2. 'The Twilight Zone' (1959-1964)
While most TV promised little more than an entertaining diversion between commercials, there was one show that billed itself as a journey into another dimension. Rod Serling's genre-defining anthology series drew its stories from a who's-who of the finest genre writers in the world, creating a an endless stream of stand-alone episodes that were equal parts spine-chilling and thought-provoking: the nuclear-apocalypse cautionary tale "Where Is Everybody?"; the telepathic terror of "It's a Good Life" ("Wish it into the cornfield!"); the alien-invasion irony of "To Serve Man" ("It's a cookbook!"); the airborne breakdown-cum-showdown of William Shatner and his little friend in "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Its best stories used horror, sci-fi, and fantasy as doorways into the shadowy hopes and fears that drove a nation in transition. A full four decades before the New Golden Age, The Twilight Zone was already making high art out of low culture.