Friday, October 2, 2009

The Twilight Zone Turns 50

On this date back in 1959, Rod Serling's classic anthology series The Twilight Zone (which featured "before they were famous" appearances by such performers as Robert Redford, Elizabeth Montgomery, Burt Reynolds, Carol Burnett, and Ron Howard) made its debut on CBS.

The Twilight Zone is a rarity in that's it's one of the few dramas from TV's early days that has been rerun on a regular basis after its cancellation. I first entered "The Zone" as a kid via reruns on WXON-Channel 20 out of Allen Park, MI back in the 1980s. I got one of my nieces (who's now 22) watching it back when most kids her age were fixated on a certain purple dinosaur and his friends. While at a party about a month ago, I had an awesome conversation with a 22 yr old who told me that his favorite show was The Twilight Zone (he even owns all the episodes of the original series on DVD).

Even though there were other quality dramatic series from that era, The Twilight Zone has that certain something which separates it from the rest. I won't get off into theorizing why The Twilight Zone has been a rerun mainstay, I'm just glad that it is so people born long after it was made can continue discovering it.

Note: Syfy (formerly known as The Sci-Fi Channel) is airing a marathon of episodes until 3:30 PM today EST.

Here are five of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. If you're as big a fan as I am, you can understand how difficult it is to narrow down the list to just a quintet.

1. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up- On the night of a UFO sighting, seven people at a diner claim to be Earthlings, though one of them is not.

2. Five Characters In Search of An Exit- Five people (a ballet dancer, a major, a clown, a tramp and a bagpipe player) are trapped in a featureless enclosure. With no idea how they got there, they attempt to escape.

3. It's A Good Life- Six-year-old Anthony Fremont holds a town in terror with his powers to change or destroy anyone or anything at will.

4. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street- A mysterious power failure causes paranoid suburbanites to suspect one another of being disguised creatures from outer space.

5. A World of His Own- A playwright describes characters into his tape recorder and they materialize before his eyes. This episode (the final one of the first season) marks the first time in the series that Rod Serling appears onscreen.

If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone, please submit your favorite episodes to the comments section of this post for approval.


Candy Minx said...

Gee, it's amazing isn't it? What a great post and what a special tribute to such an influential show. One of my favourite episodes is with Robert Redford. The other is with Carol Burnett.

Candy Minx said...

Hey...whatt did you think of the Letterman story? I thought his segment last night talking about the blackmail was absolutely fascinating tv...and why he is such an outstanding tv personality and professional.

Malcolm said...

Candy: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Syfy aired the one with Robert Redford this afternoon during the marathon. I haven't seen the Carol Burnett one in awhile. I do remember liking it though. Did you know that episode was intended as a "backdoor" pilot for a TV show featuring the guardian angel?

Funny you should ask about the Letterman story. I plan on posting about it either today or tomorrow.

Dr. John said...

I never saw a lot of the TZ episodes, but the one with "Talky Tina" always freaked me out.

constant gina said...

What is so amazing is that 50 years later these shows hold up so well. Oh they are in black and white, which is really kind of cool. And occasionally you'll see the old cars or a dial telephone that gives away the time. Most of the time, they could have been shot yesterday.

Malcolm said...

Dr. John: "Living Doll" is a very good episode. Even though Telly's character was a monster, part of me felt sorry for him because I knew that he didn't stand a chance against Talky Tina.

Constant Gina: Thanks for stopping by! The writers on The Twilight Zone were smart because they often wrote about the human condition and disguised it in a sci-fi/fantasy setting. There are certain human traits portrayed by the characters in The Twilight Zone that will never change (paranoia, greed, curiosity, a longing for a simpler time, etc.) so I think the show will remain timeless. Oh yeah, it being shot in black and white gives it a certain charm too.

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