The Latest Twilight Zone Reboot Gets Booted — What Went Wrong?

I’ve heard quite a range of reactions to the news that Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone won’t be back for a third season. Some Zoniacs are sorry it won’t be back. Many more are glad. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.

This isn’t because I’m trying to be diplomatic. I’m genuinely ambivalent. There were elements I liked about the new version (one of which has nothing to do with the show itself). There were others I didn’t like. Most of them I touched on in previous posts about the series, and I summed them up after Season 1 in this one.

Curiously enough, the latest reboot wasn’t cancelled by the network, but by the creators themselves: Jordan Peele and his company, Monkeypaw Productions:

Why the kibosh on a third season? It’s hard to say, at least from the outside looking in. Maybe the pandemic made it difficult to get things rolling again. Perhaps they found themselves getting interested in other projects. Or it could be that we should take their statement at face value: They told their stories, it was fun, but now it’s time to move on.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if negative reaction to the series played a part in the decision. As you might imagine, I followed fan response pretty closely on social media, and every time the latest reboot came up, the opinions ran at least 80/20 against it. It may be that Peele and his collaborators were able to shrug this off, but hey, we’re human. I’d be surprised if that sort of negativity had no effect whatsoever.

So what went wrong? Let’s mention a couple of things that have come up previously, then get into some other factors we haven’t discussed before. Read the rest of this entry

From Visiting the Zone to Hobnobbing with a Beatle, Kenneth Haigh Got Around

Ever have one of those times when an actor from one of your favorite TV shows also appeared in one of your favorite movies, and it didn’t click for a long time?

I’m usually pretty good at spotting faces and coming up with a name right away: “Oh, that’s So-and-so. He starred in Such-and-such.” But while my memory — at least for show-biz faces — is above average, it’s not perfect.

Take “The Last Flight.” We all have some episodes of The Twilight Zone that aren’t particularly famous, but that really hit a sweet spot for us. That’s how I feel about this story, which concerns a World War I pilot who lands at a modern-day air base (well, modern in 1960, when the episode first aired) and discovers that he’s done some inadvertent time-traveling.

I’m also a huge fan of the Beatles. Seriously, I could run a blog about them, too. And one of the many films I can quote almost word-for-word is “A Hard Day’s Night.” It’s a lot of fun — very witty and comedic, and loaded with great tunes, of course.

So why did it take me so long to figure out that Kenneth Haigh, the actor who plays Lt. Decker in “The Last Flight,” also starred as Simon Marshall, the sardonic advertising executive who interviews George Harrison in “A Hard Day’s Night”?

Read the rest of this entry

The Elf from “Night of the Meek” Remembers Filming a Twilight Zone Fan Favorite

No two people celebrate Christmas quite the same, but if you’re a Twilight Zone fan, there’s a good chance you don’t let December 25th pass without an annual viewing of “Night of the Meek.”

The Changing of the Guard” and “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” are two other popular seasonal offerings from the fifth dimension. But there’s something special about seeing Art Carney play a sad man who by episode’s end (yes, spoiler alert!) gets promoted to his dream job: the real Santa Claus.

Someone on Twitter was talking with me about the episode recently, and said something about the girl who plays the elf being Maureen McCormick, the actress later cast as Marcia Brady on “The Brady Bunch.”

Except it wasn’t McCormick. It was a girl named Larrian Gillespie.

It’s an understandable error, though. I can see where someone looking at those grainy black-and-white images (“Night of the Meek” was one of six videotaped episodes) might mistake Gillespie for McCormick. And like a lot of child stars — at least ones who played small parts — she’s not listed in the credits.

Neither are the two kids at the beginning, even though they — like our young elf friend — have several lines. But TV credits weren’t very detailed back then. Even Kay Cousins, who plays the mother of Percival Smithers, is listed not as “Mrs. Smithers,” but as “Irate Mother.”

So let’s give Larrian some belated attention — and much deserved too, because she’s just as cute in the role as you’d expect Santa’s main elf to be. Here are some excerpts from an interview she did in 2018:

Read the rest of this entry

The Seven Times Serling Didn’t Say “In The Twilight Zone” at an Episode’s End

One of the joys of watching The Twilight Zone is hearing Rod Serling’s voice come on as the story wraps up, giving us a wry comment, a stern rebuke, or some other fitting remark. And you can count on him saying “the Twilight Zone,” often after a perfect little pause.

