I had engaged recently in a conversation in which TV shows were discussed. Afterwards, I was thinking that I consider the 1950s and the 1960s to have been the era which produced the best television shows.
I am not claiming that the special effects were good or that the shows were slick in any way. In some cases that I will mention, the acting was not the finest, but, and this is my point, the writing was extraordinary.
I will mention one show per post and will cover more in the not too distant future. In all cases, I am referring primarily to the writing, the story-telling, and the themes of the shows. First is The Twilight Zone, which ran from 1959-1964 and dealt with the moral, ethical, and social problems of the time. Certainly, this show is memorable for the famous actors who appeared at different times, but it is still the writing with which I am the most interested.
The one episode, in particular, that I argue is among the best writing of all time for TV is “Death’s-Head Revisited.” In this episode, a former concentration camp captain visits Dachau after the war. There the ghosts of his victims take vengeance on him. Serling wrote a riveting epilogue in which he says, “All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth” (The Twilight Zone.) This is one of Serling’s best moments in writing.
This is one of the most powerful moments ever shown on Television, and it is one of the most extraordinary statements on the worst evil ever committed by human beings to other human beings. We must never forget the horror of the Holocaust.
Serling, Rod. The Twilight Zone. “Death’s-Head Revisited” 1961.