Blog Archives

Why No One Could Have Expected “The Twilight Zone” to Last So Long

If you’re a Twilight Zone fan today, it’s hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t viewed as … well, as a work of art, really. As something that would go on to be enjoyed by generations of viewers.

“The Midnight Sun”

But in 1959, there was no reason to think that.

Not because people didn’t expect much from Rod Serling. Not at all. The man who had won three Emmys at that point for writing some of the live-TV era’s most celebrated teleplays was widely praised. It’s just that TV worked a bit differently back then.

Okay, a LOT differently.

I touched on that in my last post, which concerned my surprise that the man brought onboard to produce Twilight Zone in its fifth season greenlit “Caesar and Me” without realizing that the series had aired an episode about a ventriloquist dummy, back in its third season. How strange, I thought. How could he be unaware of any of TZ’s previous episodes? Read the rest of this entry

“Caesar and Me”: How Twilight Zone Got a Second “Dummy” Episode

It’s one thing to know, intellectually, that The Twilight Zone first aired over 60 years ago. It’s another to come across a reminder of how differently people watched TV back then.

Sure, we know it was watched on smaller sets that lacked the whistles and bells we have now on our HD screens. But it was a different experience in other ways, too.

To see what I mean, consider something that Season 5 producer William Froug had to say about “Caesar and Me”, which first aired on April 10, 1964 — very close to the end of the series.

As Zone fans are aware, it’s the second (and widely considered the lesser) of two episodes involving ventriloquist dummies. The first, “The Dummy”, a memorably creepy one starring Cliff Robertson as a voice-thrower named Jerry Etherson, debuted near the end of Season 3.

“Caesar and Me” was written by my secretary, Adele Strassfield, the only woman to write a Twilight Zone,” Froug said in an interview quoted in The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia: Read the rest of this entry

Willie Vs. Caesar: The Real Electoral Clash

It’s Election Day, and I’m here to ask you to pick between a couple of dummies.

Oh, wait — this has nothing to do with the people running for office in your state or county. But I can understand the confusion! No, I’m asking you to pick your favorite of the two ventriloquist dummies that appeared on The Twilight Zone.

The Dummy7

On the one hand, we have Willie. Likes: eye tests, dancing girls, upstaging his partner. Dislikes: rival dummies, being locked in a trunk. He starred with Cliff Robertson in “The Dummy.”

On the other hand, we have Caesar. Likes: pacing, larceny, talking to people like they’re idiots. Dislikes: dimwits, nosy club owners. He starred with Jackie Cooper in “Caesar and Me.” Read the rest of this entry