At least most of the time you can count on that. In fact, there are seven episodes that don’t use the phrase at all. That leaves 149 where he does say it, so these seven are clearly the exception to the rule.

That begs a logical question for uber-fans such as myself: Which ones are they?

Many fans know one off the top of their heads: Season 4’s “He’s Alive,” in which Dennis Hopper plays a neo-Nazi. But they can seldom name another. And although I was able to name some others myself without going down the list of episodes, I wasn’t sure I was getting all of them.

So I decided to check it out and make it official. (Spoilers ahead!) Here, in chronological order, are the episodes with no mention of “the Twilight Zone” at the end, along with the ending narration:

Read the rest of this entry

Syfy’s 2020-2021 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule

Having a Twilight Zone marathon to close out a year like 2020 almost feels redundant. There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make you feel like you’re already knee-deep in the fifth dimension.

And yet, paradoxically, I don’t think we’ve ever needed the comfort of The Twilight Zone more than we do right now.

It can be a scary place, no question. And yet it’s also a land of redemption and wonder — a universe filled with imaginative twists and thought-provoking morals. And hey, when bad things happen, at least they’re happening to fictional characters, and not you!

So if you’re inclined to tune in the Syfy channel to ring out the old and ring in the new with Rod Serling’s brainchild, you’re in luck. Sure, the marathons have their drawbacks (the cuts, the ads, etc.). But for me and for so many other fans, the pros outweigh the cons.

I’d like to thank the good people at Syfy who supplied me with this list ahead of time. This is a first-look exclusive, my friends; it hasn’t been published elsewhere yet. So, without further ado, here’s what we can look forward to seeing this year. All times are EST:

Thursday, December 31, 2020

6:00am – Where Is Everybody?

6:30am – One For the Angels

7:00am – Mr. Denton On Doomsday

7:30am – The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

Read the rest of this entry

Banishing Mistakes to the Cornfield: The Never-Ending Quest For Accurate TZ Info

Pop quiz: How many of The Twilight Zone‘s 156 episodes did Rod Serling write?

Not many people know off the top of their heads, but I can hear some of the more diehard fans calling out, “92!” And how right you are.

So imagine my surprise when I saw someone post an item in a TZ fan group on Facebook claiming that Serling had written 99. He then added something about what an amazingly high number that was, or how much work that represented.

Hey, anyone can make a mistake. I’ve seen a lot of them over the years. So even though I wanted to set the record straight, I didn’t want to embarrass the person who did it.

That’s why, when this sort of thing happens, I try to take a light tone and not act like a jerk. A good way to do that is to mix the correction with some genuine agreement or praise, so in this case, I said something like: “Actually, it was 92. But yes, what a workhorse Serling was! It’s incredible that he was able to write so much, and such high quality.”

If that’s all there was to it, I wouldn’t even be writing this post. Most people are like, “Oh, my mistake! Thanks.” But not this guy. He was like, nope, you’re wrong. It’s 99.

Read the rest of this entry

Why Has The Twilight Zone Lasted? The Writer of Some Classic Episodes Explains

“I think that sometimes in television, scripts reach the level of literature. Often, I think, it’s junk, and stuff is just spewed out with no thought other than to get a script done. But I think sometimes it reaches the level of television literature — something that says something, something that’s lasting, something that’s worthwhile.”

The speaker: Earl Hamner Jr. The subject: Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone, for which Hamner contributed eight scripts, including such fan favorites as “The Hunt” and “Stopover in a Quiet Town”.

This quote — an excerpt from the short video below — sums up well why the Zone has endured long after many other vintage shows have faded into obscurity. Many scripts are just “spewed out”, either because of time constraints or a lack of talent. Not so on The Twilight Zone.

