“The Big Tall Wish” is your typical Twilight Zone episode. It concerns a boxer, played by Ivan Dixon, who is switched with his opponent and wins the round due to the wish of a young boy, played by Steven Perry.
What is not typical is that it starred an all African-American cast. We, in 2014, wouldn’t blink an eye at this but in 1960 (the year the show aired, during the first season) this was an incredible rarity. So much so that The Twilight Zone won the Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Better Race Relations in 1961. According to the show’s creator, producer, and one of the head writers, Rod Serling:
“Television, like its big sister, the motion picture, has been guilty of the sin of omission… Hungry for talent, desperate for the so-called ‘new face,’ constantly searching for a transfusion of new blood, it has overlooked a source of wondrous talent that resides under its nose. This is the Negro actor.”
But it wasn’t just blacks that Serling welcomed on the show. At the time (and for many years afterwards), homosexuals that were out of the closet had an almost impossible time finding work in show business. Serling often hired gays, like Tom Hatcher. He played Bill Soames, the man who brings Mrs. Fremont’s groceries, in one of the show’s most famous episodes, “It’s a GOOD Life”. The episode aired in November of 1961. Serling also hired those blacklisted in Hollywood for potential (and often times made-up) Communist leanings. The most famous one being Burgess Meredith, who starred in several episodes such as “Time Enough At Last” and “Printer’s Devil”.
Most people would agree that The Twilight Zone was a ground-breaking show, but most are not aware how ground-breaking it actually was.