Category Archives: Twilight Zone
Imagine you’re writing Twilight Zone‘s “Little Girl Lost”, and you get to the part where the father literally stumbles into that alternate dimension where his daughter is trapped. How would you describe it?
Sure, you could spell out what you’re imagining in detail. Nothing wrong with that. Or you could trust the Zone production crew and do what Richard Matheson did: His script at that point simply says: “INTERIOR: LIMBO.”
In “The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic”, author Martin Grams relates how TZ’s art director approached producer Buck Houghton, pointed out those two words, and asked, “What’s that supposed to be, Buck?” Houghton’s reply: “That’s up to you.”
His faith was certainly not misplaced. Added Houghton:
Have you ever watched a Twilight Zone, then thought about how it’s even more relevant today than when it first aired?
If so, you’re not alone. Many fans feel that episodes ranging from “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” to “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” offer more insight into our own time than they did into the early 1960s. We joke about the writers having Mystic Seers and time machines, but what they really had was a deep understanding of human nature — which, of course, never changes, no matter what the era.
But every now and then, you encounter an episode that seems eerily prescient. Case in point: Charles Beaumont’s “Gentlemen, Be Seated.”
Doesn’t sound familiar? I’m not surprised. It was commissioned and written, but never filmed (though it was later made into a TZ radio drama). When producer Bert Granet took another job shortly after Season 5 began, he left behind several assignments, including this Beaumont script. The next producer, unfortunately, didn’t care for “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” so he passed on it.
Which is a shame, really. I read it recently, and believe me, the feeling of déjà vu was particularly strong. Check out the radio summary, and I think you’ll see why: “In the future, humor is outlawed, so James Kinkaid joins a secret underground organization, the Society for the Preservation of Laughter, which exists to keep comedy and satire alive.” Read the rest of this entry
So many memorable stories begin in a writer’s mind with a simple question: “What if … ?”
Ideas can come from anywhere — something you read, something you hear, or something you experience. The difference between the writer and the rest of us is pushing beyond the moment and asking that crucial question.
Richard Matheson, for example, did it with “Little Girl Lost” when his young daughter rolled out of bed in the middle of the night. And Rod Serling did it with “The Fever”. (Spoilers ahead, naturally.)
Twilight Zone fans often call Earl Hamner’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town” the ultimate ad against drunken driving. Well, “The Fever” does the same thing for unchecked gambling.
Every now and then, I’ll see an argument erupt on one of Facebook’s many Twilight Zone fan pages. Not about which episode is best — though feelings can run strong about that, too — but about politics.
Someone will post a meme about something that’s in the news, and the sparks start flying. Because getting political violates the ground rules for these pages, the admins soon delete it. Some people even end up getting thrown out if they’ve been especially rude.
One thing almost always occurs before the dust settles, though. Most people approve of the no-politics rule, but someone will say something like, “Well, Serling was political!” Or “The Twilight Zone was about politics!”
And you know what? They’re right. But when we look at how Serling handled politics on TZ, we see a window into why he was so clever, and why the show’s popularity endures to this day. Read the rest of this entry
We’ve been hearing about the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot for quite a while, and now we have a premiere date: April 1, 2019.
If you’re like most TZ fans, your reaction falls into one of two camps: enthusiasm or dread. I see it almost every time the reboot comes up: Someone either can’t wait, or is sure it’ll be a complete mess — a stain on Rod Serling’s legacy.
I have to admit, I fall somewhere in between. Basically, I’m cautiously optimistic.
I get the enthusiasm of the “pro” crowd. They’re TZ fans, so it’s only natural that the prospect of new episodes excites them. Who wouldn’t want a return trip to the fifth dimension? I like these kinds of stories myself, obviously, and I enjoy other anthologies, so the thought of having new episodes sounds like fun.
But I also sympathize with the “anti” crowd. Look at the first two reboots, they say. Sure, the ’80s one had some good stories, but by and large, it didn’t measure up — and the 2002 TZ was worse. Why should this one work? And come on, there’s only one Rod Serling!
Look, I understand. The challenge of rebooting one of the most beloved TV series of all time — of filling the shoes of the incredibly talented Mr. Serling — should give any sane person pause. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been poring over the list of episodes for the upcoming Twilight Zone marathon on Syfy (I can tell you’re shocked) and, well, some random thoughts occurred to me:
- If you’re a fan of Season 4, you’re out of luck. Syfy won’t be showing any of its 18 hour-long episodes. Now, I think we can all agree that TZ is best suited to the half-hour format, so I suppose their decision is a practical one, but in the past, they’ve nearly always worked in a couple of them here and there.
- If you’re fan of Seasons 3 and 5, you’re definitely in luck. Syfy will be running every episode from both of those seasons.
- As for Seasons 1 and 2, it’s not bad: They’re showing about half of S2 (15 of its 29 episodes) and roughly two-thirds of S1 (23 of its 36 episodes). Unfortunately, a lot of them (at least when it comes to S1) are clumped up toward the end, in the wee hours of January 2, when viewership is sure to have dropped off.
- I realize they can’t include every episode (except the one time they did, back when we rang in 2016), but honestly, no “The Howling Man”? No “Mirror Image”? No “A World of His Own”? Heck, no “Night of the Meek”? It’s the Christmas season! Especially when we’re getting “Young Man’s Fancy”, “Showdown with Rance McGrew”, and “Cavender is Coming”, all of which make my list of least-favorite episodes.
I have to admit, being a fan of the Syfy Channel’s biannual Twilight Zone marathon has been a bit nerve-wracking lately.
Every New Year’s and Fourth of July, there they were, serving up a generous helping of our favorite show. The only question was what episodes they’d show and when it would start. When, not if.
Some line-ups were better than others (the every-episode-in-order one that ushered in 2016 was particularly well-received). And yes, in 2011 they celebrated the Fourth of July with a slate of “Greatest American Hero” episodes. But for the next few years, they didn’t miss.
Until last Fourth of July rolled around, and Syfy delivered a roster of “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies. Um, fireworks and Freddy Krueger? At least the “Greatest American Hero” made thematic sense!
True, a station named “Decades” stepped into the breach with an all-day Zone-a-thon. Much appreciated, to be sure, but — for now, at least — they don’t have the reach of Syfy. Most fans couldn’t tune in.
So when Syfy announced earlier this month that they were indeed hosting a New Year’s marathon, it was welcome news to a lot of Zone fanatics. Um, Zone-y-acs? Read the rest of this entry