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The Twilight Zone’s Dirty Dozen

“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.

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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 findOne for the Angelssweet 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.

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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

To Serve Twilight Zone Fans

I have news for you, ladies and gentlemen. I have discovered that … people are alike all over.

Fortunately, I’m not saying that from behind the bars of an interplanetary zoo. No, the resemblance I’m referring to is much more benign than a penchant for treating other races as if they were a species to be gawked at.

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I’m talking about a love for the works of Rod Serling, and more specifically, his landmark TV series, The Twilight Zone. It’s been exactly three years since I began hosting the Night Gallery Twitter page, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 1,096 days, it’s that you can find Serling fans everywhere.

Men and women, adults and children, from every race, creed and color you can imagine. People from every spot on the political and religious spectrums. Individuals who would never talk to each other in “real life” follow this page, united in a love for the work of one of the 20th century’s most beloved writers. Read the rest of this entry

A True “Death” Match

What could be more dramatic than a fight to the death? Unless it’s a fight WITH death. That’s something you seldom see outside of Sandman comics and Ingmar Bergman films.

Or The Twilight Zone.

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But how about if we make the stakes even higher? How about a battle BETWEEN deaths? Specifically, between the “Mr. Death” played by Murray Hamilton in “One for the Angels” and the one portrayed by Robert Redford in “Nothing in the Dark”.

In a moment, I’ll ask you to vote between them. But before you scroll down and pick Redford because you think he’s handsome, or Hamilton because “One for the Angels” is your favorite episode, let’s pause to review their qualifications. Read the rest of this entry

“One For The Angels”: Serling’s Sentimental Side

The Twilight Zone has made such an indelible mark on our culture that people still use the show’s title 50 years later as a shorthand way of describing just about any weird situation.

Notice something strange? Disorienting? Out of the ordinary? It’s like I’m in the … you know.

But the show also had a strong sentimental side, which surfaced early in its five-year run. “One for the Angels,” the second episode, is a genial fantasy about a little girl who is critically wounded, and an old man who is determined to save her.

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Sounds like a standard drama. And it might have been simply that if, say, the old man was a doctor researching a difficult cure. Or if the two of them were stranded in some remote area, far from modern medicine. (Not that either one of those scenarios would make a bad story.)

But this is The Twilight Zone. So the old man, Lou Bookman, is a pitchman – someone who sells odds and ends from a suitcase on the sidewalk. And he’s locked in mortal combat with … Mr. Death.

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That grim conductor to the other side shows up one day to inform Lou that it’s his time to go. The intended victim naturally protests.

Lou: “Now just a minute. I don’t want to go!” Mr. Death: “No, they never do.”

Sorry, Lou is told, extensions are rare. The only one he might qualify for is “unfinished business of a major nature.” He explains that he’s never made a really big pitch – you know, “one for the angels.” Mr. Death finally relents, whereupon Lou, thinking that he’s literally cheated death, tells him he’ll be waiting a long time.

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