shadow Play", and "Night of the Meek". Though the production crew was convinced that they were making all of the right decisions, ratings began to slide as the novelty of the show wore off. "You have not known humiliation until you have been beaten by Webster and Mr. Belvedere", said executive story consultant Alan Brennert.
The DVD release includes several episode commentaries by Executive Producer Philip Deguere. On these DVD extras, he states that CBS initially told him the show would air at 10 PM and therefore the earliest episodes were written with that time slot in mind. The late and unexpected rescheduling of the show to the 8 PM family viewing time slot resulted in the broadcast of the first six episodes in a time slot Mr. Deguere states were inappropriate for their content. He attributes the intensity of the earliest aired episodes, considered by him as not the best fare to be broadcast during family viewing time slot, as the reason why the series ratings dropped and never recovered.
That the show's producers had even managed to hire Harlan Ellison was considered by many to be nothing short of miraculous; Ellison was an extremely vocal critic of television who had already published two collections of essays on the subject, "concluding that to work in television is akin to putting in time in the Egyptian House of the Dead." These feelings surfaced once again when the script he submitted for Twilight Zones Christmas special - an adaptation of Donald E. Westlake's 1964 story "Nackles", in which an obnoxious and mean-spirited drunk frightens his children with stories of a malicious anti-Santa Claus - was rejected by CBS' West Coast Program Practices. The segment, which was to be Ellison's directorial debut, was halted in mid-production. This cost the program between $150,000 and $300,000 and Ellison's services as a creative consultant. "[Their] suggestions were vile, infamous!" Ellison recalled of his aborted attempts to change the network's mind. On the DVD release, Mr. Ellison further expounds on his experiences during four audio commentaries to four of his stories that were adapted for the show.
The "Nackles" incident generated a flurry of press which ultimately proved inadequate to revive public interest in the series. "I can see why people who were expecting The Twilight Zone were disappointed with it," said staff writer Michael Cassutt of the show's low ratings. "...our show always seemed uneven to me. There were episodes perfectly in keeping with The Twilight Zone spirit, and then others that could have been from The Outer Limits or from anything." Despite poor ratings, The Twilight Zone was renewed for a second season in early 1986.
The series debuted in an hour-long format, but was put on hiatus only a few weeks into the season. CBS had moved the series to Saturday nights, which led to falling ratings. When The Twilight Zone returned in December, the episodes were half-hour shows, and generally contained only one story. The series was cancelled by February, with remaining episodes being burned off over the summer as hour-long multi-story episodes. Season 2 only ran for 11 episodes; several of the unproduced episodes would be filmed for season 3. In regard to writing for the episode "The Girl I Married", J. M. DeMatteis commented "I have a feeling that the show that appears will not bear much relation to what I wrote. What I've found out is that this season--unlike last, where the script was pretty much regarded as sacrosanct--the network is really interfering a lot. [...] Regardless, I know I did a good job and it was a real satisfying experience."
CBS replaced the original production team, and set out to do thirty 22-minute episodes for the third season; this way they could have enough episodes to sell the series into syndication. Robin Ward replaced Aidman as the narrator of these Canadian-produced episodes, and he also re-recorded Aidman's narration when the CBS episodes were edited for inclusion in the syndication package. To lead the writing team, the producers brought in a new group led by executive producer Mark Shelmerdine (I, Claudius) and supported by story editors Paul Chitlik, Jeremy Bertrand Finch, and J. Michael Straczynski. Straczynski authored more episodes that season than anyone else on staff. The producers named Straczynski the sole story editor following the release of Chitlik and Finch. Harlan Ellison was coaxed back to The Twilight Zone in the third season, and wrote what would be the third-to-last episode of the series, titled "Crazy as a Soup Sandwich."
Image Entertainment has released The Twilight Zone on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 was released on December 28, 2004 and Seasons 2 and 3 were released together in a 7-Disc DVD on June 28, 2005. Image re-released all three seasons together with the remastered original series in a 41-disc box set on August 26, 2014. On February 7, 2017, CBS Home Entertainment (distributed by Paramount) released "The Complete 80s Series" 13-disc box set.
In Region 2, Cinema Club UK has released all three seasons on DVD in the UK. Season 1 was released on September 19, 2005 on 6 DVDs, Season 2 on December 23, 2005 on 4 DVDs, and Season 3 on May 12, 2006 on 4 DVDs.
In Region 4, Shock Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Australia. All 3 seasons were released on June 1, 2011. On October 3, 2012, Shock released a complete series box set.
Alan Brennert, one of the writer-producers who contributed to the series, wrote that the picture quality of the DVD set was "NOT a 'bad transfer'" but rather that the episodes were "shot on film, but edited on video. In other words, the raw footage was 35 mm film, which was then transferred to videotape. Editing, dubbing, special effects--everything was done on video. We were in fact the first drama series on television to do this. So unlike the original Rod Serling TZ, there are NO original film negatives from which Image could strike new prints for transfer. All that exist are the old one-inch master tapes, and the unfortunate reality is, videotape does deteriorate some over time. Image has, in my opinion, done a superb job packaging our series, and it is to them that I award the five stars in this review! If not for their interest in bringing this show to DVD, those one-inch masters might eventually have eroded into so much static (as my 3/4-inch tapes of the show already have)." He concluded by saying "If you enjoyed this series, just be grateful it's been preserved!"