If someone suggested taking a trip to the Twilight Zone, even the most diehard fan would hesitate. You mean that distorted landscape inhabited by pig-faced people, hungry aliens, and homicidal dolls? Um, hard pass on that idea.
Hold on, though. What if your trip was limited to one of the fifth dimension’s eating establishments? That’s right, I’m talking about that culinary mainstay of mid-20th century cuisine: the good ol’ American diner.
After all, The Twilight Zone began with one. The first shot of the pilot episode, “Where is Everybody?”, shows Mike Ferris walking along a dirt road. His first stop? An unnamed café.
Just check out that interior design. It screams classic, unassuming diner. I can smell the coffee and bacon already.
Naturally, there are fresh pies. A diner without pies is like a Twilight Zone episode without a twist ending.
But although it all looks inviting, the jukebox is loaded with peppy tunes, and Mike has $2.85 to spend (at a time when coffee cost 10 cents a cup), the service and the company at the “Cafe” leaves something to be desired. So let’s diner-crawl to a place all TZ fans know and love: the Busy Bee from “Nick of Time”. Read the rest of this entry
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.
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
There I was, scrolling along social media, when a headline jumped out at me: “The Outer Limits Was Better Than The Twilight Zone”.
Whoa, now. Back up the space ship. What’s that again? Perhaps Talky Tina was pulling my leg.
But no. There was a picture of Robert Culp, in one of his OL appearances, adorning a Nerdist article that dared to assert a preposterous second-place finish for Serling’s brainchild. I was aghast.
Okay, I’m playing up my reaction a bit. I don’t really tie myself in knots when I read an opinion I disagree with. It’s a big world, and lots of people like different things. But I was naturally intrigued by writer Kyle Anderson’s claim, and as an Outer Limits fan myself, I had to find out: Does he make a compelling case?
No, he doesn’t. But before you assume that’s simply my natural bias speaking, let me explain why I think so. Anderson actually makes some interesting points. I just don’t think they prove his premise.
Mind you, Anderson doesn’t dislike TZ. “I would never be so foolish as to say The Twilight Zone wasn’t great television, nor that The Outer Limits‘ 49 episodes were better across the board than the 156 made for Twilight“, he writes, then adds: Read the rest of this entry
“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
“I was on an airplane. I looked out the window and thought, ‘Jeez, what if I saw a guy out there?” — Richard Matheson, writer of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
I know what I saw. I’m NOT crazy.
Easy to say, sure. And why should they believe me? What I’m saying would sound crazy if the most sane man on the face of the earth said it. And I’m far from that.
See, I had a little breakdown a while back. Spent some time in the Waldorf for wackos. Recovered nicely. The doctor said I was cured, my wife came to get me, I boarded the plane … which was probably a mistake. I mean, this happened before on a plane.
But face your fears, right? Get back up on that horse, they say. So I did. I boarded the plane. We took off. Then I looked out the window. And I saw …
I saw a man. On the wing. Read the rest of this entry
Out of the 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone‘s original run, Rod Serling wrote a staggering 92 scripts. But even a prolific genius like him couldn’t write them all.
So over the course of the show’s five-year run, he turned to several talented writers whose imaginative stories helped explore some of the most fascinating corners of the fifth dimension.
The gremlin on the wing? Matheson. The devil’s-head fortune-teller? Matheson. Agnes Moorehead trying to fend off two tiny home invaders from another planet? Matheson. Two guys trying to patch up a broken-down robot boxer? You guessed it. Read the rest of this entry
A man walks into a small-town diner with his wife to have lunch while they wait for their car to be repaired. The napkin-holder features a small devil’s head and a pack of fortune-telling cards. For one penny, you can get an answer to a yes-or-no question. He puts in a coin …
A man boards an airplane with his wife. He’s on his way home after recovering from a mental breakdown. The plane takes off into a bad storm. While she tries to get some sleep, he looks out the window and sees … a man on the wing?
Two iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone. One actor. Fellow TZ fans, whether you were first introduced to him as Don Carter or as Bob Wilson, you know him better as: William Shatner.
I’m here, though, not merely to praise the then-future captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. No, I’m here to ask the impossible. I want you to select your favorite Shatner TZ. That’s tough when you have not one, but two appealing performances to judge. Read the rest of this entry