“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.
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 given 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. 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.
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.
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* ….
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!