Known globally as the very recognizable host of television’s The Twilight Zone, Binghamton’s own Rod Serling was a pioneer of early broadcast television. As a writer, a producer and, for many years a teacher, Serling continually challenged the medium of television to reach for high artistic achievements. When he was writing for television, the medium was referred to as “The Golden Age.” When he stopped, it was referred to as “America’s vast wasteland.”
To this day, Serling holds the record for most Emmy Awards for dramatic writing, more than anyone in history. Serling expressed deep social commentary in nearly every script he wrote. Born in Syracuse in 1924, he grew up in Binghamton and graduated from Binghamton Central High School in 1943. Although he lived in many places around the country after service as a paratrooper in WWII, he always had strong feelings for and fond memories of his Upstate New York roots:
“Everyone has to have a hometown. Binghamton’s mine,” Serling once said. “In the strangely brittle, terribly sensitive makeup of a human being, there is a need for a place to hang a hat, or kind of geographical womb to crawl back into, or maybe just a place that’s familiar because that’s where you grew up. When I dig back through my memory cells, I get one particularly distinctive feeling and that’s one of warmth, comfort and well-being. For whatever else I may have had, or lost, or will find, I’ve still got a hometown. This, nobody’s gonna take away from me.”
This October marks the 50th anniversary of Rod Serling’s groundbreaking television series The Twilight Zone, which had its first airing Oct. 2, 1959, on CBS. Over a four-day period from Oct. 1 through Oct. 4, Southern Tier residents as well as fans from around the country will have an opportunity to celebrate and honor our hometown iconic genius. The celebration will be sponsored by the Rod Serling Video Festival, The Rod Serling School of the Arts at Binghamton City Schools, and the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, with generous support from area government, media and business organizations. The event is expected to attract numerous visitors as well as national media attention to the Greater Binghamton area. In addition, the celebration will coincide with an educational Serling Conference at Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications, where Serling’s archives are stored and where he was a teacher and frequent lecturer.
The celebration will include the following highlights:
- An opening ceremony with the Serling family and local dignitaries in attendance.
- A public screening of the PBS American Masters documentary “Submitted for your Approval: Rod Serling.” This 90-minute special chronicles Rod Serling’s life. Part of the documentary was filmed in and around Binghamton and features interviews with many local personalities as well as Hollywood colleagues and contemporaries.
- A special First Friday Art Walk “Night Gallery” on stage at the Broome County Forum Theatre with continuous screenings of the premier episode “Where Is Everybody” and a commemorative U.S. Postal Service cancellation of its newly issued Rod Serling stamp.
- A “live” WSKG public television reenactment broadcast of two Twilight Zone scripts, “Walking Distance” and “Mirror Image.” Each episode was written by Serling and inspired by Binghamton locales. The broadcast will feature local area actors and include a short documentary by WSKG’s Emmy award-winning producer Brian Frey.
- A walking/bus tour of Serling sites, including the BC Forum Theatre display of “Day of a Playwright”; the Binghamton High School’s Rod Serling School of the Arts along with Binghamton City School District’s 5th Grade Challenge Classes, which will present a special mixed media display; a stop at the downtown Metro Center’s “Walk of Fame”; and a visit to Recreation Park, the inspiration of “Walking Distance,” where visitors will see the Serling Pavilion and ride the carousel while continuous viewings of the actual episode on large television monitors run throughout the day.
- A 12-hour Twilight Zone marathon at the BC Forum Theater sponsored by Time Warner Cable. Twenty four individual episodes of the television classic will be projected on the Forum’s screen in a cinema setting.
For additional information and a daily schedule of activities, visit: Rod Serling Video Fest.