After The Twilight Zone was cancelled, Rod Serling jumped out of a plane

He lived for adventure both in The Twilight Zone and in real life.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

The Twilight Zone was Rod Serling's whole life. It was a series that went head-to-head with networks, censorship and many critics who thought the idea was too different for TV. 

Serling had to fight for his series to even be on-air during its five-season run on CBS. What is a man, so dedicated to his series, to do when the series finally got the axe by the network? Jump out of an airplane apparently. 

"There is no connection," Serling said in a 1964 interview with The Miami Herald. "I'm jumping out of an airplane for the 82nd Airborne Division. They sent me a note and said I had the guts they had the plane."

It only makes sense that a man who spent so much of his time in The Twilight Zone would have a taste for adventure in the real world too.

According to the interview, Serling was a World War II paratrooper. He was assigned to the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. During his time in the Airborne Division, he received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other commendations. 

Serling said his decision to jump was because he believed in that form of combat. The jump was scheduled to take place at Fort Bragg in April following the series' cancellation.

Serling wasn't alone while jumping. He had the support of a few jumpers in front of him and a few in back of him. Although he said the two were unrelated, we can't think of a better way to take someone's mind off a cancelled show.

"The other time we were tossed off with the knowledge that we might come back in hour form," Serling said. "This time we have no assurances that we'll ever come back, even as a five-minute commercial."

According to the interview, Serling had a laid-back attitude while talking about the cancellation of his series. He didn't seem too surprised about not getting another season.

Part of that may be because Serling spent his entire time on The Twilight Zone constantly fighting for his right to write. The series had seen its fair share of losses within the entertainment industry, and Serling had been in battles with CBS since the series started. 

"In a strange way, I don't really blame them," Serling said. "To this extent, we've been on five years and I think the show took on kind of an aged look."

According to the interview, there was a slim chance The Twilight Zone may have been moved to ABC. Due to a few disagreements, Serling felt it was time to let his series go.

"I think ABC wanted a trip to the graveyard every week," Serling said. "We had differences of opinion. CBS didn't even give me a chance to change the format. I think they're preoccupying themselves with comedy fare."

Although writing on The Twilight Zone was a major part of his life, Serling seemed happy to be able to do other things - like jumping from an airplane. 

"I'm going to spend the whole summer on my boat in Upstate New York on Cayuga Lake," Serling added.

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6 Comments

tootsieg 23 days ago
Nice story. Rod Sterling knew when it was time to let his show go. Sounds like he enjoyed his part-time “retirement”.
Runeshaper 24 days ago
It's so cool that Serling was a World War II paratrooper! Thanks for the info, MeTV (-:
AgingDisgracefully 25 days ago
Glad to see he took a parachute!
First reaction to the headline was Rod experienced drama in a dodgy Boeing product.
justjeff 25 days ago
...and Cayuga was the name Serling chose for his production company...
cperrynaples 25 days ago
Actually ABC couldn't use the title because CBS owned the name! They proposed "Rod Serling's Wax Museum" which is what Night Gallery turned out to be! Anyone who saw "The New Exhibit" would know that wouldn't work!
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