Herbie J Pilato: Sixty Years in “The Twilight Zone”

EDITOR’S NOTE: 60 years after the October 2, 1959 debut of the legendary TV series The Twilight Zone, created by legendary screen and TV writer Rod Serling, TVWriter™ legendary Contributing Editor Emeritus Herbie J Pilato brings all of us a legendary read.


by Herbie J Pilato

The development and execution of The Twilight Zone and its induction into the annals of TV history is a story of an obsessive need for acceptance on many levels.

Submitted for your approval: Exhibit A: Rod Serling, Zone’s creator, executive producer, central writing force, and charismatic host. The show’s popularity preyed upon his endless reservoir of ideas, originally inspired by his obsession with the past and his preoccupation with aging, mixed in with a measure of courage and faith, and the survival techniques he learned in the army.

With monumental tenacity, Serling went on to seek and gain reign over his creation on what was nearly a daily basis, all the while delivering top-notch scripts at a frenetic pace. With a strong desire to succeed, and an intense need for creative control, this small-in-stature (he stood 5’5″), though foreboding and critically-acclaimed non-stop talent, employed a no-holds-barred approach to getting his product on the air — as he saw fit — and settled for nothing less. He protected his turf, circumvented the typically charted waters of TV production, and opposed the demands placed forth by network executives, with a back-door approach to realizing the fruition of his “other-worldly” dreams.

Serling believed in his vision and rarely bowed to editorial invasion, fiercely guarding the end-results of his Zone.

In effect, The Twilight Zone presented weekly excursions into an unknown, yet familiar territory, which showcased morality plays and controversial topics, presented under the guise of science fiction. Characters with dimension were introduced to the audience with arresting aplomb, many of whom were granted a second chance against the odds — much like Serling himself. Though almost canceled twice before its original network demise, The Twilight Zone stayed afloat due to Serling’s tactful maneuvers around Hollywood minds that were uncertain of anything — and everything — related to Zone — except Serling’s undying passion. In the end, however, Serling himself died young, at 50-years-old, never reaching the twilight of his years, though not before he explored, unobtrusively, the senior mentality, and other untapped areas of legitimate topics of conversation, with several, very-real trips into The Twilight Zone.

Serling was born Rodman Edward Serling in Syracuse, New York, on December 25, 1924, to father Samuel Lawrence Serling, a wholesale meat dealer, and Esther Cooper Serling. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Binghamton, a small city in Upstate, New York. As a youth, Rod, along with older brother Robert (a novelist, best known for The President’s Plane Is Missing), became enamored with the science fiction and fantasy articles published in magazines such as Astounding Stories and Weird Tales. He enjoyed all sports, and his approach to life became somewhat more realistic when he later joined the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division paratroopers.

Rod started boxing, winning 17 out of 18 bouts — during the last of which he earned what came to be his trademark broken nose. He was discharged from the Army in 1946, and enrolled at Antioch College of Yellow Springs, Ohio because he was interested in “working with kids.” He majored in Physical Education but switched to Language and Literature, during which he wrote, directed and performed in radio productions for the Antioch Broadcasting System that were transmitted over radio WJEM, Springfield.

While still in college, he experienced two life-altering events. In 1948, he married Carolyn Louise Kramer. And in 1949, he sold his first teleplay, “Grady for the People,” for a mere $100.00, to NBC’s Stars Over Hollywood.

Upon graduation from Antioch College, he moved to Cincinnati to become a staff writer for WLW radio, pursued his career as a freelance writer, and collected more than 40 consecutive rejection slips as a reward for his efforts. Those early signs of disapproval did not hinder his persistence in seeking additional approval of his work.

From 1951 to 1955, Serling penned over 70 teleplays, one of which was his 72nd script, titled, “Patterns,” which aired on January 12, 1955, on the Kraft Television Theatre.

“Patterns” was about a power struggle between a ruthless president of a major organization, an aging vice-president who’s pressured into resigning, and a new young executive brought in to replace the vice-president. (Does this foreshadow to the frequent producer replacements that take place on Zone?)

Serling followed the success of “Patterns” with scripts for one of some of TV’s most respected anthology series, including “The Time Element” for Desilu Playhouse and “Where Is Everybody?” for Playhouse 90.

