Rod Serling sent Carol Burnett an apology letter after her Twilight Zone episode aired

He offered to buy the actress a pastrami sandwich by way of apology.

The Everett Collection

The Twilight Zone has given us so many episodes that have been studied, dissected, and parodied to the point where they're forever a part of pop culture. Even someone who hasn't seen the show may still get the reference "It's a cookbook!" or "There's something on the wing!" It's hard to deny the quality of episodes like "Time Enough at Last" or "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street".

The show has produced so many incredible episodes that sometimes we forget about the ones that are a little less-loved. Sure, even the unpopular episodes have their passionate fans — that's just how great this show was — but what about an episode that Rod Serling himself felt the need to apologize for?

In "Cavender Is Coming", Carol Burnett plays a clumsy woman named Agnes Grep whose "two left feet and an overabundance of thumbs" leads to her firing from her job. Cavender, her newly assigned guardian angel, gives her a mansion, an impressive bank account, and new high-society friends. However, after living in her new lavish surroundings, Agnes finds that she misses her old apartment and friends. Cavender returns her to her previous life, Agnes is now happy with what she has, and Cavender gets his wings.

The episode, written by Rod Serling, was meant as a backdoor pilot for a new comedy series that would follow Cavender in his job as a guardian angel. Perhaps that's why it isn't as popular with audiences as other episodes, since the episode was written more like a sitcom with pratfalls, comedy beats, and, at the time of airing, a laugh track (the only Twilight Zone to have one.)

Anne Serling, Rod Serling's daughter and the author of As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, said "I've seen a couple of the comedies, and I don't think they quite worked. I like his dramas so much better."

Apparently, Rod Serling agreed, because Anne Serling also said that she'd been sent a copy of a letter from her father to Carol Burnett herself regarding "Cavender is Coming". "He had written to Carol Burnett saying how sorry he was that the show was so bad, and he would buy her a pastrami sandwich."

Carol, by contrast, was not as bothered about the episode but had a quip to fire back. "She said," Anne Serling recalled, "something like, 'Oh, it wasn't so bad, but I don't like pastrami.'"

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5 Comments

bmoore4026 4 months ago
There were two parts of Cavender is Coming that I liked - Carol Burnett's character going back to her old apartment building and nobody recognizing her and how much that hurt and at the end when she goes back to her old life and all those people do recognize her and she knows how important they are to her. It may be a little sappy, but I'm something of a sentimentalist.
Runeshaper 4 months ago
Sounds like I would find the episode entertaining. I like the synopsis.
CaptainDunsel 4 months ago
'Oh, it wasn't so bad, but I don't like pastrami.'
Yes - that really sounds like Carol Burnett!
WordsmithWorks 4 months ago
The episode wasn't Twilight Zone at it's best, but it wasn't horrible. I thought it was kind of a rip-off of "Mr. Bevis."
cperrynaples 4 months ago
To be fair, the laugh track was CBS' idea! Serling hated it! And yes Carol really was an usher before going into show business! She was fired because she didn't want to spoil the ending of Strangers On A Train! Her Walk Of Fame star is in front of the theater!
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