Here, flee-lance journalist Sander (The New York Times, Rolling Stone, etc.) takes one of the most haunting subjects of the video age--master TV-writer Rod Serling--and fumbles the chance for a major biography. Drawing on interviews with more than 200 from among Serling's friends, family members, and colleagues, Sander does a creditable job in capturing the sometimes maniacal, often thrilling nature of live TV in the new medium's Golden Age, and of Serling's indispensable contribution to it through the innovative teleplays Patterns and Requiem for a Heavyweight. Sanders also sketches the outlines of a fascinating, sometimes paradoxical hero: a WW II paratrooper who continually mined his memories of combat for his writing; a prolific author (200 known teleplays) who felt deeply insecure about his achievements; a man who was dominated by his wife and expressed his rebellion through affairs; a critic of advertisers' interfering with scripts who later embarrassed himself by pitching products like floor wax; and a Jew from Binghamton, New York, who converted to Unitarianism. Like his hero, radio-writer Norman Corwin, Serling became the creative, liberal conscience of his young medium. But the dozen years before Serling died of cancer in 1975 were blighted by alienation from ratings-obsessed network executives, inability to succeed at screenwriting, and craving for the celebrity he had achieved as host-creator of The Twilight Zone. All of this should make for a moving tragedy of an artist undone by circumstance and his own inner contradictions--but Sander's writing is often plodding, and he fails to summarize Serling's anguish or influence on authors in or out of TV with the force and depth of detail of Joel Engel's Rod Serling (1989). A misfire in its attempt to do justice to one of TVs cult heroes and giants.