Moving Away From “The Midnight Sun”

If you’re reading this from anywhere in North America, I don’t have to tell you it’s beyond cold right now.

We’re talking ARCTIC. Record low temperatures are being broken all over. It makes me think of The Twilight Zone‘s “The Midnight Sun.”

The Midnight Sun Title Card

Oh, no — not the main story. That’s something to quote in July or August. I’m talking about the ending — one of the most legendary twists in TZ history.

Well, no point just sitting here being cold. Why pass up an ideal moment to quote the perfect scene for an insanely chilly day?

Try this link if you’ve never seen the episode, but otherwise join me as we look in on Norma, Mrs. Bronson (her landlady), and a doctor on a very cold and snowy night … Read the rest of this entry

Exploring “Morality’s Shady Side of the Street”

Sixty years ago today, the Kraft Television Theatre aired a repeat of Rod Serling’s teleplay “Patterns.” As a Twilight Zone fan, why should you care?

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Everett Sloane, who would later star in TZ’s “The Fever,” plays no-nonsense boss Walter Ramsey.

After all, this was four and a half years before TZ hit the air. And the program in question had nothing to do with aliens, time travel, or any of the other fantasy elements that made that classic series so famous. It was a straight drama. Yawn, right?

Not so fast. A few important factors make “Patterns” worth a second look, especially for Twilight Zone fans.

One is that it turned Serling into the proverbial “overnight success.” Without it, it’s fair to question if he’d have gained the clout to launch a certain foray into the fifth dimension. Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon III

Ring in the new year without The Twilight Zone? Most fans of the fifth dimension would sooner think a bad thought around Anthony Fremont.

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No, we were all there, and fortunately, the Syfy channel didn’t disappoint. They ran a terrific slate of episodes this time. Sure, Season 4 was largely neglected, but the 87 episodes that DID make it were well-chosen. (Of course, it helps that TZ has so few duds.)

But even so, there were some solid episodes that didn’t make this year’s marathon. I’ve highlighted a few of them below. You can click on any of the titles to watch the episode in question on free Hulu.

ELEGY

Season 1, Episode 20 – February 19, 1960

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If you were an astronaut who discovered people frozen like statues on some far-flung planet, how would you explain it? The trio of explorers who star in Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy” come up with quite a few theories, but it takes the only person who does move around — a 200-year-old robot caretaker, to be precise — to reveal the startling truth. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s “Patterns”: A Television “High Point”

Sixty years ago today, a live teleplay by a writer named Rod Serling aired on the Kraft Television Theatre. It was called, simply, “Patterns.”

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There was no reason to assume it would be special. But by the time it went off the air an hour later, Serling’s reputation as a writer par excellence had been born. As New York Times critic Jack Gould put it:

Nothing in months has excited the television industry as much as the Kraft Television Theatre’s production of Patterns, an original play by Rod Serling. The enthusiasm is justified. In writing, acting and direction, Patterns will stand as one of the high points in the TV medium’s evolution.

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That’s pretty high praise. But as Gould said, it was indeed justified. He went on to call for a repeat performance — an unusual suggestion in that era. After all, it would mean reassembling the cast and basically staging it all over again. But on February 9, 1955, that’s exactly what they did. Read the rest of this entry

Little Girl Lost, Story Idea Found

People sometimes joke that Rod Serling and the other Twilight Zone writers must have been very strange people. Surely nobody sober and “normal” like the rest of us could come up with such wild story ideas, right?

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The reality is reassuringly mundane. The show wasn’t written by eccentrics who consumed hallucinogenics by the handful. They were disciplined, talented writers who had sharp, quick, vivid imaginations.

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Take the fan-favorite “Little Girl Lost,” a standout episode in Twilight Zone‘s third season. According to Richard Matheson: Read the rest of this entry

Time Enough at Last: “The One That Haunts People”

Of all the episodes of The Twilight Zone, perhaps none has left more of a mark on viewers than “Time Enough at Last.” The episode that struck fear in the hearts of book-lovers everywhere — and inspired horrified glasses-wearers to opt for a back-up pair — turns 55 today.

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In a 1984 article for Twilight Zone magazine, star Burgess Meredith recalled how the episode excited writer Rod Serling himself:

He had just seen some rushes of the show, which made him very enthusiastic. He said, ‘Hey, you’re wonderful. Let’s do more shows with you.’ After that, Rod wrote a Twilight Zone for me each season. Our relationship wound up lasting a long time. And of course, later in our careers, we both did a lot of voice-over work.

Not quite EACH season, as it turns out. Meredith did “Time Enough at Last” in the first season, “Mr. Dingle, The Strong” and “The Obsolete Man” in the second, and “Printer’s Devil” in the fourth. But the fact remains that Serling clearly enjoyed writing for this talented man. Read the rest of this entry

The Case for Conformity

Most people can decide for themselves whether or not to watch an address by the head of their country. The unfortunate residents of The Twilight Zone‘s “Eye of the Beholder” aren’t so lucky.

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I’ve described in a previous post why I consider this Rod Serling’s finest work. But on this 54th anniversary of the episode’s first airing, I wanted to highlight the full address given by “Leader” in the climatic scene.

We hear some of it as poor Janet Tyler is trying to run away. But we miss most of it, and believe me, it’s worth quoting in full: Read the rest of this entry

Willie Vs. Caesar: The Real Electoral Clash

It’s Election Day, and I’m here to ask you to pick between a couple of dummies.

Oh, wait — this has nothing to do with the people running for office in your state or county. But I can understand the confusion! No, I’m asking you to pick your favorite of the two ventriloquist dummies that appeared on The Twilight Zone.

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On the one hand, we have Willie. Likes: eye tests, dancing girls, upstaging his partner. Dislikes: rival dummies, being locked in a trunk. He starred with Cliff Robertson in “The Dummy.”

On the other hand, we have Caesar. Likes: pacing, larceny, talking to people like they’re idiots. Dislikes: dimwits, nosy club owners. He starred with Jackie Cooper in “Caesar and Me.” Read the rest of this entry

“It’s a Good Life”: Meeting the Monster

The boundaries of the Twilight Zone may be limitless, but the same can’t be said for a TV show. Rod Serling, like any other writer, had to edit himself.

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That wasn’t the case, however, when he introduced “It’s a Good Life.” When it premiered on November 3, 1961, viewers were treated to a monologue at least three times longer than the average TZ intro:

Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville.

On a givenIt's a Good Life1 morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. Read the rest of this entry

Brushstrokes and Broomsticks

An art gallery may strike you as an odd place to spend Halloween … at least, until you see the paintings hanging in the Night Gallery.

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“If you seem to sense an aura of cold dampness that permeates this room, attribute it not to either defective air conditioning or inclement indoor weather,” Rod Serling once said. “It’s simply because this is rather a special place with special statuary and special paintings, and they carry with them a coldness that seems to go best in a crypt.”

Most museums turn up the lights so you can see the paintings in detail. But once you see the canvases on display here, I think you’ll be grateful for the many shadows that line the hallways.

I hope you were able to join us for our inaugural tour. Because I have 10 more favorites to share with you today (click on any title to watch the episode on Hulu): Read the rest of this entry

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