Blog Archives

The Lure of Forced Utopia: Twilight Zone’s “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”

Watching The Twilight Zone can sometimes seem like a Rorschach test. What seems obvious to you may not even occur to someone else — and what they see can leave you scratching your head.

Case in point: “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”. This Season 5 episode deals with a future society in which everyone must undergo a “transformation” when they reach a certain age. They browse a set of pre-arranged body types, select one of these attractive models by number, and one painless operation later, presto, they look like all the other people with that number (hence the title). Ugliness is a thing of the past.

In the episode, however, one rather plain-looking girl, Marilyn, rebels. She doesn’t want a new face, a new body — or the transformed mind that goes with it. But her mother, her friends, and the others in her social circle will have none of it. They cheerfully keep chipping away at her resolve. In the end, she’s simply forced into it, but now she doesn’t mind. She’s last glimpsed excitedly admiring the fact that now looks just like her friend Valerie. Read the rest of this entry


Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon — Full Schedule

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, lock your bank vaults and bomb shelters, pour yourselves a glass of Instant Smile, and feast your eyes on the full schedule for Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

4:00am – The Howling Man

4:30am – Where is Everybody?

5:00am – The Thirty-Fathom Grave

6:00am – Mirror Image

6:30am – The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

7:00am – A Piano in the House

7:30am – The Bard

8:30am – The Rip Van Winkle Caper Read the rest of this entry

Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule — Part I

Good news! Here are times and titles for Syfy’s next New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon.

So what’s the bad news? The list isn’t complete — yet.

But at least you can get a jump on your NYE planning and find out if and when some of your favorites are playing. And if you don’t see them here, there’s always a chance they’ll be there when the rest of the list comes out!

So without further ado …

Sunday, December 31, 2017

4:00am – The Howling Man

4:30am – Where is Everybody?

5:00am – The Thirty-Fathom Grave

6:00am – Mirror Image Read the rest of this entry

The Twilight Zone Companion: A TZ Trailblazer Takes Us Behind the Scenes

Let’s admit it, fellow Twilight Zone fans – we’re pretty spoiled.

Want to watch an episode or two? Have at it. You can see them on DVD or Blu-ray. You can stream them on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. You can purchase them on iTunes, or through CBS’s website — anytime, day or night.

And let’s not forget good old-fashioned reruns, which are still broadcast on Syfy, Me-TV, and other smaller channels (especially at marathon time, when I invite you to join me on Twitter).

What about books? There are plenty – ones about the show, ones about Rod Serling, ones featuring stories done in the TZ vein. There’s a movie. There was a magazine. There have been two revivals so far, and there’s talk of more to come.

In short, it’s not hard to get your Twilight Zone fix. But it didn’t used to be that way. Read the rest of this entry

“The Man in the Bottle”: Easy Wishes, Hard Lessons

Few lessons on The Twilight Zone come through with more clarity than “be careful what you wish for.”

Want more time to read, Henry Bemis? You may want to rethink that. Hoping for a little immortality, Walter Bedeker? Check the fine print on that diabolical contract. Feeling lonely, Corry? A female robot will seem like an answer to a prayer — at first.

But sometimes TZ gave us a more literal form of wishing. In the case of “The Man in the Bottle”, we even get a genie. Too bad that didn’t mean a better result for Arthur and Edna Castle, the antique-shop owners at the center of this particular tale.

I’m not a huge fan of this episode. Oh, it’s not bad — in some ways, it’s quite good (which I’m about to get to). But it doesn’t quite stick like the more classic episodes. In a series often defined by clever twists, “The Man in the Bottle” gives us exactly what we expect. Read the rest of this entry

Will the Real Ending Please Stand Up?

Think of your favorite Twilight Zone episode. Can you imagine a different approach to the story? Alternate dialogue? How about a new ending? Probably not. The best TZ scripts are so perfect, it seems as if they were conceived exactly as they were filmed.

