The New Twilight Zone is a popular nickname for the 1985
revival of Rod Serling's acclaimed television series, The Twilight Zone. The
New Twilight Zone ran for two seasons on CBS before producing a final
season for syndication.
The New Twilight Zone debuted the night of September 27, 1985 to
a generally warm reception: it would win its Friday-night time slot four
of its first five weeks. Episodes featured adaptations of stories by Greg
Bear, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison and Stephen King. A
new batch of scripts was supplemented with remakes of classic Twilight
Zones like Dead Man’s Shoes, Shadow Play and Night of the Meek.
Though the production crew was convinced that they were making all of the
right decisions, ratings began to slide as the novelty of the show wore
off. “You have not known humiliation until you have been beaten by Webster
and Mr. Belvedere,” said
executive story consultant Alan Brennert. Then came “Nackles”.
That the show’s producers had ever managed to hire Harlan Ellison was
considered by many to be nothing short of miraculous; Ellison was an
extremely vocal critic of television who had already published two
collection of essays on the subject “concluding that to work in
television is akin to putting in time in the Egyptian House of the Dead.”
These feelings surfaced once again when the script he submitted for Twilight
Zone’s Christmas special –an adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s
1964 story “Nackles”, in which a bigot frightens minority children
with stories of a malicious anti-Santa Claus- was rejected by CBS’ West
Coast Program Practices. Halting the show in mid-production (Ellison was
already scheduled to make his directorial debut) cost the program between
$150,000 to $300,000… and Ellison’s services as a creative consultant.
“[Their] suggestions were vile, infamous!” Ellison recalled of his
aborted attempts to change the network’s mind.
The "Nackles" incident generated a flurry of press which
ultimately proved inadequate to revive public interest in the series.
"I can see why people who were expecting The Twilight Zone
were disappointed with it," said staff writer Michael Cassutt of the
show's low ratings. "...our show always seemed uneven to me. There
were episodes perfectly in keeping with The Twilight Zone spirit,
and then others that could have been from The Outer Limits or from
anything." Among the episodes frequently cited as the series' best
were Her Pilgrim Soul, Nightcrawlers, Profile in Silver and Dead Run...
all produced this season. Thanks to such successes and despite poor
ratings, The New Twilight Zone was renewed for a second season in