Sci Fi TV Trifles: Rod Serling’s Wax Museum – The Follow Up to The Twilight Zone that Never Happened




 

Tidbits, trivia, anecdotes, little-known nuggets and more from the worlds of sci fi and fantasy television.

The original Twilight Zone ran for five seasons (and 156 episodes) and has since become a legend among television shows and a pillar of the science fiction genre. But did you know that shortly after CBS decided not to continue the series for a sixth season, Rod Serling considered starting up another anthology show in a similar vein to TZ on one of the competing networks called Rod Serling’s Wax Museum?

rod-serling-twilight-zoneTwilight Zone had a good run on CBS and had proved quite popular during its five year tenure. But after completing its final season, the network execs decided the show had run its course and chose to exclude it from the schedule for the next season, siting budget overruns and declining ratings. Rod Serling did not quite agree with their claims and he actually asserted that he “decided to cancel the network.” Serling’s agent thought that there was an opportunity to sell the show to either NBC or ABC, but CBS held the rights to the Twilight Zone title. So he suggested the title of Witches, Warlocks, and Werewolves, taken from a similarly titled 1963 paperback anthology of short stories with Serling’s name attached to it. Serling did not like this idea, though, claiming he did not “want to be hooked into the graveyard every week” and that he didn’t believe “TV can sustain C-pictures” like this on an ongoing basis. He instead countered with a different series titled Rod Serling’s Wax Museum. His proposal read as follows:

We would open the series in the following manner:

A helicopter shot of Heart Island with a series of slow dissolves to a closer angle of Boldt Castle. The latter is the “haunted house” of the world. It is a vast multi-inspired stone mausoleum with hundreds of bare rooms (its construction was stopped three quarters of the way through completion and never recommenced). The camera moves closer to the Castle in a series of dissolves until finally we’re inside its gigantic echoey front hall. Lining the long stairway are a series of shrouded figures that extend into the darkness. Down the steps walks Serling past these figures and ultimately past the lens of the camera to a vantage point (now we are on a stet Metro set) where stands another shrouded figure. Serling removes the wrapping and we are looking at a wax figure of that particular episodes’s leading character.

Then Rod Serling would begin the opening narration:

“A hearty welcome to my wax museum. For your entertainment and edification we offer you stories of the weird, the wild and the wondrous; stories that are told to the accompaniment of distant banging shutters, an invisible creaking door, an errant wailing wind that comes from the dark outside. These are stores that involve the citizenry of the night. In short, this museum is devoted to . . . goose flesh, bristled hair and dry mouths.”

Serling would then give some background on the character depicted by the wax figure before launching into the story.

Serling and his agent could not come to an agreement, though, with the latter preferring the Witches, Warlocks, and Werewolves concept, and ultimately the project stalled. However, you can see some of Serling’s later series Night Gallery in  proposal with it having more of a supernatural bent and with wax figures instead of pictures used to introduce each week’s story. So perhaps that 1970’s series had its origins in the days shortly after the demise of The Twilight Zone, but still it would have been interesting to see where Serling would have taken the Wax Museum idea back in the mid-60’s as the Night Gallery never quite lived up to its expectations and The Twilight Zone had just wrapped up its historic run.

Source: The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd Ed.) pgs 427-429

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