First, “Element” debuted on Desilu. Serling originally penned it as a time-travel story for “The Storm,” back in 1951. He then expanded the story to sixty-minutes and submitted it to CBS in 1957. CBS purchased it, only to shelve it until Bert Granet, producer of the Desilu Playhouse, buys it for use on his show. Granet essentially begged the sponsor to allow “Element’s” filming. It finally aired on November 24, 1958, and became the most popular production aired this year.

Thanks to that and the positive reviews by the critics, CBS finally surmised Serling’s genius.

Next up, “Where Is Everybody?” aired on Playhouse 90 during the 1958–59 season. It ultimately showcased a somewhat unique, almost mystical story that unabashedly arrived at a logical conclusion. Along with “The Time Element,” “Everybody” was an unrealistic, yet believable teleplay that served as a backdoor pilot for The Twilight Zone, for which Serling soon exited Playhouse 90 to establish.

Serling dreamt up the central premise for what becomes The Twilight Zone while, one day, pacing through an empty studio lot at MGM. He sensed evidence of a community, but with no people. He sensed a form of isolation and despair; a frightful feeling of what it would be like to wake up one day in a city with no residents.

“Where Is Everybody?” embraced such traits of an unknown origin and quality. It was seemingly a tale of the last man on Earth (played by Earl Holliman). Wherever he ventured, there was evidence of someone having left, but never being there. We learned these incidents transpired merely in his mind. It was all part of an experiment conducted for research into space travel. Scientists sought to discover if one as able to withstand the isolation involved with an expedition to the moon. Holliman’s character could not. He lost his grip, and the scientists had their answer: Man must earn to conquer his own fears before he attempts to overcome the foreign elements connected with leaving home.

With “Everybody?” Serling’s twists were so slightly the well-oiled, safety-net structure maintained so rigidly by network and studio executives, creating what ultimately became one of the few episodes of Zone to actually climax with a “rational” final act.

Though it eventually became part of The Twilight Zone, “Where Is Everybody” was, for the moment, only a highly-rated episode of Playhouse 90.

By September 1959, CBS and General Foods, one of the network’s major sponsors, ordered Zone as a series. Serling won approval once more, but again, after much rejection, and walking through another dimension, if you will: the back door. “I’m not writing anything controversial in the new series,” he said at the time. “Now that we’re petulant aging men, it no longer behooves us to bite the hand that feeds us.” But he was being facetious.

By December 1959, episodes such as “Walking Distance” (with Gig Young playing a man who travels back in time to his boyhood and hometown) continued to examine Serling’s bi-lateral obsession with youth and old age. Zone was clearly the most controversial program he ever created. He may have fooled a few executives, but the audience and the critics were on to his game — and they seemingly wanted to keep on playing. But for CBS and its sponsors, the stakes were too high.

In between the first and second season, CBS was taken over by Jim Aubrey, who became more interested in what makes money, and not so much quality. He began to cancel most of CBS’s respected dramatic shows and replaced them with silly comedies. Meanwhile, too, he continuously messed with Zone’s budget which, by now, was approximately $65,000 an episode.

By September 1960, the second season arrived, though with seven fewer episodes. Without these seven shows, Jim Aubrey saved close to $500,000 in production costs. Another of his cost-cutting ploys was utilizing videotape, instead of film. Videotape was cheaper.

Aubrey convinced Serling to tape six segments, instead of film them. Yet the disadvantages of video outweighed the advantages. The video episodes had to be shot on a sound stage. Except for stock footage, there were no scenes shot on location.

Since so much of Zone’s essence had to do with “going somewhere,” again, into “another dimension,” not having locales was a glitch in the way of plot development and aesthetic appeal.

Another video handicap was the limited use of camera sets and angles, due to editing. The use of video was then abandoned after six-episodes, and Serling would later call the experience “disastrous.”

By this time, CBS had strong reservations about granting Serling too much creative control. However, it was too late. Serling had carried his Playhouse 90 sensibility into the Zone, and told stories with social commentary, masked behind the premise of science fiction.

Many of Zone’s episodes were morality plays and parables in disguise. His choice for characters began to become clear. There were only two kinds: Likeable characters that were granted a second chance, and unlikable characters who received their comeuppance.

Serling rallied only the finest scripts and scribes. He becomes unstoppable. Besides himself, early Zone segments rely on feature film names, including Richard Matheson (The Incredible Shrinking Man), Charles Beaumont (The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao), and the like.