Hamner touches on several other interesting points in this interview, including the idea that Serling may have had a premonition of his death. It’s only about five minutes long — and if you’re a fan of Hamner’s signature series, The Waltons, get ready to hear a very familiar voice:

Read the rest of this entry

Tuning in “The Twilight Zone Ahead of its Time” Radio Show

November 7 @ 8:00 pm EST:

THE TWILIGHT ZONE AHEAD OF ITS TIME Night-Light radio show with Pop Culture Man Arlen Schumer: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/night-light/2020/11/08/the-twilight-zone-ahead-of-its-time-with-arlen-schumer

“We can feed the stomach with concentrates. We can supply microfilm for reading, recreation, even movies of a sort. We can pump oxygen in, and waste material out. But there’s one thing we can’t simulate, that’s a very basic need: man’s hunger for companionship. The barrier of loneliness. That’s one thing we haven’t licked yet.”

If those words from the first TWILIGHT ZONE episode sound uncomfortably close to the pandemic quarantining we’re all experiencing now, it’s because creator ROD SERLING (1924-75) was a true visionary, a prescient prophet of the small screen, whose many ZONE episodes dealt with the universal, timeless themes of isolation, loneliness, and solitude.

In advance of his webinar next Tuesday night via New York Adventure Club—

THE TWILIGHT ZONE AHEAD OF ITS TIME webinar Tuesday, November 10 @ 8:00pm EST; tix: nyadventureclub.com

—join Pop Culture Man Arlen Schumer tonight as he discusses how the greatest television series of the 20th Century sheds a prescient light on the global pandemic of the 21st Century.

Arlen’s call-in guests on tonight’s show:

PAUL D. GALLAGHER, creator of the blog “Shadow & Substance: Exploring the Works of Rod Serling”: thenightgallery.wordpress.com

STEVEN JAY RUBIN, author of “The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia,” available at amazon.com

You can listen to a playback here: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/night-light/2020/11/08/the-twilight-zone-ahead-of-its-time-with-arlen-schumer

Seeing Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last” Through New Lenses

Some episodes of The Twilight Zone seem to be above reproach. Like my personal favorite, “Eye of the Beholder“. Or the bittersweet, poetic “Walking Distance“. Or the one with what is surely the biggest gut-punch ending of all, “Time Enough at Last.” Who can criticize that one?

Okay, there was the post I did about how the twist feels unjust to me. But beyond that, who could say a negative word about the episode that many fans say is their all-time favorite?

Whoops. Me again.

Actually, it’s not a negative word. I can’t help loving this episode either. The writing, the acting, the directing, the set design … it’s all world-class. Truly.

But I do have a technical quibble with it.

Mind you, I’m not normally one to nitpick the Zone on such details. As I mentioned in my review of The Twilight Zone Companion, I give the show wide latitude in this area. I don’t roll my eyes if, for example, a TZ says Mars is X number of miles away, and that estimate isn’t even close. So what? TZ isn’t really a sci-fi show at heart, anyway — it’s a fantasy drama with sci-fi trappings.

But there’s a technical detail in “Time Enough at Last” that’s hard to overlook, especially because — unlike most of the show’s other gaffes — it’s crucial to the plot.

I’m talking about Henry Bemis’s glasses.

Read the rest of this entry

Serling Edit: Cutting a Scene of Larceny in Twilight Zone’s “Where is Everybody?”

October means Halloween to a lot of people — myself included — but it also makes me think of The Twilight Zone. I know, I know. I hardly need any encouragement, do I? And yet October is special because it’s the month that TZ premiered in 1959.

It was on October 2 of that year — at 10:00pm EST, if you want to be precise — that anyone turning to CBS saw the first episode, “Where is Everybody?” The story of an Air Force pilot who hallucinates himself into an empty town during isolation training was Stop #1 for those curious enough to explore Rod Serling’s “middle ground between light and shadow”.

So I thought I would share something fun today. It’s something Serling included in an early draft of the episode, but which was apparently never filmed: a scene in which pilot Mike Ferris steals from the town bank.

That’s right. Our fine, upstanding astronaut-to-be — a common thief!

According to the draft in volume one of “As Timeless as Infinity: The Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling”, this scene occurs after the one in the movie theater. So, at least in the final episode, it’s close to the moment when Ferris is pulled from the isolation booth.

Not in this early version of the script, though.

Read the rest of this entry