On October 2, 1959, CBS viewers entered "a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man." The portal to this "dimension of imagination" was Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Throughout its five-year run, viewers were introduced to stories crafted by some of the finest authors of that day and given life by actors who would in later years become household names.
During those five years (and afterwards in syndication), millions of Americans became familiar with the works of Ray Bradbury, Jerome Bixby, Richard Matheson, and Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). These stories were tales of love ("Miniature"), greed ("The Masks"), horror ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"), xenophobia ("The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"), reminiscence ("Kick the Can"), and hope ("Two"), always with an unexpected or twist ending. This type of ending is now known as a Twilight Zone ending.
In "Two," Elizabeth Montgomery bewitched a television audience years before her hit TV show. In "Nick of Time," an enterprising young William Shatner trusted luck; he also soared to new heights as a passenger in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," years before ever setting foot on the bridge of a starship. And, before being lost in space, Billy Mumy taught viewers that a good life ("It's a Good Life") is not a calling ("Long Distance Call") and sometimes requires sacrifice ("In Praise of Pip").
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone episodes are available on the CBS Web site and as a DVD collection. Even after 50 years, The Twilight Zone episodes are still refreshingly entertaining and prime examples of good storytelling and acting. Today's high-priced extravaganzas, which often rely more on special effects than plot or acting, could learning something from this classic TV show.
My favorite episode is "It's a Good Life." Tell us which episode is your favorite.(Note: TechRepublic is a CBS Interactive brand.)