On this day in 1959, The Twilight Zone debuted on CBS. Fifty years later, the groundbreaking series still runs regularly on the SyFy network, can be obtained from video rental services and is available in a DVD boxed set. Salespeople, small business owners and CEO’s can learn several important lessons from this long-lived television show.
Deliver a quality product.
The writing on The Twilight Zone was consistently excellent. Rod Serling was a gifted writer who penned many of the episodes himself. He also adapted short stories by some of the best authors of the day. And the show featured performances by such talented actors as Robert Duvall, Buster Keaton, Carol Burnett, Peter Falk, Dennis Hopper, Cloris Leachman, Robert Redford and Mickey Rooney. (Yeah, yeah, Burgess Meredith, Dick York and William Shatner were each in several episodes, but everybody knows that.)
Engage people emotionally.
Most episodes do one of two things: 1) present a sympathetic protagonist we can easily root for, or 2) showcase a villain we want to see punished. Either way, the audience becomes emotionally involved. The show routinely played with fear, anger, jealousy, greed, hope and other emotions.
Create a memorable experience.
When you finish watching a Twilight Zone episode, it stays with you. Whether it’s the powerful story, the emotional connection with the characters or the plot twist at the end, nearly every episode leaves an impression that lingers long after the credits have rolled.
Throughout the show’s five-year run, Serling often clashed with the network because the topics he wanted to tackle hadn’t been done on TV up to that point. Over the course of its 156 episodes, The Twilight Zone addressed a wide range of issues including racism, gambling, war, aging, the fear of death, the ideals of beauty, the dangers of technology and what it means to be human. The insights, critiques and commentary the series offered on society, governments and human nature still hold up today.
In celebration of The Twilight Zone’s 50th anniversary, I’ll leave you with some great lines from the episode, “A Game of Pool,” written by George Clayton Johnson and starring Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters.
“Nothing’s impossible. Some things are less likely than others, that’s all.”
“As long as people talk about you, you’re not really dead. As long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn’t die just because the man does.”
“You’ll never get the job done with your mouth.”
“It takes more than skill to be a champion. It takes equal parts of talent, luck, work and nerve.”
“Everyone needs a challenge. Someone great out of the past to say, ‘Match what I’ve done and make it better!’”
“You’ll never make it great at anything by playing it safe.”