The Twilight Zone.
I grew up in the 1980s, so I binged on both the original 1960s version as well as the 80s incarnation. And I loved both. Yes, the original series is the best, but I think the 80s version has a lot of great episodes and really pulled from literary talent the same as the original.
Something about these stories really appealed to me. It wasn’t horror of the in-your-face variety, but something more subtle. More a sense of the surreal, of a recognizable world gone slightly off-kilter in a way that at first the characters (and the viewer) had trouble putting their finger on. Instead of a sudden startling scare that gets a jump then a laugh, The Twilight Zone was more about disquieting situations that left you unsettled in a way that lingered and stayed with you long after the episode was over. The endings also often featured surprising or ironic twists that I found thrilling.
At around ten, I started penning these little one-page stories that were basically Twilight Zone knockoffs. The only one I remember in any detail was called “Laura or Horror?” So that gives you an idea of how cheesy they were. But my love of The Twilight Zone was cemented, and it became a part of me.
So that as I got older and became more serious about writing, and began to develop my craft, the influence the show had on me was bound to come out. It’s not like I’m trying to mimic or anything of the sort, it’s more a general atmosphere and feel. I have internalized the idea of subtle horror, the sense of surrealism and irony. Many of my stories strive to disquiet and unsettle.
I don’t mean to suggest I’m on the same level of quality as Rod Serling’s seminal classic show. I merely mean the show has been a huge influence on me. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if not for the time I spent in The Twilight Zone.