“This is the Twilight Zone”: Serling Explains

If someone asked you to describe The Twilight Zone, what would you say?

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Rod Serling was asked that many times over the years, and he gave many interesting answers. Here’s one from a five-minute sales pitch that he filmed when The Twilight Zone was set to debut there:

To give you a very specific kind of working idea of what we mean by “Twilight Zone”, you might say that a man is on top of a burning building. Now there are certain ways he can get off that building — he can use a fire escape, a ladder, he might even be picked up by a helicopter. But in the Twilight Zone, he flies.

This is the so-called dimension of imagination, a literary device known by the English writer Coleridge as the “willing suspension of disbelief”. The things you see, you know may not happen. But at the time you see them on this program, you’ll believe that they do happen. This is the Twilight Zone.

Read the rest of this entry

In “The New Exhibit”, Who Was the Killer? A Poll Post

What would The Twilight Zone be without its twist endings? Still one of the most well-written, thoughtful series that ever aired, of course! But Rod Serling and company obviously made their points more effectively by using irony and surprise.

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So I always try to give spoiler warnings when I write about the endings to certain episodes. I know — it’s a legendary series that debuted over 50 years ago, so who doesn’t know how they end?

Actually, a lot of people. Think about it — new fans are born all the time. I came along well after “Psycho” was a new movie, but I would have enjoyed seeing it without the ending spoiled. It must have been fun to see it when you didn’t know.

All of which is a slightly long-winded way of saying “spoiler alert”! Especially because I want to discuss, briefly, the ending to “The New Exhibit”, which aired during TZ’s lesser-known 4th season (the one with the hour-long episodes) — and ask you to vote on it. Read the rest of this entry

A Cherished Inscription for a Grateful Rod Serling Fan

Ever been asked to name a famous individual from history that you’d want to have dinner with? I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that Rod Serling tops my list.

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You can imagine the questions I’d have for him. I doubt one meal would give us enough time to cover everything I want to know.

Somewhere on the list of topics would be his opinion of what I do on social media to spotlight his work. Does he like it? Am I presenting it well? What can I do to improve it?

Sadly, of course, I can’t know what he thinks. He’s been gone for over 40 years. But I have something that’s almost as good — a special book with an inscription that always makes me smile. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “Time Enough at Last”

How could I not have started my series of posts reviewing Serling’s Twilight Zone adaptations with “Time Enough at Last”?

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We’re talking about a huge fan favorite — one that is arguably the most well-known episode. It’s also the first non-Serling tale that aired, after seven originals opened the series in the fall of 1959.

I guess I was too intrigued to chronicle what Serling had done to stories by such legendary TZ scribes as Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson. His changes there amounted to a complete overhaul. And it was fun to examine the remarkable work he did to bring Damon Knight’s “To Serve Man” to the screen.

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But before he turned to those scripts, he choose to adapt Lynn Venable’s short story about a poor man who … well, as she put it: Read the rest of this entry

“Hold On … Is That Van Johnson?” A TZ Disc Mystery

Ever look at something a hundred times, and then — on the 101st — notice something odd?

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That sounds like the set-up to a Twilight Zone episode, I know. Alas, it’s something a bit more mundane. But stick with me for a couple minutes. This little mystery is a quick one.

Recently, I was pulling out the fourth disc of Season 5 from my boxed set of Twilight Zone DVDs, when my eyes fell on the small picture on the back cover next to “Queen of the Nile”. As you can see, there’s a thumbnail pic beside each title and description.

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Then I took a closer look. Sure enough, there’s Ann Blyth, the star of the episode. She’s next to … wait, that’s not Lee Phillips, her co-star. That’s … Van Johnson? Read the rest of this entry

“Do You Know Why There’s Night All Around Us?”

No sides. Just shock and sadness. It’s time to stop and reflect.

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This quote from Rev. Anderson in Rod Serling’s sobering Season 5 episode, “I Am The Night — Color Me Black”, keeps echoing in my mind: Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon IV: More Missing Episodes

We had quite a treat last New Year’s, didn’t we, Twilight Zone fans? Syfy surprised us with an extended marathon of every episode, in order and in high-def. Talk about “what you need.”

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It did, however, put the kibosh on one of my favorite post-marathon activities: writing a blog post to highlight a few episodes that didn’t make the schedule. But I figured I’d have another chance when the July 4 marathon rolled around … and here we are.

Syfy aired 57 episodes this time out. That’s about a third of the 156 that aired during the show’s run, leaving me 99 to pick from. That’s a daunting task. Many worthy episodes didn’t make the cut. But here are five that I think merit a watch — or rewatch. (Note: I didn’t repeat any picks from my previous “Zone-a-thon” posts.) U.S.-based fans, click on any title to watch the episode on Hulu.

MR. DENTON ON DOOMSDAY

Season 1, Episode 3 – October 16, 1959

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You don’t have to be a Twilight Zone fanatic to know the fifth dimension is a place where bad things sometimes happen to good people. But it’s also a place where the down and out can catch a much-needed break. Case in point: this early episode, in which a mysterious peddler helps a former gunslinger find a better way to ease his guilty conscience than by drowning it in booze. Is another kill-or-be-killed situation in his future? Not if Rod Serling can help it. Read the rest of this entry

SyFy’s July 4th Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule

When it comes to Twilight Zone marathons, nothing tops New Year’s Eve. The last one was particularly impressive, with Syfy airing an expanded slate: all 156 episodes, in high-definition, in broadcast order.

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But close behind the NYE marathon in popularity is the July 4th one. So here, in case you’re planning some fireworks, a cookout, or some other summer fun, is the schedule for this year’s marathon:

July 3, 2016

11:30pm – A Kind of Stopwatch

July 4, 2016

12:00am – Night Call

12:30am The Changing of the Guard

1:00am – The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms

1:30am – Probe 7 – Over and Out

2:00am – The Last Flight

2:30am – The Little People Read the rest of this entry

Why An “Interactive” TZ Is A Contradiction in Terms

When it comes to Twilight Zone reboots, many fans fall firmly on one side or the other: They either love the idea, or they hate it. As for me … I’m somewhere in the middle.

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That’s not my natural diplomacy talking. The thought of a new TZ honestly does intrigue me. I want to explore other parts of the fifth dimension. Heck, I want TZ to find new fans!

But as I explained in a previous post, I’m wary. I know what an incredibly tall order such an assignment would be. Success is possible, but it’s quite a long shot.

You can’t just write a bunch of weird stories and call it The Twilight Zone. If what you come up with could just as easily be anything from Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Tales from the Crypt, why even put the TZ label on it (other than to cash in on the name)? Read the rest of this entry

The Man Who Created TZ’s Opening Credits Looks Back

It’s hard enough to classify The Twilight Zone after you’ve seen it. Imagine trying to depict what it’s about before you’ve watched a single episode.

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That’s the task that fell to Sam Clayberger in 1959. At the time, he was an artist who worked for United Productions of America (UPA), the animation company that CBS hired to do the opening credits for a new TV show hosted by … Rod Serling. Read the rest of this entry