Here's the scoop on the connection between The Twilight Zone and The Waltons
Your favorite family has a little connection to the fifth dimension.
Have you ever managed to find a connection between two completely different things and it gave you a bit of extra love for the world? Like peanut butter and jelly are two fairly different spreads, but put them together, and you’ve got a delicious sandwich. Or how about those cheetahs that are given puppies to help teach them socialization? Those are two different animals, but they’re also best friends forever!
This is how we choose to view the relationship between the creator of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling and Earl Hamner Jr., the creator of The Waltons. Arguably, one of Rod Serling’s big breaks in his career as a writer was when he won second place in a competition for Dr. Christian, a radio show. Serling had entered one of his scripts into the competition, "To Live A Dream," and was awarded a prize that included five hundred dollars and a trip to New York City.
The success of the competition also led Serling to forge a connection with a fellow winner, Earl Hamner Jr. As Anne Serling wrote in her book, As I Knew Him: My Dad Rod Serling, “Years after my father died, Earl told me, ‘Your dad changed my life in so many ways and made it possible for me to have accomplished a rich and rewarding career in Hollywood.’
Earl Hamner Jr. and Serling stayed in touch well enough that during The Twilight Zone’s original run, Hamner Jr. was able to write several episodes for the series, including “You Drive."
According to Anne Serling’s book, Hamner Jr. wrote this touching tribute to Serling, his fellow writer: “‘Rod, more than any other man in my professional life, had the greatest influence on me through his kindness, his encouragement, his example, and his unique talent. I have only one regret. I thanked him from time to time, but that afternoon when I heard he was hospitalized I said to myself, ‘I will call him tomorrow.’ He died the next day, and I did not get a chance to say goodbye or let him know how very much he had meant to me.”
The two writers also had a near connection that surely affected Serling. After the two had participated in Dr. Christian’s radio contest, Hamner was working as a radio writer at Radio Station WLW in Cincinnati. He left the position to spend more time focused on writing his novel, but the position was actually filled by none other than Rod Serling.
In an interview with Tony Albarella, Hamner Jr. said, “Years later when he introduced me to friends in Hollywood he would say, “I want you to meet the man who gave me my first job.’”