Serling, Rod

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SERLING, ROD (1924–1975), U.S. writer and producer. Born Edward Rodman Serling in Syracuse, n.y., he spent most of his childhood in Binghamton in upstate New York. After he graduated from high school in 1942, Serling enlisted with the U.S. Army's 11th Airborne Division paratroopers, serving three years in the South Pacific. In 1946, he studied at Antioch College in Ohio, where he was active in the college's radio station, writing, directing, and acting in several on-air productions. During his senior year at Antioch, Serling took second place in a cbs-sponsored script-writing contest. After graduating college in June 1950, Serling took a job as a script writer for wlw radio in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then one as a continuity writer for wkrc-tv. Before long Serling was selling freelance radio scripts, and in 1951 he sold a television script to Lux Video Theatre. By the beginning of 1955, he had sold 90 scripts to shows like Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, and General Electric Theater, where his script for Patterns earned him an Emmy Award; nbc aired the production twice and United Artists adapted it for the screen. In April 1955, Serling signed a deal to write scripts for cbs, which featured the Playhouse 90 premier Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), which earned him a second Emmy. Disenchanted with censors, Serling conceived a novel way to address social issues: science fiction; he conceived and produced an anthology tv series he called The Twilight Zone (1959–64) that featured Serling as host. He wrote 90 of Twilight Zone's 151 episodes, and the show would go on to land three more Emmys for Serling (Serling won more Emmys for writing drama in his lifetime than any other writer). On The Twilight Zone, Serling was able to address such issues as civil rights, the Holocaust, lynchings in the South, and the incipient Vietnam War. In 1965, Serling was elected to a two-year term as head of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the first writer to be so honored. After the end of the series, Serling wrote features, including Seven Days in May, and supplied the famous ending for Planet of the Apes (1968). In 1970 he co-created the horror anthology series Night Gallery (1969–73). He spent the remaining years of his life teaching writing at Ithaca College in New York. Serling, a heavy smoker, had a heart attack in May 1975. After undergoing open-heart surgery, he died one month later. In 2001, a remake of one of Serling's teleplays, A Storm in Summer (2000), won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding writing – Serling defeated the other contestants despite having been dead for more than 25 years.

[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]