We didn’t have the term “show runner” back in the day, but Rod Serling was absolutely one of the first. The Twilight Zone was his baby, and everybody knew he wasn’t just the host, but the key creative force behind it. So now that the news has come, via the Hollywood Reporter, that JJ Abrams will be adapting Serling’s last screenplay, which is called The Stops Along the Way.
This screenplay will be adapted into a mini-series, and as the Reporter tells us, if this mini-series gets the green light, it will join four other Abrams shows on TV, including Revolution, Person of Interest, and two more new programs Abrams has in development: Almost Human and Believe. Although it currently doesn’t have a network home, The Stops Along the Way will be shopped around soon, and it’s doubtful a combination of Serling and Abrams wouldn’t pique anyone’s interest.
As much as some people will groan over Abrams taking on a Serling work, it makes sense on some levels. Like Abrams, Serling was an industry onto himself, and his name was a brand like Abrams. As with Abrams’s work, you knew a Serling story when you saw it. Both Abrams and Serling were very prolific, and Rod left quite a legacy of TV shows and movies in the brief fifty years he was here.
With Serling’s daughter writing a loving memoir of her dad, As I Knew Him, and a Twilight Zone feature film in the works at Warner Brothers, perhaps you can make the case that Serling is coming back into the zeitgeist, but The Twilight Zone has really never been out of vogue, and its influence on modern storytelling is still very strong.
As with everything JJ Abrams, any plotline or story synopsis for The Stops Along the Way are completely top secret right now, although the title alone makes this Serling fan very excited. It’s certainly very Serling-ish, but at the same time, I’d be very afraid to take this on if I were Abrams. To many fans, myself included, The Twilight Zone is sacred ground, and trying to bring Serling’s last work to life would really scare me, because I’d hate to screw it up.
Then again, Abrams took on the sacred sci-fi franchise Star Trek, and he’ll soon take on the herculean task of resurrecting Star Wars. Compared to that, tackling Serling is probably going to be a walk in the park.