And yet, even some of our favorite episodes went through some changes along the way. Some are fairly cosmetic, but others … well, consider how Serling originally planned to end “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

Oh, it was still the same who-is-it, everybody-perishes-but-the-two-aliens story we have now. But as I read the version of the script printed in Volume 9 of “As Timeless As Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling”, I noticed a very interesting change: Serling had planned to show us that the two aliens were actually working together.

The lead-in to that final scene is familiar: the bridge is declared safe, everyone leaves, then Ross (the impatient man late for an alleged meeting in Boston) comes back, and tells Haley, the counterman at the diner, that everyone went into the water. Read the rest of this entry

Syfy’s July 4, 2017 Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule

“Television night tonight. I’m gonna make television for everybody.”

Little Anthony probably wasn’t thinking about The Twilight Zone when he made that announcement to his terrified family and friends. Luckily, we live in another dimension — one where we can enjoy a full slate of fifth-dimensional fun.

So if you’re planning to tune in to the Syfy Channel’s annual Fourth of July marathon, grab a glass of “Instant Smile” and peruse this year’s schedule:

July 4, 2017

12:00am – Hocus-Pocus and Frisby

12:30am – The Fugitive

1:00am – The Gift

1:30am – Black Leather Jackets

2:00am – The Long Morrow

2:30am – Once Upon a Time

3:00am – The Incredible World of Horace Ford

4:00am – Ninety Years Without Slumbering Read the rest of this entry

The Fear of Not Fitting In: One of Twilight Zone’s Most Chilling Lines

You know, there’s actually something of a drawback to The Twilight Zone being such a well-written series. Sometimes there are so many good lines, you can overlook a few gems.

Take a scene in my all-time favorite episode, “Eye of the Beholder“. It occurs just before the famous unveiling, so I’m not surprised it tends to be overshadowed.

The doctor has just finished explaining to Janet Tyler that if this final operation to make her beautiful isn’t successful, not to worry — she can still live “a long and fruitful life” among other people who are similarly, well, afflicted.  Read the rest of this entry

“The Hitch-Hiker”: The Origin of a Legendary Twilight Zone

If you’re like most Twilight Zone fans, you’ve seen your favorite episodes more than once. Several times, most likely — perhaps a dozen or more for the real classics. But they never feel stale. Indeed, they seem to almost improve with each viewing.

And yet many of the episodes involve very simple stories. Name a favorite, from “Time Enough at Last” to “Eye of the Beholder“, and it’s almost guaranteed you can explain what happens in a sentence or two.

This, for me, illustrates just how creative the writers behind the show truly were. I mean, why should a couple feeding pennies into a table-top fortune teller (“Nick of Time”) turn out to be such compelling television?

Or take another fan favorite from Season 1: “The Hitch-Hiker”. Rod Serling adapted it from a radio play written by a woman named Lucille Fletcher — one that debuted almost 20 years before it became a Twilight Zone episode. Read the rest of this entry

From Tombstones to Extra-Terrestrials: A Closer Look at TZ’s Montgomery Pittman

I’ve written about Twilight Zone’s writers. I’ve written about its directors. So how about TZ’s only writer-director?

I’m referring to Montgomery Pittman. Don’t know him? I can guarantee you know his work. That is, if you’ve heard of a TZ episode called “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

No, Pittman didn’t write that one. Everyone’s favorite extra-terrestrial whodunit was penned by the incomparable Rod Serling, of course. Pittman also directed one other TZ ep scripted by a writer other than himself (Charles Beaumont’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”).

But the other three episodes he helmed were his own stories — memorable tales that many TZ fans list among their all-time favorites:

Season 3, Episode 1 – September 15, 1961

At a time when TV scripts tended to be pretty talky (many early TV writers, after all, had gotten their start in radio, Serling included), this near-silent look at the aftermath of what appears to have been an all-out nuclear war shows the power of pictures. An American male soldier and a female Russian one somehow manage to put aside their suspicions and find peace amid the rubble.

For anyone who thinks of Charles Bronson only as a violent vigilante in “Death Wish”, or of Elizabeth Montgomery as a button-cute witch in “Bewitched”, this episode is an eye-opener. Pittman showed they were capable of much more.

Read the rest of this entry