Brian Murray at The New Atlantis:
In his 1961 address to the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters, Newton Minow famously offered a pessimistic assessment of America’s most exciting new industry. Television, declared Minow, was turning into a “vast wasteland” of “blood and thunder” and “formula comedies.” Minow, the recently appointed head of the Federal Communications Commission, specified only one weekly series he found “dramatic and moving,” a hopeful sign of what broadcast television could become. This was The Twilight Zone, which its creator and chief writer, Rod Serling, described as “a series of imaginative tales that are not bound by time or space or the established laws of nature.”
The Twilight Zone won numerous industry awards and wide critical praise during its five-season run from 1959 to 1964 on CBS, confirming Serling’s place as one of the most prolific and innovative writers and producers to emerge from the live-drama era of the 1950s, television’s original “golden age.” But by the time he died in 1975, Serling was probably less well known for his writerly creativity than as the host of a quiz show and as the face of TV commercials for cigarettes and cars.
What happened? How did the man who longed to be — and arguably was — television’s answer to Arthur Miller end up instead as an edgier version of Ed McMahon?