Long before he became the head reporter and interviewer on 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace gained notoriety for an interview show called Night Beat which aired from 1955-1957 on the Dumont network’s New York affiliate WABD during a late night time slot. This led to ABC picking him up for a late night talk show called The Mike Wallace Interview. Each episode ran 30 minutes and featured Wallace one-on-one with personalities as varied as Steve Allen, Pearl S. Buck, Bennett Cerf, Salvador Dalí, Kirk Douglas, William O. Douglas, Erich Fromm,Oscar Hammerstein, Samuel David Hawkins, Robert Hutchins, Aldous Huxley, and Henry Kissinger, along with many others.
Among those “others” was Rod Serling, who at the time was only a week or so away from debuting a new show that he was writing, directing , and producing called The Twilight Zone. At this point in his life, Serling was well known as a television script writer, but he had also become increasingly frustrated with censorship by the networks and the increasing involvement of advertisers and their influence on what did and didn’t make it on the air. He is quite frank in this interview, and as always come across as not only extremely knowledgeable, but as a fairly harsh critic of the medium for which he had an obviously great love, but sincerely felt could be doing more than it was at the time. Serling also acknowledges his insecurity about leaving the medium either for Hollywood or Broadway.
Time, of course, has since vindicated Serling, at least as far as Twilight Zone was concerned, but at the same time, one has to wonder what Serling would make of the state of television today and whether he would even be given the chance to make the kind of impactful shows that he did back in the day.
Anyway, all of that just leads, ultimately, to meaningless speculation. So rather than go any further with that, I’ll just let you listen to and watch the man speak for himself.
- Classic Television Thursday #023 – Kraft Television Theatre – Rod Serling’s “Patterns” (1955) (durnmoosemovies.wordpress.com)
- “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” – Vocabulary Unit (allaccesspassblog.com)
- Video Fridays: The Twilight Zone (fishandbicycles.com)