According to Serling, each episode was to be “complete in itself.” The series was not, he said, “an assembly line operation. Each show was a carefully conceived and wrought piece of drama, cast with competent people, directed by creative, quality-conscious guys and shot with an eye toward mood and reality.”

Yet the show was challenged in the ratings. Sponsors became nervous. CBS began to bend to pressure. But not Serling. He remained true to form, kept his ground, and refused to let the show die. Word of mouth spread. Critics poured their praise. The ratings improved. Subsequent episodes aired with stories such as an angel-like man of “Death,” a once-hot Hollywood star who literally abided in the dream-world of her films, and a child who could make dreams come true.

Meanwhile, Serling’s reveries came to fruition. Each episode of Zone explored the human condition, the ups-and-downs, the sorrows and joys of everyday life. He also enjoyed playing host, his celebrity, and being recognized. It fed his insecurities. He once remarked, “Apparently, on the screen, I look tall, ageless and damn close to omniscient, delivering jeopardy-laden warning through gritted teeth. But when people see me on the street, they say, ‘By God, this kid is 5’5”. He’s got a broken nose and looks about as foreboding as a bank teller on a lunch break.”

By the third season, Serling was writing faster than ever before. Some of the scripts he wrote for Playhouse 90 used to take him from six months to a year to complete. Each Twilight Zone teleplay now took him from thirty-five to forty hours. “It’s the kind of schedule that if I drop a pencil, and then bend over to pick it up,” he revealed, “I’m two weeks behind.” A Zone episode from the first season, “A Stop at Willoughby,” seemed to represent Serling’s frantic pace. It featured an over-worked big-city ad exec who finds peace in a tranquil, mystical small town.

Meanwhile, in this third year, Serling continued to obsess about getting older, and episodes like “No Time Like The Past” and “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” were the proof in the pudding. “Past” was about a man who lept in time in an effort to change things for the better, but he made mistakes at every turn. He turns to the present in an effort to help change the future.

“Cliffordville” is about a millionaire who was given the opportunity to travel back in time to the early years of his life in an attempt to win back his great fortune, just for the fun of it. Did these segments, in perspective, represent Serling’s lot in life at the time? Did he sit back and wonder,

“When am I to begin enjoying the riches that The Twilight Zone afforded me? Could this have been his initial period of acceptance into reality, after so many years of struggling to find success and win his way, creatively, with his writing? Was he ready to give in?

Maybe so.

One thing is for sure, Buck Houghton who, essentially was his producing partner on the show, would soon no longer be there to carry half the load. As producer Houghton’s contributions became almost as imperative to Zone as Serling’s. Houghton had been a producer for MGM for six years before signing on to produce Zone. He was the man that performed many of the behind-the-scenes duties that were required for a show to come together. He was the perfect partner for Serling, and for Zone first three years their bond is strong.

Houghton, however, exited The Twilight Zone in the third year, mainly because of a technicality, and not because of some huge feud or anything of the sort. After the third season, Zone is having trouble finding a sponsor for the next year. As a result, it’s off the CBS fall schedule. Houghton was offered a job with Four Star Productions that he found difficult to reject.

CBS then decided to bring Zone back in January of 1963, by which time Houghton was already on The Richard Boone Show, and has no intention of leaving.

Meanwhile, Serling was growing tired, in part because Houghton had jumped ship, and Serling was now carrying the load on his own. “I’ve never felt quite so drained of ideas as I am at this moment,” he said. “Stories used to bubble out of me so fast I couldn’t set them down on paper quick enough, but in these last few years I’ve written so much I’m woozy. If only I could take off about six months and replenish the wealth.” “I want out,” he later added, “I get more and more tired of the whole business. I’ll never do another TV series as long as I live.”

By the Fall of 1962, Serling was offered a chance to teach at Antioch College. He accepted it, and The Twilight Zone was placed on hiatus. CBS scheduled Fair Exchange in Zone’s time-slot. “Fair” was an odd, hour-long situation comedy that lasted only half the season.

By January 1963, Serling continued to teach after CBS picked up Zone as a mid-season replacement when new producer Herbert Hirschman was hired to replace Houghton.

By this time, Zone as a weekly half-hour had run its course. Its episodes were extended to a full sixty-minutes, while its title had been shaved. It’s no longer known as The Twilight Zone, but just Twilight Zone with no “The” in front of the title.

