Go “Fourth” and Marathon

I couldn’t help retweeting that when the 2014 TZ marathon rolled around on the SyFy channel earlier this month. Talk about a rhetorical question!

There’s no denying that the New Year’s Eve marathon is the more well-known and “attended” event. We get more episodes, yes, but there’s something about the chilly, post-Christmas weather that lends itself nicely to parking your body on the couch and sending your mind to that land of shadow and substance.

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Serling introducing “It’s a Good Life”

But how many Twilight Zone fans think you should over-indulge only ONCE a year? No, we’re only too happy to “Zone out” before, after, and in-between the barbecues and the fireworks.

This year’s marathon ran from 8 a.m. on July 4 until 4 a.m. on July 5. Subtracting four prime-time hours that were inexplicably devoted to wrestling and episodes of “Spartacus” (seriously, SyFy?), we got 16 hours of TZ — 32 episodes. Read the rest of this entry

The Case of the Missing Twilight Zone Season

“This is the way the world ends,” T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem The Hollow Men. “Not with a bang but a whimper.” Surely, though, the same fate should not befall The Twilight Zone?

Alas. 50 years ago today, on June 19, 1964, the last episode of the fifth season aired: “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” Even fans of this episode (and my most recent post showed that I’m not one) wouldn’t call this one a bang. Sorry, but this was no way for Rod Serling’s ground-breaking foray into the fifth dimension to conclude.

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But that’s the thing: It wasn’t supposed to end at that point. At least not as far as Serling was concerned. He’d already been mapping out plans for a sixth season, and I can’t help but feel that the way he talked about it suggested an awareness that TZ needed a return to form of sorts after an interesting but uneven Season 5.

On February 5, 1964, at the mid-point of Season 5, Serling wrote to Aldon Schwimmer of Ashley Steiner, the talent agency that represented him, with what he planned to do for the new season. According to author Martin Grams: Read the rest of this entry

The Twilight Zone’s Dirty Dozen

“We had some real turkeys, some fair ones, and some shows I’m really proud to have been a part of. I can walk away from this series unbowed.” — Rod Serling

Turkeys? Serling may have been his own harshest critic, but he wasn’t entirely wrong here. Even a series as distinguished as The Twilight Zone, with a hit-to-miss ratio that most TV producers would kill for, had a few misfires along the way.

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But which ones missed the mark? It’s entirely subjective. One man’s gem is another man’s junk. Bring up “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” and you’ll hear from people who consider it a delightful fantasy, and others who think it’s a clunker. Many people findOne for the Angelssweet and charming; others can’t get past the fact that Ed Wynn is hardly convincing as a fast-talking pitchman.

I even spoke to a man once who’d been going through TZ in order and said he had finally hit a dud. Curious, I asked which one. His reply: “The Invaders,” which nearly everyone hails as a Zone classic.

But these debates are part of the fun. It’s interesting to compare notes, as we do with our favorite TZs, and discuss what we don’t like — and why.

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Here are the 12 episodes you’ll find at the bottom of my list. Now, I’m not saying every one is an irredeemable time-waster. Even the worst TZ is better than much of what you’ll find on TV; they fall short mainly when measured against TZ’s routine excellence. And there are some aspects of nearly every episode below that I do like.

But for my money, the fifth-dimensional flops include: Read the rest of this entry

Saving “Almost Human”

I’ve been running this blog for almost three years now, but I’ve never written about anything other than the works of Rod Serling. Until today.

I’m making an exception because I don’t just believe in the past when it comes to high-quality science fiction. I believe in the future as well. And for my money, the series Almost Human is a prime example of that future.

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I’m not putting it on a par with The Twilight Zone, which is in a class by itself. But Almost Human is a show that can make you laugh and make you think. Most of all, it’s a show that keeps you entertained.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time excoriating Fox for cancelling it, or making a detailed case for keeping it. I urge you to check it out on Hulu or iTunes or whatever service or site you use to watch TV shows. Read the rest of this entry

“You’re Traveling Through Another Dimension …”

Everyone knows the theme music to The Twilight Zone. So well, in fact, that it’s a kind of shorthand “name” for the series itself at times. An odd thing will happen, and someone will go, “De do, de do, de do, de do …”

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Escher moment: Does it funnel IN … or OUT?

But while TZ’s musical signature lasted nearly the entire length of the series, the opening credits changed fairly often. The visual elements and Serling’s narration shifted almost from week to week at times, at least during the first three seasons.

Tinkering aside, though, The Twilight Zone featured three main opening credits: the clouds-landscape-starfield montage of Season 1 (the only one with different theme music), the swirling vortex of Seasons 2 and 3, and the shattering window-eyeball-ticking clock images of Seasons 4 and 5.

