Marathon Misgivings

There’s nothing like ringing in the new year with a party. And if you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, you know the best one around is the one thrown by the Syfy channel.

"Nick of Time"

“Nick of Time”

I mean, two days in the fifth dimension, bingeing on your favorite episodes, and maybe discovering some “new” ones? Whether you go the distance, or dip in here and there for a few short excursions into the unknown, it’s hard to pass up.

A lot of fans consider the Dec. 31/Jan. 1 TZ marathon more essential than a glass of champagne and a list of resolutions. For many, it’s the only time they’ll watch the series all year.

And that’s kind of a shame. Not because they should watch it more often (though I wouldn’t discourage that, of course). Because they’re not seeing The Twilight Zone at its best.

34

“Walking Distance”

Why? Three reasons:

1) The episodes are interrupted constantly by a barrage of commercials. “It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper,” Serling once said. It’s even worse when one is trying to create and sustain the mood necessary to enjoy any kind of fantasy or fiction. Worse, you’ll see the same ads over and over again.

2) The episodes are edited. Not for objectionable content, of course, but to make room for … more commercials. Not minor trims, mind you. As Serling noted after the series went into syndication: “Full scenes were deleted. It looked like a long, protracted commercial separated by fragmentary moments of indistinct drama.” 35A particularly egregious example: the unmasking of Jason Foster at the end of “The Masks.” That’s a key moment. If you’ve never seen it, imagine what else you’re missing.

3) The episodes are grainy-looking. Because The Twilight Zone is an old black-and-white series, many viewers probably don’t expect it to look all that sharp from a technical standpoint. In fact, it was beautifully photographed by cinematographer George Clemens, who won an Emmy award for his work on the series. On DVD and Blu-ray, or streaming on services like Netflix and Hulu, it looks clear as a bell. (Enlarge any of the pics on this post to see what I mean.)

"Time Enough at Last"

“Time Enough at Last”

“I have no intention of being satisfied with what would be considered second best,” Serling said shortly before The Twilight Zone premiered.  Nor should the rest of us when it comes to watching the excellent work that he produced.

Related: “Are TV Marathons Passé?

***

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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 01/17/2014, in Twilight Zone and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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