Serling discusses how sponsors and networks emasculated the content of shows he’d worked on prior to the Twilight Zone. When pressed about his new show, Serling explains that he’s tired of fighting the censors and he just wants to put on an entertaining show. (I’m paraphrasing.)
“So, you’ve given up on writing anything important for television,” Wallace tells him.
Serling answers, “…if you mean I’m not going to delve into important social issues, then I’m not.”
Serling was no fool. This interview aired the night before the Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959. In later years, Serling admitted he chose a science fiction / fantasy anthology format precisely for the opposite reason that he told Mike Wallace (and all the sponsors and network suits watching). Serling knew he could wrap what he wanted to say about important social issues up in the shiny, palatable wrapper of speculative fiction—and put one over on the suits. They equated science fiction with escapist fare like Buck Rogers. But Serling used science fiction and fantasy to make shows about racism, Nazis, the Cold War, religion, and the loneliness of modern life. And he won three Emmys in the process.
Ironically, if Rod Serling hadn’t fought censorship throughout his TV writing career, we might not be watching the Twilight Zone over 50 years later.
Can you guys think of any other instances where science fiction and/or fantasy were used to ingeniously “skirt” censorship issues? Or where the possibility of censorship actually spurred on the writer’s creativity?