The hour-format alteration jarred Serling. “Ours is the perfect half-hour show,” he complained. “If we went to an hour, we’d have to flesh-out stories, soap-opera style. Viewers could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse.”

No matter. Against his better judgment, Serling struck a deal with CBS for 13 one-hour Zone episodes, and the show began to fade.

Serling was indeed ready to surrender his creative control. He later switched his perspective and offered a seemingly half-hearted attempt at positive thinking. “In the half-hour form we depended heavily on the old O. Henry twist,” he told TV Guide. “So the only question is: Can we retain the Twilight flavor in an hour? We may come up with something totally different.” And instead of integrating himself into the tease and tags, as he had in previous seasons, all of Serling’s narrations for the fourth season were performed against a gray background. His teaching at Antioch College prevented him from visiting the sets regularly.

When he flew in for other business, Hirschman films several narrations at once. But he also decided to leave during the fourth year and accepted another offer — to produce Espionage, a live spy drama that’s filmed in London. The opportunity of going live and work in Europe, which he had never done before, had appealed to him.

Ironically, he’s replaced for the rest of the year by Bert Granet, the producer of “The Time Element.” The CBS plan to expand Zone into a full-hour to increase ratings is a bust. The show’s writing suffered. The episodes were not as memorable, so the network returned the show to its original regular half-hour format.

The fateful date of November 22, 1963 arrived, and President Kennedy was assassinated. The Zone episode set to air, titled, “Night Call,” was postponed until February 7, 1964.

Granet left the series during the fifth season when he was offered $250,000 to take over The Great Adventure, another show for CBS that was massively over-budget. Serling was unable to make a counter-offer, Granet goes on The Great Adventure, and William Froug (who would later produce Bewitched) steps in to replace him.

The Twilight Zone then ends production in January 1964 and is canceled. CBS president Jim Aubrey claimed he was tired of the show. He said he was tired of it after the end of the second season.

By now, Serling knew Zone was not what it used to be — and it hadn’t been for some time. So he agreed to close up shop.

Serling continued writing with screenplays such as Planet of the Apes, which was released theatrically in 1968, and TV’s Night Gallery (which struggled for three seasons on NBC, from 1969 to 1971). He returned to Antioch College, as a Professor, and rallied against the Vietnam War.

He died at age 50 on June 28, 1975 from complications from bypass surgery. Apparently, all the men in Serling’s family died young. The statistics scared him. So he wrote about it in The Twilight Zone.

Serling’s older brother Robert once lamented, regarding Rod: “I didn’t realize until “Walking Distance” [the TZ episode from the first season] that nostalgia for his old hometown had played such a tremendous part in his life, how much he loved Binghamton, how much he wanted to go back to it, which in itself was kind of contradictory because he loved the glamour of Hollywood. He was almost like two people. It’s as if he couldn’t…he got his fill of the glamour every once in a while and had to go home to a simpler life.”

Rod Serling himself once concluded: “Everybody has a hometown. Binghamton’s mine. In the strangely brittle, terribly sensitive makeup of a human being, there is a need for a place to hang a hat or a kind of geographical womb to crawl back into, or maybe just a place that’s familiar because that’s where you grew up.”

Clearly, it was in his hometown of Binghamton that Rod Serling had for years subconsciously began to plant the seeds of his genius for what ultimately became The Twilight Zone.


Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the new classic TV talk show now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.

10 Most Viewed TVWriter™ Posts of the Week – Sept. 30, 2019

Happy Monday morning everybody!

Hope your weekend has been a great one. Time now for TVWriter™’s latest look at our most popular blog posts and resource pages during the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

How To Write The Perfect TV Series Review To Captivate Your Readers

All Roads Traveled Led to “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato”

‘The Following’ Season 4 was Cancelled by Fox Because the TV Series Became a Victim of Lazy Writing!

Writing the Dreaded Outline

Corporal Punishment and Primetime TV

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 Writing Contest

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT – Enter

The Outline/Story

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED SECOND SEASON ARC

Larry Brody’s Master Class in TV and Film Writing

Big thanks to everybody for helping us have another terrific week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!

All Roads Traveled Led to “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato”

NOTE FROM LB: The heading above is Herbie J’s official title for this piece, but just between us, I would’ve given it a different one – “The Way Life Really Works.” Hope you enjoy Our Pal Herbie J Pilato’s most recent piece!


by Herbie J Pilato

I’ve worked what many would term as “menial” jobs over the years, but I’d prefer to call them “meaningful.”

