20 years of experience dictates the following…

When he began scripting dramas for television in the late-’40s/early-’50s, screenwriter Rod Serling was something of a pioneer in what were then largely uncharted waters. Before long his talents were recognised: in 1955 his teleplay, Patterns, won huge acclaim; then, in 1959, the first episode of his greatest hit, The Twilight Zone, graced the screens. Below, a letter from Serling written in 1966, in which he explains with some authority the negative effect of commercial-ridden motion pictures.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone: A Backstage Tribute to Television’s Groundbreaking Series.



January 20, 1966

To Whom It May Concern:

Some twenty years of professional experience dictates the following position as regards the current form of feature length motion picture presentations on television. The wholesale and indiscriminate cutting of said films in order to arbitrarily permit commercials is in almost every case injurious to the continuity and clarity of the story lines. Unlike its television counterpart, the screenplay is not written with such commercial accommodations in mind. The television play is tailored to the standard format of a minimum three commercial messages per half hour of air time. “Curtains” are automatically inserted at points in the script so as to permit a commercial break. The screenplay, on the other hand, has had no such preparation. It is written for a continuous performance. The slicing, truncating and deletions that take place in the attempt to squeeze a full length motion picture into the television time frame absolutely distorts the value and quality of the motion picture.


(Signed, ‘Rod Serling’)

Rod Serling