The question is, which one is the best? Here’s your chance to sound off. Play the videos below in case you need to refresh your memory, and vote. (Note from Anthony: Non-voters risk a trip to the cornfield!) Read the rest of this entry

“Last Night” of a Legend: Mickey Rooney and Rod Serling

“I want to be big!” thunders Michael Grady in Rod Serling’s “The Last Night of a Jockey.”

An ironic line, as it turns out. Grady, a horse jockey who’s been blackballed for a variety of racing infractions, is a small man who, by the episode’s end, gets his wish in the most literal way. Hello, Twilight Zone.

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And goodbye, Mickey Rooney, the man who brought Grady to raw, sputtering life in a high-octane performance that few other actors would even attempt. He’d become big long before there was a Twilight Zone. Only five feet, two inches tall, Rooney stood considerably higher in the pantheon of golden-era film stars.

A legend? Let’s put it this way: News of Rooney’s death at 93 on April 6, 2014, prompted more than one shocked fan on Twitter to note that it somehow felt too soon. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “The Four of Us Are Dying”

Ever assume, when you first watched The Twilight Zone as a kid, that Rod Serling wrote every episode?

I’ve had a number of people tell me they thought that, and let’s face it: It is a logical assumption. He personally introduces each tale, and they all conclude with his distinctive voice wrapping up the proceedings with a memorably wry comment or two.

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But no, other fine writers contributed some terrific stories. Still, Serling wrote a staggering 92 of the 156 episodes, or nearly two out of every three. No wonder he admitted to feeling burned out as the series entered its home stretch.

Not every Serling script was an original, however. Sometimes he adapted the works of other writers. He’d pay for the rights to a story, then turn it into a Twilight Zone.

This might sound like relatively easy work, but it wasn’t. In many cases, he took the basic idea and turned it into a script that barely resembled its ancestor.

Such was the case when Serling turned George Clayton Johnson’s story “All of Us Are Dying” into “The Four of Us Are Dying” for Twilight Zone‘s first season. Read the rest of this entry

“The Masks”: 50 Years Later

Paul:

A perfect blend of recap and analysis from my Gal Friday, and right on the 50th anniversary of “The Masks.” Enjoy!

Originally posted on Seeker of Truth:

Next on Twilight Zone, we move into New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, and we do it with a vengeance. Robert Keith and Milton Selzer appear in a bizarre story of men, masquerades and masks. This is a small shocker to wind up a week, and if it doesn’t send you to a psychiatrist, it’ll send you at least to a mirror. On Twilight Zone next, “The Masks.

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Mr. Jason Foster, a tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing, he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay – and some justice to mete out. This is New Orleans, Mardi Gras time. It is also the Twilight Zone.

“The Masks”

Season 5, Episode 25

 Original air date: March 20, 1964

A wealthy old man is about to die. But he won’t die alone. He’ll be surrounded…

View original 1,966 more words

Matheson: Why I Named It “Spur of the Moment”

The title of a particular TV episode means almost nothing to the average TV viewer. An entertaining story is all we ask. Yet some writers do take care with their titles … and it can even affect how good the episode is.

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Case in point: “Spur of the Moment,” from Twilight Zone‘s fifth season. The highly imaginative Richard Matheson explains:

I love that title! She married on the “spur of the moment,” really. She married for emotion. And there was also the spurs of the person riding the horse … there were multiple and hidden meanings in that title, which is something I like to do. Titles are very important, and it’s really nice if you can get a good one. As a writer, I prefer to have the title occur to me instantly — even sometimes before I do the story. It colors how I approach the story, and I feel much more comfortable.

Having a catchy title must have helped. There’s a good reason I included “Spur of the Moment” on my list of the best Twilight Zone episodes to watch on Halloween. Read the rest of this entry

10 Little-Known Facts About The Twilight Zone

No television series challenged the very notion of reality quite as artfully as The Twilight Zone. You could easily find yourself trying to figure out where you were, when you were, or even who you were.

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Here in our own dimension, matters tend to be a bit more concrete. Facts are facts. So here are 10 facts about Rod Serling’s brainchild that are familiar only to truly diehard fans (and perhaps regular readers of this blog and my Twitter page):

1) “There is a sixth dimension …” Wait, what? It’s true. When Serling first drafted his description of that elusive fifth dimension, he added an extra one … until the producer asked him to name the fifth.

2) Serling was not the first choice for narrator. They were setting their sights on such famous voices as Orson Welles, but in the end, they went with You Know Who. (You can hear how TZ almost sounded at this link.) Read the rest of this entry

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