I used to joke that, wherever you go in Los Angeles, I either used to work there or I got lost there. And that’s more true, than not.

And today? Today, I’m the host of my own TV talk show on Amazon Prime, “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato,” and it even has my name in the title. Pretty cool, right? Dang straight it is.

But what? Did you think that happened overnight?

Hardly.

More like over nearly sixty years.

And every job or life experience that I’ve had in those close to six decades has brought me right to this moment – and I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world.

I never did go the paper-boy route, and I wasn’t even an altar boy, but my first job was working for my Uncle Carl who as an ace carpenter. One summer, when I was 11-years-old, I used to assist with his various contract jobs. It seemed to be a right fit because I, with other kids in my neighborhood, used to enjoy building “forts” and “go-carts,” one of which that was even transformed into a mini-camper that (and that for reasons I can’t remember, we were forced to dismantle).

But my first real job-job was as a stock-boy for the local Bell Supermarkets in my hometown of Rochester, New York when I was about 17. That was okay, but more than anything, it gave me some early spending money in what my senior year in high school. But that job really “didn’t do it for me.”

The following year, I worked in maintenance for Topps Markets, another local grocery store. I used to sweep and polish floors, clean bathrooms, and power-water the meat room behind the deli-department in the back of the store.

That was a relatively easy, yet grueling job. But as with all my jobs, I try to make the best of it. I worked those varied maintenance jobs during the “Disco”/”Saturday Night Fever” era of the late 1970s, and I was always dancing and singing somewhere in the store. At closing hours, I used to grab one of the check-out counter microphones, and sing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” It was one way to have a little fun, make my co-workers smile, and get dates.

But one day, while singing in the meat room, during business hours, a district manager was visiting the store. I introduced myself with my then overzealous nature (which really hasn’t subsided too much) by saying, “Hey! My name is “Herbie J Pilato…with no period after the J. But my friends call me ‘Disco.’ And that district manager glared at me and said, “Well, hello there, Disco. I sing, too, you know, and if you don’t keep this meat room clean, we’re gonna’ do some dancin’!”

“Ok, then,” I thought. And kept on doing my thing.

One year after that, the Marriott Airport Hotel was erected in Rochester, actually across the street from that second supermarket job where I danced in the meat room. I secretly desired to work in the front desk area of the hotel, as a bellman. But I applied in the kitchen, and got a job as a dishwasher and then food prep.

The dishwasher job was dreadful, and I hated it. But I made a few good friends in that kitchen, including the chef who soon promoted me to food-prep. But when I put too much mustard in the egg salad, that was the end of that.

About two years later, I finally applied for a front desk position at that hotel. The front desk manager was a friend of mine, and I thought that would help me get the job, and I ultimately won the position on my own merit. But during the interview, my friend-and-soon-to-be-boss told me, “I’d love to give you this job. I think you would be great at it. But I don’t want you to think that you’re going to get any special treatment from me because we’re friends.”

I was a little blind-sighted by that statement, but realized somewhere in that conversation was a test to my character. I passed and got the job, and excelled at it. I loved it. It fit my personality. I loved to communicate with people, was blown away when I got my first tip as a bellman, and it boosted my self-esteem when I learned how to conquer certain phobias.

For example, part of being a bellman meant driving the hotel van, taking guests to and from the airport. I usually drove the hotel’s station wagon, but one day I was instructed to drive the van…a much larger vehicle…because there was a larger-than-usual amount of guests I had to pick up at the airport.

When my boss said, “Herbie…please take the van to the airport.” I responded with, “The van?” He reiterated, “The van.” I was terrified. When he handed me those van keys, and as I exited the hotel lobby, and journeyed out into the parking lot towards “the van,” the vehicle in front of me almost appeared to be “expanding” as I got closer. It was like “the van” was coming alive, and I was in some kind of surreal episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

But I got in that van, inserted the key into the ignition, and drove off.

I was doing it. I was driving “the van.” I just “did it.” And that happened because of “Star Trek,” and I was no longer in “The Twilight Zone.”

Explanation: In one scene from the 1982 feature film, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” William Shatner’s Captain/Admiral Kirk turns to Kirstie Alley’s Lt. Saavik, and says, “We learn by doing.”

True that.

