The one thing that's always consistent on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day is Syfy's The Twilight Zone marathon. It kicked off this year on December 31 at 6 a.m., and fans of the show are able to watch every episode from the series well into the new year. But while tuning in, many folks are wondering why a cult classic show like the Twilight Zone would go off the air after only five seasons.
Before we get into the real reason why the show ended, it's important to note that the original Twilight Zone anthology had 156 episodes. It aired once a week from September to June during 1959-1964, and was nominated for numerous awards. Creator and host Rod Serling won three Emmy's and a Golden Globe during that time. Because of the niche nature of the show, its run of five seasons was an incredible feat.
Why was The Twilight Zone canceled?
Believe it or not, the Twilight Zone was canceled more than once — well, sort of. Before the fourth season was set to air in 1962, the show was unable to find a sponsor, according to the book A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone. While Serling and other producers were scrambling to get one, the Twilight Zone was abruptly taken off CBS's fall lineup by executive James T. Aubrey, who, apparently, wasn't a fan of the sci-fi show. The Twilight Zone was then replaced by a comedy series called Fair Exchange. However, in January 1963, Serling was invited back to his original timeslot as Fair Exchange never became popular, and the network needed a show to fill its place.
During this time, Serling, who wrote 92 episodes for the entire series, was experiencing severe burnout. "I've never felt quite so drained of ideas as I do at this moment ... I've written so much, I'm woozy," Serling said towards the end of season 2, according to A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone.
What didn't help is that the show's format went from a half-hour long to an hour when it was renewed for its fourth season, only exacerbating Serling's exhaustion. "I was writing so much, I felt I had begun to lose my perspective on what was good and what was bad," Serling reportedly said.
Although the half-hour format returned in the fifth season, it was met with moderate ratings, according to SyFy. This, along with Serling spending less and less time on the show's artistic direction, made Aubrey ultimately decide to cancel the series for good. Many blogs and stories note that Serling was too frustrated and tired to fight for a renewal. "You argue, you fight, you try to protect what has been written, but you're battling networks, advertising agencies, sponsors and pressure groups. I've been forced to make concessions in every television play I've written," Serling said in 1961, according to the book In the Zone: The Twilight World of Rod Serling.
Following the end of the Twilight Zone, Serling sold his rights to CBS, but continued to create and produce other shows and movies. While his experience with the show may have had its ups and downs, his dimension of imagination became legendary.
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