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Out of the Twilight

Out of the Twilight
Greg Schaber

Mark Magistrelli knew he had something special. In 1993, the host of WVXU’s classic-radio program “The Big Broadcast” acquired the only two known copies of episodes of Rod Serling’s radio drama, “It Happens to You.” WVXU has a track record of breaking new ground with historic programs by finding long-lost recordings and bringing them back to life. This would be yet another chance. The question was when to share it. Timing, after all, is important. So he waited. And waited. For 10 years.

The perfect venue seemed to be his show. The only problem was the format is built around the airings of more classic weekly programs, like “Fibber McGee and Molly.” So in spite of its historical significance, Serling’s work remained in its own private twilight zone.

That changed this year when the program dedicated its April programming to “A Festival of Forgotten Radio.” The timing was right, and Magistrelli presented one of the episodes, “The Human Comedy,” that dated back to October 1953. The story line follows the divergent paths of a policeman and his ne’er-do-well brother who played cops-and-robbers as children and repeat those roles as adults.

The “It Happens to You” series marked a transition in Serling’s life. Written after his staff tenure at Cincinnati’s WLW radio but before the huge television success of “The Twilight Zone,” it aired from 1952 to 1955, first on WLW, then on the NBC radio network before literally disappearing. Even the Serling archive at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., has no record of it. Fortunately, Magistrelli does.

His second episode, “This Gallant Breed,” dating back to October 1954, hasn’t aired yet. But Magistrelli promises we won’t have to wait another 50 years. He just has to find the right time.

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