And that front desk position at that hotel ended up paving the way for my first professional job in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Nazareth College of Rochester (with a B.A. in Theatre Arts), and attending UCLA for a semester, I formally moved to Los Angeles. Then, in May of 1984, I became a Page for NBC-TV in Burbank, California – and that was my foray into television, where I ended up working “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” “The 1985 Emmy Awards,” various Bob Hope Specials, and other special shows and events like “An All-Star Salute to President ‘Dutch’ Reagan.”

The NBC Page position was originally contracted for 18 months, and I was offered an extension, but I declined. I wanted to be an actor. So, I left a corporate position at a major TV network and began my journey into the world of freelance and contract work, beginning with bit roles on TV soaps like “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “General Hospital” (I was one of the waiters at “Duke’s Restaurant” in the “Big ’80s”).

Later, I was a stand-in dancer for “Solid Gold,” and I even made an appearance on “The Golden Girls” (which I used to work as an NBC Page).

In between all of that, I broke my right baby toe, which forced me to stay home for six weeks. I started watching TV again, as I once did as a kid. One night, “I Dream of Jeannie: 15 Years Later” aired on NBC. It was the sequel to the 1960s classic TV show, and I had worked the promotion for it in my latter months with NBC. I thought, “I should write a reunion movie like that for ‘Bewitched,'” which has always been one of my favorite shows.

I did so. But “Bewitched” star Elizabeth Montgomery wasn’t interested in doing a reunion movie. It was then I suggested a “Bewitched” Book, which she agreed to, and which was eventually followed by other classic TV companion books, including two biographies about Elizabeth (whom I had come to know quite well).

The books paved the way for my producing career with TV documentaries like “Bewitched: The E! True Hollywood Story” (which remains the 7th highest-rated “True Hollywood Story” in E!’s history), and Bravo’s hit five-part series, “The 100 Greatest TV Characters,” among many others.

I also started consulting and appearing on the “extras” for many DVD releases of shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Kung Fu,” both for which I wrote companion books.

I then began contributing to Larry Brody’s www.TVWriter.com (where I now serve as Editor Emeritus) and writing for the Television Academy and www.Emmys.com. Also, too, I founded the formal 501(c)3 Classic TV Preservation Society nonprofit organization (www.ClassicTVPreserve.org), and my Television, Ink. production company (www.televisionink.blogspot.com).

And in between all of that, I was flying back and forth from Los Angeles to Rochester, where I was a primary caregiver (with my sister Pamela R. Mastrosimone) for both of my parents in their elderly years: a position that remains my most rewarding; one that inspired so much of my work, and has to this day, helped me to keep my priorities and my head on straight.

My Dad died in 1995, and after my Mom passed away in 2008, I found the courage at 48 years old to reinvent myself once again, this time as the host of various classic TV live events that were held at the Barnes & Noble in Burbank, California.

And it was those live events where I was plucked from semi-obscurity by producers Joel Eisenberg and Lorie Girsh that transmuted into my hosting and executive producing of “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato,” which began streaming July 1st on Amazon Prime (as well as Shout Factory TV, and other media outlets).

As it stands now, the show has received over 220 five-star reviews on Amazon.

That kind of rating is a little different than the rating I once received from my former supermarket meat room district manager, but as far as I’m concerned, all of it led up to this moment and are equally meaningful (and far from “menial”) in the big picture scheme of things.


Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books.  He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. This article first appeared on LinkedIn.Com.

Learn more about Herbie J HERE.
See Then Again HERE.

2019 Emmy Award Winning Writers

And now, because it’s the right thing to do for so many reasons, here they are, the really big writer-Emmy winners for this year!


Writing for a Drama Series

“Nobody Is Ever Missing,” Succession (WINNER)
Written by Jesse Armstrong

“Winner,” Better Call Saul
Written by Peter Gould and Thomas Schnauz

“Episode 1,” Bodyguard
Written by Jed Mercurio

“The Iron Throne,” Game of Thrones
Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

“Holly,” The Handmaid’s Tale
Teleplay by Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder

“Nice And Neat,” Killing Eve
Written by Emerald Fennell

Writing for a Comedy Series

“Episode 1,” Fleabag (WINNER)
Written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge

“ronny/lilly,” Barry
Written by Alec Berg and Bill Hader

“Janet,” The Good Place
Written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan

“Anna Ishii-Peters,” PEN15
Written by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle

“Nothing In This World Is Easy,” Russian Doll
Written by Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler

