Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Thread of Imagination: Serling’s “Ingredients” for The Twilight Zone

Think of the TV shows you watch. You enjoy them, of course, or you wouldn’t tune in. But how many of them will last? Will any be finding new audiences decades from now?

Sounds laughable, for the most part. With few exceptions, the shows we select are the diversion of the moment. Enjoyable, sure. Informative, maybe. But something that will stand the test of time? Hardly. (Unless you anticipate New Year’s Eve marathons of Big Brother and Jersey Shore.)

Denton on Doomsday10

Yet The Twilight Zone has been doing just that for over 50 years now. Indeed, it became more popular in reruns than it was in its original run. The question is, how? Why does it endure while others fall by the wayside?

Regular readers of this blog have heard me ponder this before, and as a TZ fan, I suppose I’ll always be trying to get to the bottom of it. But something that Rod Serling wrote in the April 1960 issue of TV-Radio Mirror (the show was then only in its first season) gives us a big clue: Read the rest of this entry

Fallout at a Funeral

We’ve all heard about weddings that didn’t go off as planned. Funerals, however, tend to be far more predictable.

Unless, of course, they happen in the Twilight Zone.

Put Up Your Dukes - Jeff Myrtlebank3

Fifty-one years ago today, Rod Serling brought us the tale of a man who decided to cheat the undertaker in the most dramatic way possible. He opened the lid of his coffin even as the preacher was eulogizing him. The astonished congregation couldn’t have fled the premises more quickly if Satan himself had turned up to demand equal time.

So begins “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” an entertainingly offbeat story set in the midwest of the 1920s. It was written and directed by Montgomery Pittman, who had already — appropriately enough — given us the TZ classic “The Grave.”

You might expect a story that centers on someone coming back from the dead to be serious or macabre. But this is the Twilight Zone, of course, so the usual rules don’t apply. Pittman surprises us with a lightly comic tone that deals not with the mechanics of an unscheduled resurrection, but how people react to it. Read the rest of this entry

Romancing the Zone

Think of The Twilight Zone, and the word “romance” hardly leaps to mind. The home of malevolent dolls, hostile aliens and unpredictable time travel seems an unlikely place to make a love connection, right?

Not necessarily. Go a little deeper, and you find all kinds of flirtation in the fifth dimension. You just have to know where to look.


But fear not. With the help of fellow TZ fan Wendy, I did the looking for you. Beginning on Feb. 1, we did our own daily countdown to Valentine’s Day with tweets that we hashtagged #BeMyTZValentine. The idea was to take a TZ episode and dream up a little date for the couple that starred in it.

My policy is always “ladies first,” so Wendy started us off and took all the odd-numbered dates, while I took the even-numbered ones. Here’s what we came up with. The episode name is in parentheses:

Feb. 1: Don loads the Mystic Seer with his own special fortunes for Pat. “Does he love me?” Fortune: ~More than life itself~ (Nick of Time)

Feb. 2: Gregory uses his dictation machine to create a candlelit dinner for him and Mary, complete with flowers and a fire. (A World of His Own) Read the rest of this entry