One of my favorite television shows of all time is the Twilight Zone and would be very hard to imagine it without the on-screen presence of its creator, Rod Serling. Yet, few people realize that he did not appear on the show during its entire first season. Serling only did the narration.
At the end of the season, the show’s sponsors – General Foods and Kimberly-Clark – opted not to renew their contracts with the CBS network. Without a sponsor, the show would have almost certainly been canceled.
According to a June 7, 1960 New York Times article, CBS concluded that the only way that they could convince sponsors to keep supporting the show would be for them to secure the talents of a big-name celebrity host. Their choice was actor Orson Welles. Luckily for those of us who are big fans of Rod Serling, Welles declined the offer.
It was speculated in the article that General Mills and new sponsor Colgate-Palmolive agreed to advertise on the show because of Welles’ supposed involvement, but that was never confirmed.
Instead, Rod Serling was informed that he would provide both the introduction and closing to the show.