“A Warm Body,” Russian Doll
Written by Allison Silverman

“Veep,” Veep
Written by David Mandel

Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special

Chernobyl (WINNER)
Written by Craig Mazin

“Episode 6,” Escape At Dannemora 
Written by Brett Johnson, Michael Tolkin, Jerry Stahl

“Episode 7,” Escape At Dannemora 
Written by Brett Johnson, Michael Tolkin

“Providence,” Fosse/Verdon
Written by Steven Levenson and Joel Fields

A Very English Scandal
Written by Russel T Davies

“Part Four,” When They See Us
Teleplay by Ava DuVernay and Michael Starrbury

Writing For A Variety Series

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (WINNER)
Senior Writer Dan Gurewitch, Jeff Maurer, Jill Twiss, Juli Weiner
Written by Tim Carvell, Raquel D’Apice, Josh Gondelman, Daniel O’Brien, John Oliver, Owen Parsons, Charlie Redd, Joanna Rothkopf, Ben Silva, Seena Vali

Documentary Now! 
Written by John Mulaney and Seth Meyers

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee 
Head Writer Melinda Taub
Written by Samantha Bee, Miles Kahn, Kristen Bartlett, Mike Drucker, Pat Cassels, Eric Drysdale, Mathan Erhardt, Nicole Silverberg
Writing Supervised by Ashley Nicole Black and Joe Grossman
Special Material by Allison Silverman

Late Night With Seth Meyers 
Written by Jermaine Affonso, Alex Baze, Karen Chee, Bryan Donaldson, Sal Gentile, Matt Goldich, Dina Gusovsky, Jennifer Hagel, Allison Hord, Michael Karnell, John Lutz, Seth Meyers, Ian Morgan, Seth Reiss, Amber Ruffin, Mike Scollins, Mike Shoemaker, Ben Warheit

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
Head Writer Opus Moreschi, Jay Katsir
Written by Aaron Cohen, Stephen Colbert, Tom Purcell, Barry Julien, Paul Dinello, Matt Lappin, Michael Brumm, Emmy Blotnick, Cullen Crawford, Ariel Dumas, Glenn Eichler, Django Gold, Gabe Gronli, Greg Iwinski, Daniel Kibblesmith, Kate Sidley, Jen Spyra, Brian Stack, John Thibodeaux, Michael Pielocik, Asher Perlman, Eliana Kwartler

Saturday Night Live 
Head Writer Michael Che, Colin Jost, Kent Sublette
Senior Writer Bryan Tucker
Written by James Anderson, Steven Castillo, Andrew Dismukes, Anna Drezen, Alison Gates, Steve Higgins, Sam Jay, Erik Kenward, Michael Koman, Alan Linic, Eli Coyote Mandel, Lorne Michaels, John Mulaney, Josh Patten, Simon Rich, Gary Richardson, Pete Schultz, Marika Sawyer, Will Stephen, Julio Torres, Bowen Yang
Weekend Update written by Megan Callahan, Dennis McNicholas, Katie Rich
Writing Supervised by Fran Gillespie, Sudi Green, Streeter Seidell


Sorry this post is so late. It’s just that last night’s Emmy Awards show was so damn forgettable. And that’s the best thing we’ve heard anybody say about it so far.

Other winners – you know, actors and directors and individual shows and such – are HERE
Ken Levine’s West Coast take on “Last night’s abomination” is HERE
Roger Friedman’s East Coast opinion that “Emmy Awards Tank in Ratings for Many Reasons” is HERE

10 Most Viewed TVWriter™ Posts of the Week – Sept. 23, 2019

Happy Monday morning everybody!

Hope your weekend has been a great one. Time now for TVWriter™’s latest look at our most popular blog posts and resource pages during the week ending yesterday. They are, in order:

‘The Following’ Season 4 was Cancelled by Fox Because the TV Series Became a Victim of Lazy Writing!

Writing the Dreaded Outline

How To Write The Perfect TV Series Review To Captivate Your Readers

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2019 Writing Contest

LB: “We Are All Writers”

Corporal Punishment and Primetime TV

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT – Enter

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED SECOND SEASON ARC

WGAW 2019 Officers and Board of Directors Election Results

LB: What’s the story on TV series production schedules?

Big thanks to everybody for helping us have another terrific week at TVWriter™. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed and re-read what you loved!