“Where am I? What is this, some kind of a joke or something? I don’t know you. I don’t know any of you!” — TZ’s “A World of Difference”
Such confusion can be fun when we’re enjoying a story from the fifth dimension. After all, reality can be boring … except, of course, when it comes to behind-the-scenes info about The Twilight Zone itself. Not all surprises took place in front of the camera.
“We had some real turkeys, some fair ones, and some shows I’m really proud to have been a part of. I can walk away from this series unbowed.” — Rod Serling
Turkeys? Serling may have been his own harshest critic, but he wasn’t entirely wrong here. Even a series as distinguished as The Twilight Zone, with a hit-to-miss ratio that most TV producers would kill for, had a few misfires along the way.
But which ones missed the mark? It’s entirely subjective. One man’s gem is another man’s junk. Bring up “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” and you’ll hear from people who consider it a delightful fantasy, and others who think it’s a clunker. Many people find “One for the Angels” sweet and charming; others can’t get past the fact that Ed Wynn is hardly convincing as a fast-talking pitchman.
I even spoke to a man once who’d been going through TZ in order and said he had finally hit a dud. Curious, I asked which one. His reply: “The Invaders,” which nearly everyone hails as a Zone classic.
But these debates are part of the fun. It’s interesting to compare notes, as we do with our favorite TZs, and discuss what we don’t like — and why.
Here are the 12 episodes you’ll find at the bottom of my list. Now, I’m not saying every one is an irredeemable time-waster. Even the worst TZ is better than much of what you’ll find on TV; they fall short mainly when measured against TZ’s routine excellence. And there are some aspects of nearly every episode below that I do like.
But for my money, the fifth-dimensional flops include: Read the rest of this entry
No television series challenged the very notion of reality quite as artfully as The Twilight Zone. You could easily find yourself trying to figure out where you were, when you were, or even who you were.
Here in our own dimension, matters tend to be a bit more concrete. Facts are facts. So here are 10 facts about Rod Serling’s brainchild that are familiar only to truly diehard fans (and perhaps regular readers of this blog and my Twitter page):
1) “There is a sixth dimension …” Wait, what? It’s true. When Serling first drafted his description of that elusive fifth dimension, he added an extra one … until the producer asked him to name the fifth.
2) Serling was not the first choice for narrator. They were setting their sights on such famous voices as Orson Welles, but in the end, they went with You Know Who. (You can hear how TZ almost sounded at this link.) Read the rest of this entry
On July 1, 1960, The Twilight Zone ended its ground-breaking first season with a flourish by airing Richard Matheson’s “A World of His Own.”
The story concerns a writer named Gregory West who can create and destroy characters at will. He simply dictates the details into his tape recorder, and presto, in he walks. Or, more appropriately, in she walks. After all, the central conflict of the story revolves around the fact that Gregory has been creating a sweet woman named Mary to keep him company — and when his nagging wife, Victoria, finds out, she confronts him.
She thinks she’s caught him red-handed. But the woman is nowhere to be found. Where did she go? Gregory denies her accusations at first, but finally admits the truth. As for Mary’s disappearance, well, all he has to do, he says, is snip off the piece of tape that describes her, toss it in the fireplace, and she vanishes. Victoria naturally thinks he’s crazy.
It all builds to a nice little twist that, for the sake of those few who haven’t seen it, or may forget it, I won’t reveal (though there ARE spoilers below).
“A World of His Own” is a rarity: a Zone comedy that works, and works well. Matheson usually wrote straight dramatic material, and he later said that he pitched the idea for this episode to Serling and to Zone producer Buck Houghton as a serious story. But wisely detecting its comedic potential — and sensing, no doubt, that it could work well as a light season-ender — they encouraged him to take it in a more amusing direction.
Keenan Wynn (who had already done some terrific pre-Zone Serling work in “Requiem for a Heavyweight“) has just the right touch to play Gregory West. Phyllis Kirk (Victoria) and Mary La Roche (Mary) are also well cast. And another “actor” makes his debut in this enjoyable episode: Rod Serling himself. Read the rest of this entry