“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.

It's a Good Life7

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.

They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines — because they displeased him — and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages — just by using his mind.

Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It’s in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. It's a Good Life6 (2)But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud.

Now, the monster doesn’t like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you’re looking at now. She sings no more. And you’ll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror.

This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion.

Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes.It's a Good Life11

But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.

The initial draft of the episode began with Serling’s introduction, but then he was going to turn the rest of it over to Mr. Fremont. John Larch, the three-time TZ star who played the role, would then have addressed the audience directly and told us about Anthony and the other characters in the story.

It's a Good Life10

Serling revised the actual wording several times, but the basic story remained intact, regardless of who was telling us about Aunt Amy and the rest of those trapped in Peaksville. But I think his intuition prevailed and gave us the best version.

After all, no one could narrate The Twilight Zone better than Serling. Not even Anthony Fremont. Though I’d never tell HIM that. Thinking happy thoughts here … :D *chuckles nervously* ….

***

Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest

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

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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 11/03/2014, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Still one of the episodes I hate to watch alone. The Jack-in-the-box scene is among the most scary moments ever put on TV (In my opinion) but it’s good that he did that, it’s real good.

    • In an early version of the script, Dan was supposed to turn into a snake, but I think they couldn’t work that out logistically. Just as well, probably, given the effectiveness of the final sequence!

  2. NotAPunkRocker

    I don’t think it ever occurred to me how long that monologue really is until now.

    And I only just realized in recent years that is Cloris Leachman as the mother.

    • I know what you mean. It’s one thing to hear it, it’s another to LOOK at it and realize its length. And yes, Leachman’s performance kind of flew under the radar. It’s very understated, especially compared to some of her later roles.

      She had a more flamboyant role on Night Gallery, btw, playing a woman given to mistreating her robot servants!

  3. Mike Poteet (@ Bibliomike)

    Far be it from me to edit Serling, but I think he gives away too much in this overly long intro. I’d have used a more teasing approach: “There’s a monster in this town. And you’ll meet this monster very soon…” But then maybe that’s why I’m no Serling! As ever, though, Paul, your writing is great. Fun post!

    • Interesting point! I think this story just required more set-up, that’s all. If you dropped us into it without any warning,
      we’d be fairly confused. But there’s so many ways to get into a story, maybe a brief intro could work as well.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Mike. Thanks!

  4. I’ve got to say it. This is not one of my favourite episodes. *looks around nervously* Geez, I sure hope Anthony isn’t listening…

    It was an interesting idea for a story, there’s no denying that. And that wonderfully detailed and personal intro that you’ve highlighted here, Boss, is really a thing of beauty. Serling is to be commended for this intro. But my word, there is no other episode that makes me feel as MURDEROUS as “It’s a Good Life”.

    I found Mumy to be incredibly annoying in “Long Distance Call”, but he really outdoes himself in this episode. Which I suppose is a compliment in a way. He’s so good at being bad that I hate him. And what actor doesn’t dream of played a character that inspires such (ironically) BAD thoughts?

    My dislike of the episode aside, I really like when you do posts like this — highlighting a quote or an intro or an interesting bit of behind the scenes “trivia”. Because writing like this deserves to be in the spotlight and enjoyed. Very nicely done.

    Now… *lowers voice* …you hold him down and I’ll grab the frying pan…… O_O

    • Oh, I know what you mean. I happen to be a fan of this episode (though it’s not a top 10 one for me), but I agree with your assessment of Anthony. We’re not supposed to like him — we’re supposed to be horrified.

      Now, yes, I know you know THAT. But I think the whole point is that we’re seeing what would happen if some sort of god-like power were inexplicably vested in a young boy. He could literally move mountains with a thought — but he’d also be a huge BRAT. In many ways, it would be more frightening than having an adult vested with such power. An adult you might be able to reason with, but a child? Not likely. And so the residents of Peaksville live in a kind of daily, barely-controlled hysteria.

      And you’re right about an actor enjoying such a role! Billy Mumy said what a blast it was to play Anthony, and how years later he was still mentally sending annoying people to the cornfield. Ah, who among us HASN’T at least briefly toyed with such a possibility?

      I’m so glad you like the post, though! Highlighting an interesting quote or bit of trivia is one of my favorite things to do here. And as always, you were very helpful. I was even able to use pics you’d pulled a long time ago — mostly because when you pulled that initial batch you were so ridiculously thorough that I had more than I could use!

      And hold him down? *whispers* You got it! O_o

  5. Every time I watch this I take my iPad out into the cornfield to watch it. Way I figger it, I’m just gonna end up out there, anyway….

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