Rod Serling on writing for television (1959)

“The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in; becoming narcissistic.” – Rod Serling 1

Rod Serling

Rod Serling, 1959

Rod Serling (1924-1975) was a prestigious screenwriter, playwright and television producer perhaps best remembered for his series The Twilight Zone, which he produced, wrote for and narrated.

Serling was active in politics both on and off the screen and was known for his frequent clashes with executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism and war.

In his 1959 appearance on the The Mike Wallace Interview, Serling discussed the challenges inherent to writing for TV, such as maintaining artistic integrity while producing work for the general market and the obligation artists have to address sensitive social issues.


“I think it’s criminal that we’re not permitted to make dramatic note of social evils as they exist, of controversial themes as they are inherent in our society.

I think it’s ridiculous that drama, which by its very nature should make a comment on those things that affect our daily lives, is in the position . . . of not being able to take this stand.” – Rod Serling 2

Many of the issues Serling raises are as relevant today as ever. The pressure to self-censor is still prevalent, as are concerns artists have about reaching a wide audience without “selling out.” On this last point we can take heart in Serling’s insistence that creative work can be both artistic and publicly acceptable, and that the priority is to create work that you can stand behind.

Thanks to CINEVIEW1 for posting this interview to YouTube.


1 Source: Wikipedia
2 Source: The Mike Wallace Interview, 1959


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